Authorization to Travel

The Dyer family have sponsored Nataly for a long time. Last year they shared their desire with us to have Nataly be a part of their family. Nataly had been clearly communicating that she did not feel settled where she was, so we wondered...O dear Jesus, are you answering prayers in this? 

In January, Summit Christian Academy (SCA) board and staff began praying about inviting Nataly to be a part of their International Student Exchange Program. Later that month, she was officially invited to apply. In February, we sent in her application. She was accepted by the faith-filled community of SCA. 

The first F1 student visa interview at the U.S embassy in Peru was in May. Her visa was denied. In short, she didn't come from a wealthy enough family. 

Not knowing what exactly God was doing through this and concerned that Nataly felt left stranded, we offered to become her legal guardians and bring her into our home as a grand-daughter, forever.  She loved the idea. Her step uncle and aunt were fully supportive. These few months have been some of the sweetest we have known. We have laughed and cried together as we learned to parent a 17 year old girl and as she learned to confide in us within our new covenant relationship. 

The second visa interview was July 19 and her visa request was provisionally accepted! Shortly, we received an email that the visa was being printed. 

We hoped to receive it by our scheduled travel date, August 8th. It was recommended to us to go to the DHL location where we were designated to pick it up, sometimes the email with the tracking number never comes, they said. We went to DHL on SEVERAL occasions. 

Nothing came. A couple of frustrating weeks of getting no answers from the US embassy passed. Then we learned that the email saying the visa was being printed was an error. It was still under review. 

We cancelled our plane tickets, cancelled scheduled visits, began to homeschool, and practiced waiting with joy and trust in the adventure. The reality that the visa could still be denied hovered in the back of each of our minds. 

On Thursday, August 23rd, we received another email that Nataly’s passport had been officially approved. We felt some relief, but after the experience of the erroneous email, doubt remained.

Early on Friday morning DHL indicated we would have the visa by Monday. By then we knew well when DHL received deliveries from the embassy; we knew it could be available for pick up Saturday afternoon. Should we buy plane tickets for Saturday night? Sunday night? Nataly's school had started the week before and we didn't want her to miss any more days than necessary. We decided to be safe and purchase to fly on Monday.

Before we got the tickets purchased, around 10:30am on Friday, we received confirmation that the visa had arrived! Would we really find it there this time? And....yes!!!! We purchased tickets to leave Friday night. 

We repacked and flew to the airport, pun intended. We checked bags, passed through security and arrived at immigration.

Do you have an Authorization to Travel? At this point can I just say, "what the hell is that?"

We were missing a document that we did not know that we needed. It was all very gray, they wouldn’t say you need Form “Such & Such”. We were stuck. And we couldn't go backwards through security without filling out forms and having a special escort. 

It was after midnight, Saturday by then, but we still called our lawyer who we hoped could help us with the "form". He said we might be able to get the paperwork needed that day, Saturday, but most likely it would be Monday before we could get it notarized.

The Dyers put us up in an airport hotel, we slept a few hours, and began hitting notaries, not literally, but I wanted to!

The first notary couldn’t do it until Monday, the second wouldn’t do it all all because he didn’t trust the Ministry of Public Registry. The third notary was a friend of a friend. They said if we could get there with all the appropriate documents they’d get it done but...we only had until noon. It was already 10am. Have you ever been in traffic in a city of 11 million people? If you have ever lived in Peru, have you ever had all the "appropriate documents" for anything? 

We were missing an original of Nataly’s mom’s death certificate. We had a copy in our legal guardianship document, but that wasn’t enough. Bless Dina Anton, Eddy Ochoa, and Nataly's step aunt and uncle. They raced around with us and we got it done!! 

We went to the airport again Saturday night, zombies. Would we really get out? Was it the right document-form-whatever-thingy? We approached immigration with our big-adventure attitude. This will be what God has planned for us and we’ll enjoy it no matter what. We watched the immigration officer review the documents and raise her eyebrows. We held our breath. In less than five minutes we were through, and with certainty, on our way at last. 

We spent our first night in St. Louis and then drove into Kansas City. When we arrived at the Dyer's home we sat and stared at each other still not able to believe we actually made it. 

With the chaos that is immigration in the United States, God still sits sovereignly on his throne. He provides. He made a way for one of His precious children.

We know He raised up the best family in the world, in Tim and Andrea, to care for Nataly's heart in this next season of her life.