And yet, I can barely breathe. I was insanely excited a couple of months ago. The support (and the extreme envy) of family and friends affirmed for us that we had made the right decision. Then reality happened. We started the very complex visa process in early November, over three months ago. I won't even go into the process of moving, finding homes for our pets, selling our cars, most of our furniture, etc.
Our visa application packets were 50 pages each! It took a couple of weeks to complete the in-depth medical process. It took five weeks for the FBI to process our criminal background checks (clean records), which we received the day we left New Jersey--December 26. The New Zealand Embassy was shut down for the holidays, so they didn't receive our visa applications until January 2nd. Visa processing usually takes two weeks, so we were confident that our January 20 flights would be safe. We spent three weeks in Houston visiting friends and our eldest son Alex, and making final preparations. Then four days before we were to depart, we got word that my visa application required an additional medical assessment (an entire other story). This would take an additional 3-6 weeks. We weren't equipped to stay another month in a hotel, homeless, jobless, without cars (which we had sold in New Jersey, and were borrowing and renting cars). So, we packed up and traveled to western Illinois (rental car), where we arrived about the time we were supposed arrive in Auckland on Jan 21. We have been waiting here ever since.
Fortunately, our visas arrived this week, closer to three weeks than six. Of course, nothing gets to be easy. The first package contained only Gail and Andy's visas, but not mine. Uh oh! A few phone calls and emails later, we learned that my visa had arrived simultaneously in a separate package--IN TEXAS! We had a friend overnight it to us in Illinois and rebooked our airline reservations ($600 penalty for rebooking), for this Monday. We will arrive in Auckland about a month late.
The folks at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, DC have been delightful, but the contractor that they (and many countries) use for their paperwork processing, TT Services, is incredibly incompetent. There were entire weeks on end when they wouldn't answer their phones or even turn on their answering machine. They lost my chest x-rays (yes, chest x-rays are required to move to New Zealand for more than six months), delaying the process a few more days until they were found, and sent my passport/visa to the wrong place...
Needless to say we have grown weary of the process. Today was re-packing day (more penalties because we have too much stuff and must send some additional boxes to New Zealand). We are exhausted.
But why am I scared? After all, I've traveled to thirty countries on five continents; have been in harm's way as a naval officer; have participated in intense diplomatic treaty negotiations; and was a nuclear weapons inspector in the Soviet Union. Here I am, about to go live and work in Auckland, New Zealand, rated third in the world for quality of life (behind Vienna and Zurich). I'm the envy of all my friends and colleagues. And I'm nervous... Yea, I know anyone reading this is now saying, "Dude, no worries, send me in your place!"
At its core, this is the adventure of a lifetime! We took great risks on many fronts to make this happen. We really are excited and well aware of how blessed and fortunate we are. I keep thinking about, as I entered the ministry nearly a decade ago, how I would someday like to serve overseas as a minister. Now I have the opportunity to serve an amazing congregation of amazing people! This is not a tale of woe or cold feet!
This is simply an acknowledgement that we are (and I am) human. Fear and anxiety are a natural part of being faced with the unknown, no matter how exciting. We can pretend to be (and ministers are supposed to be) calm, cool, and collected, but I don't think we serve ourselves well when we do so. Stage actors, and those who undertake dangerous sports or jobs, report that they are always nervous before a show, or whatever it is that they do. It's the day they stop getting nervous that they know they've lost something.
I think of Moses when God told him to liberate the Hebrew people from slavery and take them to the promised land. No worries, right? Well, unlike the manly and macho portrayal by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, Moses was really an insecure guy. Maybe Robert DeNiro would have been a better choice because Moses basically said to God, "You talkin' to me?" He made it very clear to God that he was the wrong man for the job. At first he tried to hide his face. Then he tells God that he is not a great man. He says no one will believe him or listen to him. He says that he is slow of speech and never uses the right words... And yet, God sends him.
Each of us is faced every day with situations and decisions that provoke fear. Fear is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we care--that we want to do well. If it weren't for this most basic animal instinct and human emotion--the ability to be fearful--then not only wouldn't we survive (because we wouldn't think to protect ourselves), but we wouldn't know courage. Courage is acting in the face of fear.
And so, I am ready for the journey to God's Own Country--scared to death, and glad that I am.
May love be our guide,
may passion be our strength,
and may courage be our way.