GPF, USPS, and FBI

We leave for Africa in 5 days!  The craziness has continued from the time of our first post.  Here is an update on the last week or so (as well as a tidbit about the fellowship), with a more than adequate number of acronyms.

The GPF (Graduate Preaching Fellowship) I was awarded is a one-year study fellowship abroad.  It was entirely open-ended, and the information you see on the “Fellowship Proposal” page (and will soon see on the “About” page) was an entirely new creation, formed and molded through many conversations with people.  The GPF is awarded to one Luther Seminary student each year – members of the faculty judge the applications and choose one to accept.

Now, back to the past few days.  We sent in for FBI background checks (BC) at the beginning of July.  The website noted a turn-around time of 28 days – not too bad, we thought.  Four weeks passed, then five.  We noticed our payment had been processed at the end of the fifth week – and we thought that maybe the BCs would come in the next few days.   Then six weeks came and went, and we had to leave (without the BCs) to go to Wisconsin for a Re-approval Interview for Katie, then fly out of Madison for Santa Fe, NM, to visit her Dad, Aunt, and Uncle.

At the very end of the sixth week, we received a text from our roommate that the BCs came – and he went to the USPS office to next-day them to us in NM.

Katie’s aunt and uncle use a PO box, not a box at their address.  So when the USPS driver arrived at their house with the package, he couldn’t deliver the BCs because there was no box.

So he sent Katie a text that said “This is your mailman i have a express piece for you.”  It was, in fact, from the USPS mailman for her aunt and uncle’s house in NM.  After many texts, and driving back down the mountain we were on, Katie, her dad, and I met the mailman on the side of the road in Tesuque, NM.  We finally had our BC’s!

We sent the applications in under the “Research Visa” (RV) section, on Monday – they arrived on Tuesday.  I received a call on Wednesday that they would not accept our applications as RVs.  To them, it seemed there would be no research taking place.  I had been assured in a conversation with the SA Embassy in DC in June that an RV was the way to go – I tried to explain that to the person on the phone, and that Luther Seminary was sending me to do research on social change and preaching and the intersection of these in society.  After a long-winded – and verging on emotional – explanation, the vice-consul said that she didn’t think that was research, and that she couldn’t accept our application as an RV.  She said they might be able to accept it as a long-term visitor’s visa, but I would need to get back to her about whether the church was registered with the Department of Education in SA.  If it was registered, it may be a Research Visa.

I called multiple times on Thursday – the first time I called the number I was given Wednesday, but was told that that number is longer being used by the SA consulate.  After finding the correct number online, I reached a receptionist but was only able to leave a message.  The person I spoke with Wednesday never called back. On Friday morning, amidst the joy of moving our lives into a 10×10 storage unit, I called back again, only to find that the woman I had talked to on Wednesday and tried to contact on Thursday was not, in fact, working on Friday. (Gah!) Hopefully when I call on Monday I will be able to talk with the vice-consul, and get this all figured out…

Until then, we wait and we pray.  God is good, and has brought us this far – just a bit further and we’ll be there!

Will (with some important edits by Katie)

 

 

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