There and Back for Good
"What are you going to do when your map fills up?"
"I guess I'll have to retire," I've joked with students for years as I invite them to write their name on my mandala map when they visit my house.
Looks about full, doesn't it?
I've been thinking about this post for months, and I actually spent like an hour drafting out the perfect post a couple of days ago, but the draft didn't save, and I'm too excited to re-craft that whole perfect announcement.
Let me give some drama and context of the past few months though because, believe it or not, I don't post everything about my life on the internet, and several of these details have been carefully withheld. Not everything belongs on the internet even at this point, so I will preface with the fact that God has been "loosening" me from Kandern over the past two years. Before I returned from America, my pastor Brandon (yes, that Brandon who wrote A Burning House available for purchase now on Amazon and at booksellers all over) told me, "You're allowed to come home." He knew I'd never lived in Denver, so his words had a special significance. He is the pastor of my "home" church in the city where I've never lived. I returned to Kandern praying intentionally about where God wanted to use me, and my "home" church in New Zealand was at the forefront of my mind.
Around November, I tentatively decided I'd round out my visa allowance in Germany (teaching here one more full year) before asking my New Zealand church if they would make room on staff for me. I asked Eric when BFA needed to know if I was staying another year, and his response was along the lines of "basically yesterday." I reassured him I had no plans of leaving at the end of this year; later that evening I got a text message from Matt, the youth pastor at RCC in New Zealand, saying that the church was recruiting for a youth pastor and he felt like he should reach out to let me know.
While my immediate response was, "It's me," I played it cool for a few days and checked with a handful of people close to me about what they thought. Everyone confirmed this was a total God thing. I called Matt and talked through some timeline details because the church was hoping to hire someone starting in February, but I was committed to BFA through June - and needed to let them know if they should start recruiting for a teacher the following year. No one at RCC felt like my delay was a deal breaker, and I interviewed for the job in December. Matt let me know within a couple of days that I was shortlisted, but my second interview was delayed for various reasons (including summer holidays in the southern hemisphere). I finally interviewed in February and was formally offered the job soon after that with permission to end well in Europe and arrive in New Zealand in August.
Next began the long and arduous visa application process. I comically underestimated the time it would take to get all the details in order, but that Zurich doctor's appointment I wrote about at the end of March was to prove to the NZ government that I don't have tuberculosis among other things. By mid April I was able to click submit on my visa application, but it had over a two month estimated waiting process.
Just about two weeks ago - well before any anticipated communication - I received and email asking for more documents from the church before my visa could be approved. Unfortunately, I wasn't checking that email address daily (because I still didn't expect to hear from them until mid June), and panicked last Sunday as I read a request to submit documents by this past Tuesday. I shot off an email my Sunday afternoon to Mark apologising for my lateness, and he replied his Monday morning in New Zealand that he'd do his best to get them by the end of the week. I went to bed knowing God has been in control this whole crazy process, and I woke up my Monday morning in Germany to discover Mark had sent all three documents his Monday evening. I uploaded them to my immigration application, and woke up Tuesday morning to an approved visa.
For those unfamiliar with visas, particularly with countries allowed to be picky with granting work visas, this is pretty close to miraculous. Furthermore, the stipulations are ideal, and my entry window is exactly when I wanted.
Next I texted the people who had said they were maybe interested in flying with me, all of whom said it was no longer possible. A few other people entered the conversation as possibilities, and I looked at some of the flight options. On Thursday, I was realising the best possible dates for me weren't going to line up well with my friends who wanted to come. I also didn't love the connections and routes on offer, but I wasn't too stressed. Ryan called me on Friday to let me know that while he loved the idea, he really felt at peace saying no - which was weirdly a confirmation to me to book solo tickets.
Friday night I searched again, and the top result was the ideal connection/layover that hadn't existed in my previous searches and was within my price target. I booked the flights, and I texted Ryan and a couple other friends the amazing praise that God had gifted me.
There are so many more details of God opening doors and making this clear, and I'm excited to share more as they come. The next two points for my prayer team are shipping my boxes (I've already packed eight boxes of books and art I'm taking with me) and finding an accessible place to live in Christchurch.
Before those happen though, I've got final exams and graduation at BFA this week. It's been a wild two year commitment this past decade, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to end well.