Where we are now
If you follow me on social media, you know that most of my time, energy, and heart are poured into Abba's House Ministries Inc. You can learn more about this at the link below if you aren't sure what I'm talking about:
So, Abba's House has been open for over a year now. And we've been blessed to help 17 babies (and counting) since we opened. But, as life has it, things are changing.
Traditionally, I have spent 11 months out of the year in South Africa. And I return for the month of December (usually for 6 weeks) to do fundraising and to try and reconnect with family and friends. This is the pattern I have followed for the past 7 years, relying on a volunteer visa for each year of my stay.
In 2021, I applied for my volunteer visa to be renewed for an additional 3 years. Because of the pandamic, however, the Home Affairs office is so far behind in processing these requests that a vast majority of applicants are still waiting for a response, myself included. So in October of this year, 2023, my visa was expired but I was permitted to stay in South Africa because I had proof of my application for renewal.
Then my dad passed away.
I had to leave quite quickly and packed all of my paperwork in my checked luggage (out of habit). When I got to the Cape Town border to be admitted into the international terminals of the airport, the agent informed me that I was being blacklisted for five years because my visa had expired and I had "overstayed" my visa. I explained about the application and the delay in Home Affairs. She agreed but her hands were tied. Without the papers I needed (which were in my luggage), she could not allow me to leave the border without being marked as "undesirable." Needless to say, I didn't take this news well.
The border agent was sympathetic and did everything she could to help me. She gave me an appeal request form, signed by herself, and told me to email the form and my papers to the email address of the Overstays Office within ten days of the form being given to me. I submitted all of the necessary papers the day I landed (two days after the form was given to me). I attached letters of character reference from the various ministries I work with and any other additional proof I could include.
Six weeks later, I'm still waiting for a response. So, I'm back in America until told otherwise.
What this means for the baby house:
The purchase of our farm (where the baby house has been renting) is currently trying to process remotely by email as much as possible. But it has definitely been delayed.
The staff and my amazing managers are continuing as best as they can. Thankfully we had a full house of 7 babies when this happened. So we didn't have to deal with a lot of back and forth with babies. We have, sadly, had to turn away 13 babies so far since I've been here.
Our application for the baby house to become a "youth centre" has been on hold because of the paperwork needed to be done in country, in my name. Mainly, the bank account for Abba's House has to be set up in person with our new Non-Profit Certificate. But we're waiting on the certificate to be sent to us (we're approved, we just don't have the actual certificate yet). Once we have the certificate, I have to go to the bank to create a bank account for the NPO. Then, I can prove our income and get that step of the application process completed to become a youth centre. Becoming a youth centre would allow us to take up to 25 children at a time.
My poor staff manager, Tarren, is having to manage all of the things she already was managing, plus all of the things I usually take care of, including my pets.
My friend Tyrone is having to help me manage the farm, my home, my mail box, and the maintenance of the baby homes.
What this means for me:
I have to figure out a place to live longer than I usually do. I'm currently still sleeping on the sofa in my mom's house, which I am so blessed to be able to do. But I need to find a longer-term plan so that I can continue to do my online job, manage the baby house, help the school remotely, and have my own peace of mind while not interrupting the rest of the family/household. Thankfully, my family is helping me clean out my dad's former home office and try to turn it into a room/office for me.
I have to figure out a car/transportation that I was not planning on needing.
I can't return to South Africa without an answer from the Overstays Office. And when I can return, I can only stay there for 90 days. I am working with my visa agent to make plans moving forward to hopefully ask for an extension of this up to 6 months. But even then, I have to pray that Home Affairs gets to my visa application within that time frame or I have to return to America and wait at least a month before I can go back again.
I have to pay taxes. On everything. Normally, I am only in the US for a certain number of days because it helps to keep my donations as tax free as possible for me. I still pay taxes for my online job because it's a contractor position. But normally I don't have to pay taxes on donations received. Because I have been blocked from returning, I have now officially been in America longer than I wanted, I will have to pay taxes on everything moving forward. And that's no small thing!
I have to come up with money each year for multiple plane tickets, rather than just the one round trip. I won't even been allowed back into South Africa without a return flight booked in advance showing I will be leaving within the visitor visa rules and regulations. Normally, a portion of my donations goes to a furlough account to pay for one round trip. But with these changes, I will need at least two round trips. That's a minimum of about $10,000 a year!
I have to get my South African doctors and counselors to send me everything electronically so that I can find someone in America to work with me for the months that I'm here. And without medical insurance, that's not fun. But I'll get it sorted eventually.
What this means for my faith, and the faith of my staff, board members, and family:
God is all knowing.
God is my provider
God knows what He's doing.
God loves everyone involved more than I ever could.
God is an amazing teacher who uses opportunities like this to show us more and more of His character and love.
God is so very patient and kind to His children.
God moves mountains ALL the time!
So, that's where we are, as of today. One thing I've accepted about my life over and over again is that it can and will change as often as God sees fit. And I will adjust and survive. It will all be okay. And even through the stress, I am so blessed by all that the Lord has done for me, in me, and through me. He believes in me more than I ever could. And He is doing everything to help me become who He wants me to be to serve Him more and bring Him more glory in the future.