Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas (depending where abouts on the globe you are)

So I have left New Zealand for the time being (hence the change of blog title). I am currently in the UK before heading on to Canada to study at Regent college.

My last few weeks in Wellington were a mixture of chaos, fun/fellowship and sadness:

Chaos: It is fair to say that my packing up and moving on took a little longer than I hoped and I didn't quite finish it. I am very thankful for all the folk who helped me move stuff, who have agreed to store stuff for me and for my flatmates who cleared up the mess I left behind and moved the stuff I left behind. Without all these peoples help I would never have come close to getting it all sorted out. So thank you ever so much. The actual departure didn't go very smoothly either. I got to the airport to be told that there was no flexibility over excess baggage and I would be charged $100 per kilo over my allowance! So I ended up repacking my cases on the floor of the airport and leaving a whole case behind!

Fun/Fellowship: It was great to be able to spend time with friends over dinner, BBQs, coffee and conversation. It was particularly nice to have a group of friends came to send me off and keep me company at the airport. It was so encouraging to read through cards that various folk sent me as I prepared to leave and I am very grateful for all their kinds thoughts and words.

Sadness: Saying goodbye is hard. I am sad to have left behind friends and the place that has become my new home. We've done a lot of work in the book of Acts this year and I have been struck by the relational nature of mission. They are nearly always traveling and working together in twos and threes or more. I will miss the merry band of missionaries/friends that I have left in New Zealand and really look forward to being back with them all in 2010.

Now I am enjoying catching up with friends and family back here in England. It was great to be able to surprise my family and arrive back three days earlier than expected, their faces when I turned up were priceless. I do have to confess to getting more than a little frustrated with the glorified car park that is the M25 motorway. Having flown half way round the world in 24 hours it was very frustrating to barely move one mile in one hour!

For the next few weeks it's family time and I am really looking forward to it. It has already been a joy to catch up with a fair few people.

On a down note I have run into some visa issues over transiting through the USA on the way to Canada. The instructions on the website in NZ were mis-leading (in fairness who would fly through the USA to Canada from New Zealand? so I guess there is less reason to cover it in detail). I got to the Uk and was submitting my application for a visa to transit through USA only to find that I did not qualify if my destination was Canada and I was not a permanent resident of Canada. For some completely unknown reason the US immigration service want to interview you if you are transiting through the USA and staying in Canada for more than ninety days, regardless if how long you will be in the USA for. If I had my student visa it would not be a problem but all I have is a letter of invitation which will grant me a visa when enter the country. If the US embassy are not convinced that I will get a student visa when I enter Canada then I will have to forfeit my existing flights (a loss of 500 pounds) and rebook a direct flight to Vancouver (at the cost of 1000 pounds) or risk being sent back to the UK by US immigration and having a permanent mark on my immigration record. Apparently it is down to the discretion of the immigration officer as to whether they say yes or no; so prayers would be appreciated!

The only other thing to say is happy Christmas! Take a look at this video which I think gives a helpful reminder as to the true story. May this Christmas be a blessed time for you and yours.