Dear Friends and Family,
When I last wrote, Vanesa had been denied travel to the USA on the basis of supposedly having abandoned her residency, in spite of our conversation with Immigration to have her take the citizenship test. The ins and outs of the process since then make horrible reading, so suffice it to say that, acting on the recommendation of our immigration lawyer, we applied to the US Embassy in Buenos Aires for an SB-1 visa, which will allow Vanesa to return to the USA to take the citizenship exam.
This visa is a two step process, both very long and drawn out for a variety of reasons. However, I am happy to report that we have passed phase one and are working on everything necessary for phase two. Phase 1 emphasized the actual residency condition of the applicant, including a review of the documentation from our marriage, my job, and the like, with particular emphasis on our reasons for being here in Argentina for so long. Phase 2 will focus on medical issues, and promises to be easier to do than the earlier documentation, but will still be a long process since there are only 2 doctors and 1 laboratory authorized to do the relevant exams for the embassy.
We are very happy to see progress, and I hope to have good news regarding the phase 2 documents in future reports. The odds do not look good, however, for our ability to travel in July of this year. In fact, we may not be able to travel until January of 2024! We will continue to work through the process step by step, and pray that the Lord brings a positive answer in a timely manner.
In the meantime, several things have happened both as a family and in the ministry, so let me bring you up to date with those.
Both Vanesa and I have had several health issues since the start of the year. We both came down with COVID in January, and have been very susceptible to flu bugs of various kinds since then. Vanesa, in particular, has had some pretty scary incidents, including a trip to the emergency room shortly before Easter that was initially diagnosed as a gall bladder problem. It turned out to be an intestinal infection, but has proven to be something of a blessing in disguise. As a result of the infection Vane and I made some very necessary changes in our life, which include a bit more time cooking healthier meals and more time exercising together. Zoe and Vane are also exercising together, since Vanesa is taking karate classes again and Zoe is going with her.
I am not doing karate class because I sprained my bad ankle shortly before Vanesa had her visit to the E.R., and I am still doing rehab in order to be able to resume normal activities. The damage to the ankle was pretty significant, so the rehab process has been longer than I would like. On the positive side, it allowed me to discover that the docs at the clinic also specialize in upper back and neck injuries, and they have expanded the rehab work to include treatment for my back injuries. My posture and range of motion in my back are both better than they have been in years, Praise the Lord.
Discipleship Group/Eyes on Jesus Congregation
Inflation and a wave of dengue in Varela have been the big news for both these groups. We have had several church members down with dengue since February, and key leaders in my discipleship group have been ill more than once. The pastor of the church, Arturo, has also been ill several times this year, and it has affected his blacksmith work as well. I am happy to tell you that he has been able to be back at work since mid April, and that his wife's job has been stable this entire year, something of a miracle in itself in our current economic climate.
Inflation as of March was at 104%, compared to this time last year, and April and May have seen several protests in the capital because people cannot live on what they earn. We have seen an uptick in requests for food packages from the church again, and are having a hard time getting people what they need.
Finally, the uptick in the number of deaths in the neighborhood continues, with a significant increase in the number of suicides among young people. The most recent case involved 2 young men, age 21, who lived next door to one another and committed suicide within approx. 12 hours of one another. The families are devastated, and the impact on Zoe's school has been significant, since one of the men was the oldest brother of a classmate of Zoe's. Most of the families involved are not members of the church, but we try to be a blessing and comfort in difficult times insofar as we can. The last 2 funerals we attended we were able to collaborate with other families and raise a little money towards paying the cost of the funeral. Praise God for small mercies.
The radio ministry continues to reach Bosques and about half of Florencio Varela with their standard FM transmission. They have also put some effort into making their website functional again this year, which has increased their reach considerably. Those of you who are interested in following us on Friday nights can download the Android app on Google Play by searching for FMZoe 102.7. The app is run by "Escuchasnosonline," which is a web based retransmission service for a number of different radio stations. My theme for the program this year is "Living with Jesus," with an emphasis on how to put into practice the way Jesus ministered to and related with people during his time here on Earth. This builds on the studies of the Gospels I did last year, and should provide some crossover with the YouTube station we are planning to launch this winter (summer for you folks).
Please continue to keep us in your prayers, especially our health, travel plans and Zoe's graduation (December of this year). Thank you for your support and prayers, especially all of you who have been praying through this latest round of illnesses with us. Please also pray for the Rodriguez family, many of whom are still struggling with Elvira's death. Finally, please be in prayer for the dozens of people whose lives we touch with the "small mercies" mentioned above, that we may be faithful witnesses to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, and the hope found in Him.