Well, we did it. We made our first trip back to the U.S. since moving to Nassau. Two weeks ago we kissed our girls goodbye, picked up the Mosses, and headed off to the Nassau airport. One interesting moment was upon entering the US Customs room (still in Nassau airport). Cedric turned to us and said, "You know, in here, you're really already back in the USA." And soon we saw what he meant. It took the Buntings about 5 seconds to clear US Customs, ending with "Have a nice flight!" from our friendly officer. The Mosses, on the other hand, had a much longer "interview," including finger-print verification for each of them. We stood watching, realizing this was a little like how it is for us when we try to come INTO Nassau. Our home country recognizes us as its citizens, and welcomes us back warmly. Foreigners, however, even Bahamians, must go through a much more intricate process to prove their intentions and motives for entering US soil are above-board. The line is drawn pretty clearly on this. It's hard not to feel relieved when you realize you're safe within the jurisdiction of your homeland. And opposingly, to NOT feel safe when you realize you're NOT within the jurisdiction of your homeland. (I'm seeing some spiritual parallels here, are you?)
Our time in Orlando was a whirlwind. Sovereign Grace Pastors' Conference kept us hoppin' Tuesday through Thursday, with lots of food for thought. We incorporated many mini-reunions with our Pastors' College Class from last year in between conference sessions. How good it was to see our friends from PC!! We stayed up way too late (2 am) Tuesday night reminiscing with each other, holding the new baby born since we all graduated, and talking about the past 6 months in every one's lives. It was good to feel part of such a connected group. It has been said that our PC class was quite unusual in its love and comraderie for one another. The plan is to continue hanging out like this at each Pastors' Conference.
Other great moments in Orlando included getting to have dinner with Keith's parents and family for two of the nights. It was so good to see them all again, eat together, and laugh the way we always do when we're together. A highlight was hearing how the Lord has opened doors to enable Keith's sister Kathy, and her family, to host a very special exchange student this year, Imran. We find it so exciting that while part of the Bunting family has gone to another nation to share the gospel, another part is welcoming the nations into their home!
Before we made our trip back to the airport, we crammed in some shopping. We mainly bought snacks, nuts, candy and hygiene products, which are all about twice the cost here in Nassau. Each person is allowed to bring back to The Bahamas $300 worth of merchandise twice yearly. This is how many people in Nassau deal with the high prices of goods here. We have one friend in our church who spends 2 months a year in the US, doing enough shopping to last the rest of the year.
One funny moment for us was racing through The Florida Mall, trying to find Build-a-Bear, get the toy, stuff the toy, and dress it, then race back to the car in time to still fill up the rental car with gas, make it to the airport, and be on time for check-in. One not-so-funny moment is when we finally reached our gate, only to hear the lady at the desk ask to see everyone's return flight ticket to the U.S. or their Bahamian passoport/visa. Guess what? Those immigration issues.... are still not worked out for me. I was so grateful when I realized I did have proof of a return ticket, since my parents are flying the girls and I (Kristin) back to Pittsburgh for two weeks after Christmas. Without that ticket confirmation, I would not have been allowed to board the Nassau-bound plane. Again I was reminded of the unwelcome one can experience when not in or headed to their homeland.
Pray that we can get the immigration issues worked out. It just seems like there are many roadblocks in this area. Most likely, we will need to ask for another extension, as the original extension ends on Nov. 25th and we still have paperwork that cannot be tracked down. We know God has a plan, but as we enter our sixth month here, it would be good to have finality on this. Thank you! We know that your prayers are what support us in those moments when we can be tempted to anxiety over big and small issues, when we are tempted to doubt in so many ways, and when we may be in harm's way without being aware. God uses you to bless us! You are part of this gospel mission with us.