Visa-take 3-update

Bogdan got the visa.  Praise the Lord.  Lord willing we leave here on Monday and fly out on Tuesday morning.  Praise the Lord.

We have heard from many people and no one knows of anyone who has gotten a visa on their first try. Most are rejected 3 or 4 times, even more.  So we are greatly blessed!

Visa-take 3

Armed with letters from America and refundable plane tickets, Bogdan has an interview on Monday at 9am. Please pray that he will get the visa this time. We are scheduled to fly out on March 8th.  I pray the seat next to me won’t be empty.

An Amazing Change

When I first started working in Stroiesti long term, there was a mother who told her kids not to have anything to do with me. She told them I didn’t believe in God and that I was a “repenter”–a negative term used by Orthodoxs, but embraced by the born again Christians.  However,  she would ask me for rides into the city if she saw me around.  Later, when I started teaching English in the school, she allowed her kids to go to English class, but that was it.  Her children were forbidden to come to Sunday School or the Christmas program.  Sometimes, when the mother was at work, the kids would sneak over to Sunday School. (They had asked their dad, who didn’t know it was forbidden.)

Later, the mother learned that the kids got gifts at Christmas and for birthdays.  This past Christmas she sent the kids to Sunday school so they would get Christmas boxes.  I figured this out quickly.  But I was really surprised when 2 of the girls wanted to learn verses for the Christmas program.  I gave them verses.  I noticed the girls were quick to learn verses from the Bible each week and earn points for summer camp.  I expected the girls to quit after Christmas but they are still coming and have parts in the Easter program.

Then last Sunday something amazing happened.  The two sisters were allowed to go to “repenter’s” church in the city!  There are no points, no gifts, only church.  I was shocked to see them in church.  I couldn’t believe their  mother let them come.  What an amazing change.  Please pray for these two girls and their little brother, that they will continue to come to Sunday School (and not just for the gifts) and learn God’s word.

Vistors at Sunday School

Last week, a group of young adults from Marantha Baptist Church in Suceava came to Sunday School.  They brought songs, an interesting lesson and games.  And goodies for the kids!!!  Marantha is the church were Bogdan goes.  We had gone to the young adults group many times and one evening there was a discussion on service.  The group wanted to go out and serve the community.  No one had any specific ideas, so I said, “We (Bogdan and I)  have a group in Stroiesti that meets on Sundays, you can come and help us.”  They loved the idea and made a date. 

This is the first time a group from Suceava has come to present a Sunday school lesson for our kids. Many groups have talked about coming but no one has ever come.  What a treat this was.  It was also an opportunity for the regular team to take a break, which they greatly needed.

Singing along with a guitar was something special for us.

Playing a game in snow. In the background you can see Andrei riding his bike on the frozen lake.

Keep running! Faster, Faster!!!

Visa

Bogdan was denied again for a visa today. The interviewing officer doubts he will return to Romania after we visit America. We will try again next week, so Lord willing we will be able to fly together in March. Regardless, I’ll be in America in March.

Here is an interesting and brief article I found about why there are so many problems with getting a visa.

Criteria based on which the U.S. Consulate analyzes the visa criteria

U.S. Embassy Consul General, James Gray, interview for Radio Romania Actualitati

Media outlet: Radio Romania Actualitati
Program: Radiojurnalul de seara
Author: Victor Gheorghe
Date: November 19, 2009

A trip to the United States without a visa remains a dream for Romanians. As the years go by, hopes diminish, because more and more applications are rejected. In fiscal year 2009, the refusal rate was over 26%, an increase of 1.3% compared to the preceding year. Since this indicator is the biggest obstacle in the way of Romania joining the Visa Waiver Program, Victor Gheorghe asked the U.S. Embassy Consul General, James Gray, what criteria the U.S. Consulate takes into consideration when analyzing visa requests.

James Gray: The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act states that every applicant for a non-immigrant visitor visa shall be presumed to be an intending immigrant to the United States.  In order to overcome this presumption and qualify for a temporary visa to the United States, applicants must demonstrate significant social, familial, economic and other ties to their home country that will compel them to leave the United States at the end of a short visit.  Consular Officers, worldwide, apply this law to each application being adjudicated.

Reporter: What are the reasons that the refusal rate is so high?

James Gray: It is important to note that approximately 75% of all Romanians who apply for a visitor’s visa to the United States are issued a visa.  That said, the primary reason for the current refusal rate is the inability of some applicants to overcome the legal presumption of an intent to immigrate.  The current economic downturn in Romania, as elsewhere in the world, has also had a negative impact on the ability of applicants to qualify for visas.

Reporter: As to the economic criterion, is there a minimum amount of money that an applicant must have in order to receive a visa?

James Gray: There is no minimum amount of money. Each and every application is analyzed in itself.

Reporter: What are the criteria that a country has to fulfill in order to have its citizens travel to U.S. without visas?

James Gray: The standard requirements to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) include a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate below three percent, offering reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens for business or tourist visits of up to 90 days, issuing International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) compliant e-passports; sharing lost and stolen passport information with the United States through INTERPOL or other means; security-related data sharing with the United States; and cooperation on repatriation matters.  These requirements include conclusion of various international agreements and/or arrangements.

Visa interview-take 2

Bogdan has is an interview for his visa on February 22, which is Tuesday.  Please pray for God’s favor in this process.  I will be in the States in March and I really hope my hubby can come with me.  Pray for safe travels for Bogdan as he takes the train down to Bucuresti and back.

But no matter what, God is in control and we will praise Him–no matter what!!!

Civil Ceremony

Well, we’ve been “married” for 3 days now and life is back to normal.  Bogdan is back at work and so am I.  I did want to share a bit more about this wonderful event in our lives.

So, in Romania, like in most of Europe, couples are required to have a civil ceremony. Usually the Christians have their civil ceremony a couple of days for the wedding and the Orthodox usually have their civil ceremony on the same day. But as I said in a previous email, it’s not uncommon to have the ceremony so early when there are complications such as visas and residency permits.

Each couple comes with witnesses, in the Orthodox church, these are the Godparents.  Somehow, our witnesses, Ovidiu and Dana, have been Nas and Nasa–Godfather and Godmother.  It’s become a fun joke and others have joined in.  The Godparents guide the young couple through the entire wedding process. 

With the Godparents before signing the official registry.

The civil ceremony usually is a small affair with maybe 10 or 15 close friends and family in attendance.  After the ceremony, cake and soda are served followed with a dinner somewhere else.  Well, we had 30 people come!!  Friend and family came to support us and it was a great showing of love!  Because so many people came, we didn’t have a dinner.  But we were the only couple to get married on Valentine’s Day, so we were able to take our time in the reception area.  Each guest gave us flowers.  I have never had so many flowers in my entire life!  We gave a bouquet to the woman who officiated the ceremony.  And we took pictures with each family.

That's not even half of the flowers!

After the ceremony, Bogdan and I went with our photographer to the castle ruins here in the city. We took our “engagement” pictures.  After an hour and half in 20 degree weather, we were frozen, but we had some great pictures.  We went back to my place, where our friends had served the meal Bogdan had prepared to his family from out of town.  What amazing friends we have. We enjoyed our time with friends and family.

It was a great day.  We smiled all day.  I hope I was able to give you an insight  to weddings in Romania.