Yesterday, after a sunrise rock climbing session at Kgale Hill with a friend, I headed over to the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs offices in the centre of town. Between this building and the Universal Immigration facility north-east of Gaborone I had spent a good number of hours reasoning with immigration officials, filling out paperwork, filling out the same paperwork again and again, and especially waiting in line. Despite being dressed like a grub and smelling like a baboon (literally, since the rocks we had been climbing were heavily populated by baboons and their by-products) going first thing in the morning meant beating the rush and was very much worth it regardless of the state of my personal hygiene.
It had been nearly fifty separate occasions that Taryn and I had visited the two offices, almost always with negative results, so it was almost more of a formality at this point to just go and check in. However, this time was different, as the young, friendly official at the desk looked up and recognized me.
“After you left last time someone brought your file to the desk,” she said, leaning over and pulling out our familiar pink application folder from a stack beside her. The file had initially contained the ten pages of our first application which we had sent from Niagara-on-the-Lake in September. Now it was bulging with an untold number of pages and a few different sets of different passport sized photos of Taryn and I. No matter how much paperwork we had filled out, there had always seemed to be more that was needed. But the reemergence of the file was now a positive. We had been waiting for the results of our appeal, after our previous applications had been rejected. We had heard by word of mouth that it had been approved, though we had yet to see the evidence.
“Sign here, please.” I signed the paper she gave me, and was handed four simple forms, two for each of us, with our pictures stapled to the tops. We had been approved as legal residents of Botswana until May of 2016.
It’s been a huge relief to Taryn and I, after the past few months of uncertainty. We’ve really appreciated all of the support, and all of the prayers. God has been very good to us. It’s actually more incredible than we would have initially thought. These days every non-Botswana citizen seems to be having the same troubles, especially people claiming to be volunteering with churches. There have been many people coming into the country as church ‘volunteers’, only to be making huge amounts of money through promises to local Christians that giving to their church will result in exponentially greater financial blessings. These prosperity teachings have led to justifiable suspicion of foreigners representing churches. It is actually now very difficult for anyone to get a long-term residence permit, even for people who have been here for decades, or were born here but are not citizens, and we are thankful and humbled to have received ours. Now we feel settled, there seems to be a number of doors opening, and we would appreciate more prayer and support for discernment.
Bible studies have begun with the young adults at St. Michael’s Apostolic Church in a part of Gaborone called Broadhurst. They are a vibrant congregation who are a mix of traditional (with all-night prayer services, dancing in church, and long services) and modern (huge speakers with blaring music from the worship leaders, one pastor preaching per service). They’re blessed with a group of wise, Jesus-loving ministers who preach great sermons and who empower their youth, training them to preach and encouraging them to visit other congregations to learn that different places have different things to offer when it comes learning how to serve and worship God. We meet with the young adult leaders every second Friday, where we have a Bible study and prepare to lead the larger group of youth. The next day we have the larger youth study, followed by hanging out and playing volleyball. The studies have been based on a series by Francis Chan called BASIC, which deals with the fundamentals of our faith, and which we are using to bring up issues specific to our context in Botswana (last week, during “Fear God”, we discussed whether the spirits of the ancestors should also be feared, a big issue). Please pray that the studies would go well, and that young adults would really be captivated by studying the Bible.
We are also beginning to speak to the leaders at Kgolagano College, a Christian college here in Gaborone with which Mennonites have been connected for a number of years. They are interested in a closer relationship, and we have been speaking about Taryn helping out with their Human Resources, including helping to develop an HR program for the school. We also discussed teaching possibilities for me. Since there are apparently a number of students from the Indigenous Churches this could be a possibility, and could also create opportunities for further education for some of our young adult leaders. Please help us to discern how far to pursue this relationship.
There are some interesting opportunities for community development projects for the young adults which we have been looking into. One which may be taking off, but which we are approaching cautiously, has to do with helping the Botswana Football Association with football (soccer) development for youth and children. We are looking into the possibility of starting a futsal (5-a-side, or pad soccer as it’s known elsewhere) facility to attract youth, and having our young adult leaders work with them with social issues, Bible studies, as well as football skills. This one would become a big project, and we want to make sure that it is the right thing for the young adults and for us. Please pray that God would make it clear if we should pursue this, and that if so a strong group of young adult leaders would emerge to take charge of the project.
Finally, there are some smaller projects that we are looking in to. I have been building some raised garden beds for urban vegetable gardening, and I’m thinking about some possible chicken coop designs as well. While these would be good opportunities in regards to the government’s current poverty eradication and self-sustainability plans, there would have to be some young adults to really jump into it to make these agricultural projects take off. Taryn is also looking into clothing and food drives, which some of the young women have spoken about doing. Again, all of these things really depend on the young adults wanting to take charge and bless their community, and that depends on hearts and minds being transformed. We believe that it’s only God who can transform us into people who love and serve each other, and that God’s word can teach us these values as followers of Jesus. Please pray that we would be people who are sold out for Jesus, and that we’d be able to be a part of a community of people here in Gaborone who are as well!
So, things are going well, and we’re excited to see where it all leads. Happy Victory in Botswana Day, and thanks for being a part of it!