Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Visas and Health Insurance

The last few months have been a journey, and we thought we give you guys an update. (We apologize for the long blogging hiatus...) I'll do my best to keep the story compact, because I feel like it could get away from me.

Recently, I had heard from some other field leaders and workers here that visas were becoming more complicated. There were questions about health insurance and coverage and needing to provide additional documentation. We knew of people still waiting on their visa renewal applications to be processed, and it seemed like we could also face these challenges. We took a "we'll see" sort of attitude because living in the "land of worry and what-ifs" is not a great place to be.

Last fall, we had our first new worker come to Austria since we have arrived. We were so excited to have her here and get her settled in. She started German classes, found an apartment (something needed for her visa) and started to figure out cross-cultural life. We started to get an idea that things could get complicated when she received a letter asking for more documents. One of the issues mentioned in this letter was about health insurance. Bureaucracy is a regular part of life here, and so gathering documents and submitting them has become a normal part of our life. First, we made sure we were reading the documents correctly, because legal German is a whole other language. After that, we gathered the necessary documents and brought them back to the office.

In the meantime, we also were facing a visa renewal. We now live half a mile from the Vienna city limits, which places us in a different province. We went to drop off our documents at a local office and received similar questions about our health insurance coverage and the need for more documents. We submitted everything and waited for a response from the office. 

Our first big disappointment came in the week right between Christmas and New Years. We got word from the office that they were not going to recognize our health coverage. We scrambled to try and figure out what this meant for us. This followed days of researching other possible options including Austrian national healthcare and private insurance here and talking to other field leaders and workers about how they were dealing with the issue.

We found a back-up health insurer here in Austria, but we were convinced our plan fit with the law and required simple communication. So we did just that. After the holidays, Bethany went to a government office armed with information and discussed it with the officials in charge of making our decision. She walked through our policy with the translation. There were some confusing points that only applied to a US context but finally,

we got a response: Approved! 

We were excited and relieved and felt so many different emotions. We know that God moved through your prayers. I was so proud of how Bethany handled the whole process. We know that he gave us favor and continues to confirm that he has us here for a reason. 

Back with our colleague, things got even more disappointing. She submitted documents in January and was ultimately rejected from her initial application. This does not mean she can't be here, but we had to take the next step of appealing her application. She also bumped into her 90 day limit in country and had to leave Austria for 90 days.

We are still in process with her, but here are a few things we know.

God is faithful. Even when things don't go the way we would hope for, even when things get hard and it is difficult to see the path forward, he is at work. We need to trust him, and it is in these times of difficulty that we get to learn how to do that better. A mentor I once had talked about this cycle we see in life. We grow and become strengthened, and then we face challenges. In those challenges, we can sometimes feel like we are experiencing God's presence. That time of testing builds our faith and helps us rely on him better in further testing. No one enjoys the process, but God never promised us that our life would go perfectly.

God has provided wonderfully in the face of all this challenge. We have a friend from church that is a lawyer and helped us draft the appeal. His confidence and faith has been contagious. We had native German speaking Austrian friends read some of the documents we were dealing with and also struggled to make heads or tails of them. We see the Lord continuing to move.

The appeals process for our colleague could take up to 6 months. The plan is to pray, wait and have her return to Austria after she spends 90 days outside the country. We should have a decision at the end of her next 90 days in country. Ultimately, we are confident God will provide a solution, but we're not sure what the road there will look like. Please continue to pray!

If you stuck with this post, thank you. Sorry this was long. We are excited to see how God moves forward, and we believe that he will provide for our colleague as he has for us.

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