Two months ago, we had a friend who tried to get a visa to the Democratic Republic of Congo, our future home. She is still waiting. So when we went earlier this month to apply for our visas, I confess that we were not very optimistic. We were hanging onto a thread of hope, confident that God was calling us there. We had asked many to pray that we would be looked on with favor and that a way would be made for the visas to come through quickly. Here is what happened.
On the last Friday of April, we had off from class, but we still did not have all of our invitations from the church in Congo. So Tuesday, May 2nd, we went straight to the embassy after French class. While I walked over to the display board showing what hours the offices were open, the guard came out to greet my husband. The guard mentioned to Rich a few of the things we would need. Rich let him know that we had everything. Meanwhile, in reading the hours posted, I saw that Tuesday and Thursdays were for picking up visas and that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were for dropping off paperwork. Even if it was Tuesday to drop off paperwork, we were there after the hours posted to get seen. Despite us being late for office hours and it being a Tuesday, the guard invited us inside.
We waited for our turn to see the office manager, a Senegalese who handles the incoming paperwork and the passports to receive the visas. We greeted the lady as we walked into the office. Though we do not speak her people group language, we were able to speak with her in Wolof. When she heard our Senegalese names, she knew that we were really Pulaar. Her people group in the far past had the Pulaar as slaves. She jokingly called us her slaves. I agreed, because if nothing else, we were dependent on her getting those visas for us. She looked at all of our paperwork. She noticed a few things that maybe were not exact, but she said would work. She noticed a few blanks that I had skipped, because I did not want to write the wrong things in the wrong blanks. She told us how much all the visas would be. Rich left to get money at the ATM across the street, while I stayed and finished the forms with her help. After handing everything to her, I waited. She said that it should take ten days. Finally she said, it was good and we could go. I made sure to let her know that I was waiting for her dismissal, because I am her slave after all.
The next week, I began to wonder if she meant ten days or ten working days. So on May 12, Rich called to touch base with her. She asked how the weather is in our Pulaar town. He told her it was hot but that we were not there. She asked if we were staying in town waiting on our visas. For the ease of explanation, he replied in the affirmative. She said to call back the next week.
So the next Tuesday, the tenth working day, I called her again. When I called, I made sure to call her my king and let her know it was her slave calling. She said that she was not at work but to try back the next day at 11:00. So I called again on Wednesday, at 11:00, as she said. As it happened, it was a holiday in Congo, so no one was working that day. She said to call back again the next day, at 11:00 again.
I called back at precisely the time she gave me. She said that her boss had not been in long so she had not yet asked. She said to call back at 13:00. I called back at precisely 13:00. She said that her boss had been out and told me to call back at 15:30. At this point, I am starting to wonder if we are getting the run around. However, as long as she kept giving me specific times to call, I was going to keep calling. If nothing else, I was going to be like the widow who kept petitioning the unjust judge and got what she sought because of her persistence.
That afternoon, on our way to Mariama's volleyball game, I called again, introducing myself as her slave as I had every other time. This time she told me to bring all the passports at 10:30 the next morning, and we would get the visas done.
Since we were on the way to the game, we had a mother of one of Mariama's teammates in the truck with us. They are seasoned veterans, having been here in country before we moved here in 2004, however everyone does things differently. I was a little worried what this seasoned lady would think. She totally agreed with how we were handling the situation. She even suggested getting a small gift to give to the lady after it was done, not before so as not to look like a bribe, but after to celebrate and thank her.
So Friday morning, Rich and I showed up with all five of our passports. We waited for several others to go in, and then they called Rich's Senegalese name. We greeted and once again referred to ourselves as her slaves. She made notes and placed them on the passports. Then she told us to call at 15:00, and then she would tell us to come pick them up at 16:00. It made me nervous to leave them, but I had to trust her. At 15:15, Rich called to see if the passports were ready. She told us to come quickly.
We arrived and walked straight into her office. She presented to us the passports, each with their own visa printed inside. I presented her with the gift I had brought. She was so happy. She told us that she had plead our case on our behalf, so that the visas would be done quickly. We thanked her so much. We thanked God as well.
This week, as I recounted this story to another seasoned coworker, she said she generally takes pastries when going to those types of offices as well. Maybe I should take some before we leave in two weeks, or maybe just remember that for next time.