If you’ve spent any amount of time with us in the last 6 weeks you will know that we have been hoping, waiting, delayed, frustrated, set-back…..and maybe just a teensy bit frustrated with bureaucracy. We started the process of applying for our PNG medical licenses, work permits and visas about six months ago. And even though we should have known better, I remember sending off that stack of paperwork in early summer and thinking, “Six months should be PLENTY of time to get all this in order.” Like I said, we should have known better.
It was mid-November when we realized that our plans to leave with Ben’s family at the end of December were probably not going to work out. Rerouted.
We had to change our frame of mind and work toward our next goal. We had gotten good news that our work permits had actually been approved in the PNG Immigration office before the holidays. So, we had very high (and misguided) hopes that those could be faxed to the PNG Embassy in Washington D.C. in the first week of January. It seemed reasonable that we could leave in the 3rd or 4th week of January if we got them quickly. The PNG Embassy had our passports and would need to stamp them with our visas before sending them back to us. And THEN we could purchase our tickets. Well, that week came and went without a sign of our visas. Rerouted.
So, we hoped and prayed some more, not understanding why these delays were happening. You see, all this time we had been planning to travel with Ben’s sister, Cilla, who will be the volunteer high school teacher at Kudjip for the next year and a half. In fact, Cilla had even delayed leaving in order to travel with us and help with the boys on the long flights. She had gotten her visa weeks ago and could have left at any time. We could not make sense of the delays. It was on January 16th that we heard our approvals were FINALLY complete in PNG and they might even be faxed to D.C. over the weekend! We were so encouraged. Although we checked on Monday, we could not seem to reach anyone in D.C. to confirm our approvals’ arrival. On Tuesday we received an email from the PNG Embassy (after several inquiries from us) stating that they HAD in fact received an approval for the Radcliffe family. They had received ONE approval for Benjamin Radcliffe ONLY. The visa officer even stated in his email that it was quite unusual since a family’s approvals are usually sent together. Rerouted.
We were frustrated beyond belief, but we also understood that our frustration would not make this process move along any more efficiently. So, we waited and prayed. We were especially feeling the pull to PNG so that Ben could begin to share the surgery work-load with his dad who is still in the late stages of recovering from open-heart surgery. The delays were discouraging. The next morning we received an e-mail from Ben’s mom in PNG. She encouraged us to consider another option. Perhaps we should consider meeting up with her in Los Angeles on February 18th when she returns from Alaska where she’ll be with Ben’s sister, Bekah, who is due to have their third child at the beginning of February. This felt like quite a long delay, but maybe it should be considered. Then it was Ben who made a rather exciting suggestion in the midst of all the frustration. What if we routed our trip through Anchorage so that we could meet the new baby girl and spend three days with family there before flying on to PNG with Mom on the 18th? This had never been in our thoughts or plans because we pictured being in PNG long before February. But now we’re within a few weeks of the baby’s due date and we’re delayed anyway, so why not consider it? I did a cursory search of ticket prices through Anchorage and we realized there was a good route that would cost just minimally more than our original itinerary. Although we desperately wanted to be in PNG, we both got excited about this possibility, especially considering we were delayed considerably anyway. We also felt encouraged by the fact that Cilla could fly sooner with another missionary returning to Kudjip. We decided to take a day to pray about this possibility and get a real quote from our travel agent. Rerouted?
The next night we heard that our pastor contact who had been corresponding in the capital city of Port Moresby went to the immigration office to inquire about the three missing approvals. The official asked him where our marriage license and the boys’ birth certificates were (despite this NEVER being a requirement in the past). He was told our paperwork was being reviewed by the supervisor. Ben scanned and faxed those document as soon as we heard (which happened to be at 11 pm). And then we waited. The next afternoon we received a very unexpected e-mail informing us that ALL FOUR of our approvals were received in D.C. and our passports would be mailed to us that day! Amazing. And almost as soon as we received that good news, our travel agent informed us that she could get the tickets through Alaska even cheaper than we had anticipated! So, on Saturday, February 14th we will finally begin the first leg of this long-awaited journey to Papua New Guinea…but not without a quick (and quite unexpected) stop in Alaska along the way. Rerouted!