I heard the bells on Christmas Day…

Bells are ringing this Christmas, but they aren’t Christmas bells.  Actually, they rang eight days before Christmas and I didn’t even hear them, because they were ringing in Costa Rica while I was in Texas.

The wedding that took place on December 17, 2011, all began with one of those stories where boy meets girl.  Only in this story, boy and girl weren’t that interested in each other until they had parted ways for several years and then found each other again on Facebook.  They had attended the same high school together in Guatemala and shared the common factor of being third culture kids (TCKs).

He had been born in Honduras, lived in Ecuador and Guatemala all his teen years, spent a year in Iraq as part of the National Guard and spent most of the rest of his time in and around Gainesville, Florida.  His parents were both from the U.S. but had been missionaries in Latin American countries his entire life.

She was born with dual citizenship as well.  Her father was from Costa Rica and her mom was from Canada.  They had been missionaries in Guatemala until they moved back to Costa Rica.  She had moved back to Canada.

As their relationship bloomed, there were many visits back and forth.  He visited Canada.  She made a trip to Florida.  Then the engagement and preparations for a wedding took place.  Where to wed?  The answer seemed simple enough.  Her family was in Costa Rica, so that was where she wanted to get married.

Briana Flores arrived in Florida early in December so that she could become Mrs. Timothy Cobb legally in the U.S.  Then they had the ceremony in Costa Rica a short time after that.  After their honeymoon, they will return to the U.S. and Briana will begin the process of becoming an official U.S. citizen.

Tim Cobb kisses his new bride, Briana Flores.

Recently, a Canadian friend of mine who married a Texan, explained to me some of the complications she was going through just to get a green card so that she could start working in the U.S.  Even though she had legally gotten married to an American husband in the U.S., she is not allowed to get a job until she has that green card.

“It’s no wonder there are so many illegal immigrants!” she told me.  “They make it so difficult for people to become legal citizens.”

She had to visit a specialist doctor whose office was more than an hour away from home to verify that she is healthy.  I guess if you are going to have immigrants, you might as well have healthy ones.  There are blood tests and fingerprints and paperwork upon paperwork to legalize and notarize.  And when that is all done, you have to sit and wait and wait until everything gets processed by an immigration office.  Then there will be a special interview scheduled with both my friend and her husband to verify that they really did get married to each other.

When will she be able to apply for actual citizenship after she gets her green card?  According to my friend, it could be about seven years.

Now my youngest brother, Tim, and his lovely bride, Briana, will begin this adventure together.  Will they be able to handle it?  Oh, yeah.  They are TCKs.  Forging the world of multiple cultures is engrained into their nature.  They may not have a lot to start off with, but they’ll have each other.  And they have “Emmanuel” God with them, walking beside them through every step of the journey.

Merry Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Tim Cobb!  Here’s hoping “ya’ll” might come over to Texas to visit a spell with the MK Meier family someday.  Ya hear? Yi-haw!


An Emergency Graduation

About mid-December of last year, one of our senior students at Alliance Academy International (AAI) was stopped by local police in Quito.  It is uncertain why they decided to pick on this particular Korean student on that day.  However, we know that they decided to take Kay Jang down to the police station.  That was when she was told the news that the visa that she and her parents were using had been invalid for several years.  We were told that they had originally obtained visas to live in Ecuador about five years ago. 

It is a mystery as to why it took the government this long to figure out that the visas had been processed incorrectly, unless you take into account the amount of corruption and legal loopholes present in this country. 

Kay and her parents were forced to leave the country “immediately.”  They left the country during Christmas vacation.  Her father returned to South Korea, but Kay and her mother were allowed to return to Ecuador under a temporary visa to take care of their home and all the belongings that they had been forced to leave so abruptly.  During that time, Kay was allowed to continue to attend the Alliance Academy International and finish her first semester of her senior year.  In the meanwhile, different people at AAI were working feverishly to get the visa situation worked out so that Kay would be able to finish her senior year and graduate with her class.

However, it became apparent that it would not be possible for her to stay in Ecuador past mid-February.  In light of that situation, Stephen and other administrators and the school worked out a way for Kay to graduate early with a general education diploma.  She would also be able to obtain her college prep diploma by completing two more classes through correspondence with her teachers and receive that diploma at the end of the school year. 

Kay gives her speech at her special graduation.

Kay and her mother purchased plane tickets back to South Korea for Tuesday, February 16, and the school scheduled a special graduation for her on Wednesday, February 10.  The afternoon classes were shortened to allow for a special graduation ceremony for all of high school (9th through 12th grade) to attend. 

Kay gave a special senior address that was a testimony to God’s grace in her life.  She expressed her struggle to understand why God would let this happen to her, but she wanted her fellow classmates to know that she saw God working through the situation and she knew was teaching her through the process.  There were many tears as she finished speaking and as each senior came to the front of the stage to hand her a rose and give her a hug.

Kay expressed her faith in God’s timing, realizing it was not her timing.  Then, God worked a miracle.  Two days after this special day of closure, Kay and her mother met with someone who had connections with immigration.  One small meeting was all it took for Kay and her mother to get special “student” visas that would allow Kay to stay in Ecuador until this coming summer. 

Now they are faced with a dilemma.  They have already purchased tickets to return to South Korea and Kay has officially graduated from AAI.  Do they really have a reason to stay any longer?  For Kay, it would be a bit awkward and embarrassing to return to school after so much has been done to help her graduate early. 

Kay has left the “stage” of her high school life, but now she can return to it and say “Wait, there is still one more act!”  It will be interesting to find out if she decides to do that or not.