GOING TO BOLIVIA 19
FLYING TO BOLIVIA!
After the exploratory trip to Bolivia in 1991, we had to wait for a year and a half before all the details of the mission to serve in Bolivia were confirmed. Michelle and I began to prepare for the trip and made plans for the task of living in a foreign country.
I had to get the relevant travel documents: innoculations against yellow fever as well as a good conduct certificate from the Singapore Police. The plan was for us to leave Singapore in November 1992, spend a month with my sister, Rebecca and her husband Jim in the US. We would then subsequently leave for Cochabamba, a city in the Bolivian valley, where Michelle and I were due to start language and inculturation classes from January 1993 for 6 months.
PROBLEM WITH THE VISA
My application for a visa for the family was a test on my nerves and patience. I had already sent our visa applications to the Bolivian embassy in Japan in the beginning of 1992. We were told by the staff in Japan that it would take some time for the application to be processed. And so we waited. I felt uncomfortable after not receiving any news from the Bolivian embassy concerning my visa application. And so I rang the embassy in Japan. My discomfort was justified. They had lost the applications for our visas! There was no time to redo the applications and send them to Japan. Also I had lost confidence in the embassy staff. There was no guarantee that they would issue us a visa before our projected departure for the US and Bolivia.
I immediately rang up the Rev Simon Thomas, the national director of the Bolivian Church and explained to him my predicament. He told me he would help us get a visa in Bolivia. We were a month away from our planned trip and we had no visas. I toyed with the idea of getting a visa on my arrival from the immigration authorities at the Bolivian airport. Bishop Moses Tay vetoed the idea because of the possibility of getting stranded. In the midst of this mini crisis. Simon faxed me a document which gave me permission to enter Bolivia. It did not look like a visa, but Bishop Moses was satisfied.
BOLIVIA HERE WE COME!
So we left Spore toward the end of November 1992 and embarked on a journey which would forever change our lives. We spent a month with my sister, and her husband in Fullerton, Southern California. The flight was insanely long and we needed a week to recover from the jet lag. I had a chance to do some readings on mission at Biola University and visited a few anglican churches. In the beginning of January 1993, we packed our bags in anticipation of our trip to Bolivia. At the LA airport we said goodbye to our generous hosts, Rebecca and Jim, and boarded the flight to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
The plane landed safely in the afternoon of 5th January 1993. I remember the anxious look on my wife's face as she peered at the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, through the window of the American Airline plane. Elijah was only 3 years old and he looked excited as the plane came to a stop. Compared to the airports in Changi and LA, the facilities at Viru Viru was rudimentary. We had no problems with immigration and picked up our bags from the belt.
We were met at the airport by Rev Simon Thomas and his 5 year old daughter Megan. She gave us a big hug and welcomed us with a big smile. We were very tired but happy! It was great to finally meet up with Simon. He took us to his house where we stayed for 5 days.after which we flew to Cochabamba to do our language and inculturation studies.
It was unbelievable! We had finally made it to Bolivia. It was a relatively long wait. The process to serve in Bolivia began in mid 1991 and here we were in January 1993.