Hello From Laos

Hello from Laos! The internet here is not very good as Laos is for the most part poor and underdeveloped. We were praying that things would go smoothly and of course they have not. We should have known that every time we deal with Thai immigration we are going to have problems with them even if we try to follow the letter of the law because it just doesn’t matter.

So we will proceed here to tell a bit about our current situation and at least a bit of good news in the midst of it all.

We headed out just before 6am to pick up one of our Thai friends who came along with us. This worked out good because we were worried about parking our car at the border and possibly having it stolen. Yes, this is a real risk. The trip went much faster than we expected even despite some road work along the way and even having to take some out of the way road detours because of this as well. It took about 8 1/2 hrs. for us to arrive at the border station. Our friend then drove off to stay with some distant relatives of his about 2 hours away. We were hoping it would just be a matter of getting our visa, coming back and him meeting us right at the border to drive back home.

Unfortunately it never goes this way. First when we exited Thailand we walked a ways down in the hot sun thinking we could just cross the bridge on foot to the Laos side. It crosses a big river, the Mekong. However we found out that they don’t let people walk across here like they did in Burma. So we had to walk back in the hot sun and find a bus. It was then that we found out we had to pay a full price fare just to ride across a bridge when most of these people were coming from the bus station in town. We paid and drove across to the Laos side and proceeded to get our visa on arrival which was $35 USD per person. After this we tried to find a way to get to our motel. Knowing that it was no more than 10 minutes drive we thought we could get a good deal. No way. Laos is even worse when it comes to ripping off foreigners for a taxi. The guy wanted $10 USD just to take us a few miles down the road. We bargained him down to about $6 USD for the 3 of us.

We checked in to the motel which is very low budget only $9 USD a night even cheaper if you can do a room without AC. The good thing about Lao language is that it is very similar to Thai both spoken and written so we can get around without too much difficultly. The biggest issues have just been not having a lot of options to choose from for exchanging money and transportation to get us around. So we have been having to pay much more than we should and getting a bad exchange rate on top of that. But really there is nothing we can do about this it is so small and underdeveloped here you just have to accept the situation. Because the Thai consulate only accepted visa applications in the morning it was too late on day 1 so we prepared everything for this morning.

As I went to the Thai consulate there were not many people in line so that was a good thing. However when I got up to turn in our applications they first accepted mine, I paid, and got a pick up number for the next day. Then we turn in the families visa application and get the reply “Sorry you can not get a visa for your family” So basically they will give me a visa but will not allow my family to get a visa despite this being perfectly legal by Thai law. I returned back to the motel very frustrated because we just can never seem to have a smooth process with immigration no matter what. I consulted some people and even received the actual Thai law and printed it out to return and show them. It didn’t matter their response was “This is immigration law and we are not immigration. We are the consulate.” Meaning, “It doesn’t matter what the law is, we do whatever we want here.”

So now we really don’t know what to do. Someone we consulted suggested maybe we travel to the capital city in Laos, Vientiane and try at the Thai embassy there where we might be able to get what we need. The problem being that our hotel check out is tomorrow afternoon and the next bus going there is at 8:30pm and takes about 8 hours to get there. We would probably arrive at 5am and would still need to try to apply for this same visa with no guarantee. Our Thai friend said if we needed to do this he could still meet us at this other border when we were finished to drive back. It is either that or we return back home, get my wife on a student visa, pay for another year’s tuition for school and then have to go all the way back to apply for her again with this. None of the solutions we have in front of us are pleasant at all. We tried to call the embassy today in Vientiane hoping we could get some word if this would be possible or not and all day no one would pick up the phone of course. We will try again in the morning and if we can’t contact the embassy it is looking like it still might be worth the trip to try.  Please pray for our situation.

One light in the darkness though is that the 2nd time I was going to the consulate to show them the Thai law and try to convince them they can give us the visa the guy who took me on the motorbike was not there. The manager lady at the hotel was talking with a guy and the guy said “Just wait a minute and I can take you there.” So he finished up and next thing I know he walks over to a black BMW. Wow! I was so surprised this guy would take me. We get to talking and I find out he is actually the new boss of the motel. He is a Chinese Malaysian. So then we start talking in Chinese. He was so nice, he even took me far out of the way to print my forms, took me to the Thai consulate and waited for me to finish and drove me back to the motel. All for free, he didn’t want anything. When we were riding back I got to talking to him about if he had any beliefs or not to which he replied “No, I don’t” Then I got to witness to him a little bit and when we were getting out of the car I told him. “I am a Christian, and as a Christian I just want to say God bless and protect you, may God bestow his blessing on you.” in Chinese. Who would have thought?

Anyways, this is our current situation and it is a bit long winded but we want to give you more detail and even a little video of the road taking us to the motel we are staying to see where we are and what we are experiencing. It is a frustrating situation because these things like this throughout the year do add up and continue to eat into our very limited budget. This is all a normal part of missionary life but we just would like to let all our supporters know just how vital their support is to the work that we are doing. Please pray for us if you can because we are going to need it bad these next 3-4 days as we try to wrap up our immigration issues and pray for the salvation of the motel boss Mr. Xiao. We love you all! In Jesus name Amen!

Philippians 4:6

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.