It was Thursday, the 3rd of December. We'd just said "goodbye" to our friends, the Hayeses, who had worked with us here in Gracias for a year. They had delivered some items to our new house before leaving - some furniture we'd loaned to them, some furniture we'd bought from them, a large number of boxes of ministry-related items which had been stored at their house, plus a mother cat with five kittens.
Allen and Russell were working out on our property. Other family members were at our house in town, packing. With my (Trish's) parents and oldest-daughter Kirstin coming for a visit in mid-December, we were working hard to finish our move. We wanted to be somewhat settled before their arrival.
That's when we got the phone call, from the lawyer who is working on our residency. But, I need to backtrack a bit here.
We've had official residency in Honduras for several years. However, we'd been offered an opportunity to upgrade to a much better type of residency, by a high government official I won't name here, because of their appreciation for our humanitarian work in the department of Lempira.
Apparently, the appreciation of this official wasn't great enough for them to actually follow through with their offer, and after waiting (and trying to work on this with them) for months, we found ourselves in the awkward and unwanted situation of having our residency in arrears. We had to disentangle ourselves from this "help," and move on.
We had previously used a lawyer located in the city of La Ceiba, because we lived over in the islands, and this was a convenient location for us. Everyone always suggests, though, that using a lawyer located in the capital is better for residency work, so we decided this would be a good time to switch. A lawyer in Tegucigalpa was recommended to us by a good friend, and we were off and running on getting our legal residency back. Purportedly, the new lawyer was able to get the fines which had been assessed against us (because of the gap in time, when our old residency was not renewed and a new residency hadn't been instituted) forgiven, with the help of the original government official who was responsible for the problem. Then began the work on getting our residency back up again.
But. The lawyer kept asking for new papers, and then different papers, then not replying to our emails, then not answering our phone calls. We played around with this for a few months, as things got gradually worse, until it became clear that this lawyer was really NOT going to accomplish anything. We found ourselves switching lawyers again.
This time, finally, the lawyer recommended to us has turned out to be a blessing. He jumped into the situation with enthusiasm, and almost immediately discovered that the fines for the previous problems had not been forgiven, and had, in fact increased significantly. Things were so bad, that it was likely that we would be considered for deportation if something positive wasn't done by the end of the year. The dollar figures being bandied about, to fix our immigration problem, were astronomical for our budget.
The phone call from the lawyer that Thursday morning was a shocker. We would have to visit the immigration office in Tegucigalpa in person (the whole family) to pay the fines and fees. Then, we would have to leave the country and return again. This would then have us in the country on a 90 day visa. During the 90 days, the lawyer would submit the paperwork for our new residency, and we would receive automatic renewals on our visa until the residency work was complete. These travels would need to happen before the end of the month of December.
Now, any kind of travel at this time was totally out of the question. We were (and still are, by the way) living in two different houses, one in Gracias and the other a few miles outside the city. We had major construction projects ongoing. Neither house is secure enough to leave without having someone stay to watch over the property. We had guests coming soon, and we needed to prepare for their arrival. We couldn't imagine leaving our guests here in Gracias while we traveled all over the place. Oh, and there are holidays in December!
But Allen figured out a plan. If we left that same day, we could get to Tegucigalpa in time to make our appearance and pay our fines at immigration on Friday. Then we could head out of the country, and possibly be home as early as Monday. This was a wonderful plan, in terms of being home and done with this whole mess before our guests arrived - but what about the two houses, finding watchmen, setting up petsitting (we currently have, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, over 20 animals in our care: 4 dogs, 11 cats and kittens, 3 chickens, 1 parrot, 1 bunny, 1 horse, and 1 bull), accessing the large amount of money needed to pay immigration and to pay for our travels, etc? How could this all be done, and the whole family be on the road, with basically no notice?
More on this story to come soon. I'm going to go pack some more boxes now.