So Luz Maria and I were married November 29, 2003. We had planned to travel to Maturin this past Wednesday, but instead we are trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare in Caracas.
I was told that once I had married a Venezuelan, I could immediately apply for a visa transeunte and probably get it the same day. Up to now I have been living in Venezuela on a tourist visa, which is good for only three months. That means every three months I have to briefly leave the country to get the visa renewed. In early October I took a trip to the island republic of Trinidad-Tobago, which is just 16 miles off the Venezuelan coast.
The visa transeunte is the next step toward establishing permanent residency in Venezuela. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod field office in Caracas applied for my visa transeunte last April, but it normally takes a year for the application to be processed.
But thanks to Luz Maria, I will be able to leapfrog this process - that is, if we can make it through this week. We were told that the document verifying my work as a volunteer in Venezuela was not properly notarized. Also, the documentation of good health that I brought from the United States was not sufficient; I needed a Venezuelan certificate of health.
So we have been racing around Caracas by bus and taxi, trying to get the documents in order. I had my blood sampled in one part of the city and my heart and lungs X-rayed in another. I hope to avoid another prostate exam. Despite our best efforts, however, we won't be able to leave Caracas before Monday.
As for the wedding itself, it was a simple civil ceremony. There were about 50 guests, including members of Luz Maria's family and nearly all the members of Corpus Christi. Luz Maria's mother kept repeating "Gracias a Dios" (Thanks be to God) for her new son, and Yepcey, Luz Maria's oldest daughter, half-jokingly called me "Papa."
The next day we left Barinas for the state of Merida where the highest mountains in Venezuela are found. The place has an ethereal beauty that I can only compare to Rivendell in the "Lord of the Rings" movies or Wudan Mountain in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Except that it is real, not a computer-enhanced image. I have attached a picture of the town plaza in the tiny village of Chachopo. Like nearly every town square in Venezuela, there is a statue of Simon Bolivar, El Libertador, in the center.
Please continue to pray for us, for mission work in Venezuela and for peaceful resolution of the country's political and economic problems. Oh, and Luz Maria says hello and thank you to all the people in Minnesota who made it possible for me to be here.