Visa Trip!

We’ve known that we would have to leave Honduras every 90 days, for visa requirements, for quite awhile now. We’ve planned for it. We put $200.00 per month in the budget for it. As our first visa trip got closer and closer (yes, we’ve been here 90 days already – amazing) – I searched and searched for the most inexpensive way to get out of the country and back in to renew our visa for another 90 days. One law that makes this more difficult than it might seem at first glance is that we cannot refresh our visa by simply skipping over the border. We are not permitted to refresh our visa in Guatemala, El Salvador, or Nicaragua – the neighboring countries. We don’t know the reason for this law. It complicates matters a bunch not being able to drive over a border, stay a night or two and then return. Also, we have to stay out of the country for at least 72 hours. That means that we have to plan on a three day stay wherever it is that we go. When in Colorado, God led us to a wonderful couple in Belize who have an orphanage in Punta Gorda – which is on the eastern border of Belize and very near (via water) to Honduras. We had planned on driving into Guatemala and then taking a ferry over to Belize and to stay with our friends in the orphanage. We felt that this would be the cheapest trip possible for the four of us. After doing a bunch of internet research (you know me) – I was convinced that it was possible – but I was not certain that it was a safe route.
We spent the week of Christmas at the hospital and I told many of the missionaries of our plans to drive through part of Guatemala and then take the ferry over to Belize. There was a general sense of unrest among the community about our plans – with several well seasoned missionaries expressing doubt about the safety of the route. Since we would be travelling alone, with kids, it seemed wise to listen to their concerns and think about an alternate plan – and quickly – as we had to get out of the country pretty quickly to satisfy our visa requirements.
This situation illustrates beautifully the stress that I wrote about last time in the blog when I spoke of “the breakers”. In the states, we are used to having to plan a trip around the least expensive route, but we have two things going for us that we don’t have here: there are at least two routes to almost anywhere – our interstate highway system is truly an amazing system when you compare it to road travel options here in Central America. At best, there is one way to get some place, and at worst – you may have to go way out of your way, on routes that aren’t well mapped, to get someplace. Secondly, of course, is the security of travel in the States. We don’t really have to think of the “security” of a particular route. Here, in Central America, you pretty much always have to think that way. I understand that in parts of Guatemala there are major drug routes that lead down into Honduras and that because of this, there is much danger in parts of the country. One missionary family at our hospital endured a terrible tragedy on the roads in Guatemala many years ago, in which a missionary was killed by violence. Here, it is the unknown that is so difficult: “I don’t know if there is a road that goes there, I don’t know if it is safe. I don’t know if there is a ferry, I don’t know when it leaves.” If you want to know these things, you have to go try them out – which is less risky when one is not traveling with wife and kids.
Another part of the stress of all of this (most decisions that we make) is that I feel a heavy burden to spend our money in the wisest way possible. This is compounded by the fact that we are spending money that has been given to us for our ministry here. This is a new part of being a missionary that no one told me about and that has become very real to me. I don’t want just to spend our money carefully (a good thing), I want to spend it in the best possible way at all times. While this may sound like a noble goal, it is often impossible to know beforehand if you are indeed spending your money in the best possible way (of all possible options). This is often learned only with experience. Decisions become almost impossible to make. I had budgeted $200.00 per month for our visa trip, which mean that we would have around $600.00 available every three months (90 days) to make trips with. If we drove over to Guatemala and took the ferry to Belize, I felt that we could hit that budget. Any other choice would involve flights, which would almost certainly lead to expenses over and above $600.00 that I had budgeted. It isn’t that we don’t have any extra money, we do – I just wanted to do it for the amount budgeted and I wanted to “prove” that I could do it that cheaply (when several told me that I couldn’t). I now had the pride issues of wanting to be “right” in my planning and budgeting. Pride is a great attribute to add to worry – they go together so well, don’t they! 
So this is the place that we found ourselves in, now convinced that the route planned to Belize was possibly unsafe and sure that any other option would be much more expensive and yet needing to leave the country in a week or so for at least three days.
It is now time for me to write the next chapter in the telling of this story and in the explaining of the incredible blessings that can be ours in the midst of the stress and uncertainty. The story doesn’t end in “the breakers”, it only begins there. The breakers serve to remind us of our need, they make us dependant on Christ. The blessings in the breakers are so much bigger than the stress or the troubles there. Please read on to the next post, called “Costa Rica” to hear about the beautiful conclusion of this conundrum that we found ourselves in.