You probably have heard the old saying that “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Aside from the questionable ethics of that line of thinking, from time to time there does seem to be some truth in it. One of those times comes when one is dealing with Immigration! In a day when our nation is being flooded by illegal aliens who just come and stay and benefit enormously from the resources here without ever asking permission, the saying seems to play out that way daily. Trying to do things legally is incredibly complicated, takes what seems to be forever, and must be pursued without any guarantee that anything you do is going to be enough to satisfy the powers that be.
But, doing things legally is the godly path, of course, in the case of attempting to secure a “Religious Worker” visa (sometimes referred to as the “R-1” visa) for Rev. Andy Yong. Pastor Yong has been patiently voluntarily plugging away at getting a Korean church plant going in the Tacoma, Washington, area; while here at PMU we have been working very hard to make our way through the tangle of regulations and expectations put in place by the immigration authorities. Without the visa in hand, we could not pay him for his services, so he and his family have been living on gifts from back home in Korea.
The whole process began prior to our annual meeting last August and was formally initiated with the government at the end of August when the first large packet of information was submitted. Then, many weeks went by with no word. Finally, in November we received notice that they still lacked some information. It took another month to compile what they were asking for, and the second installment (as large or larger than the first) was sent off. Again, no word came whether it was enough or not.
One of the challenges we faced was the pressure of Andy’s student visa expiring in August of last year. He was forced to apply for another student visa for another program at WRS which he desired to pursue, which was granted, praise God! It gave us some breathing room. But the other challenge was greater – the financial pressure related to not being able to pay him a salary. Andy and his dear wife, Jin, have sweetly born up through the entire process without complaint by God’s grace, and we are indeed thankful for their attitude and practice of trust in the sovereign providence of their Lord.
Finally, a knock came at the PMU office door one day. An immigration official was there when Karen opened the door, holding up his badge and asking to be admitted for the all-important site visit, which Immigration uses to confirm that the sponsoring entity is what it claims to be. I can only imagine what the guy was thinking when he stepped up to the side door of an old barn. But he was cordial and easy to work with, asked a few questions, and assured us that his report would be completed quickly and sent off to be processed in California. How long that would take, he didn’t know.
So, more weeks went by. By now, we were well over six months into the process since the first packet was submitted. We had been told that the INS was working about seven months behind, meaning that at any given day they were picking up cases for the first time that had been submitted seven months previously. But we were hopeful; they had started ours only three months after submission! And all the while, Andy and Jin were waiting and continuing with the Lord’s calling and no salary. And we, and you, were praying.
But at long last, the day came. On April 22, we received official word: Andy’s R-1 has been approved! Not only that, the Yongs received notice on the same day that Jin’s visa had also been approved! (Hers is an R-2.) We are praising God for His goodness. Though it seems like a very long time – OK, it has been a very long time – we know the Lord’s timing is perfect. He has answered prayer in a big way.
There are still some hoops to jump through, but not on the federal level. Since Andy is ministering in Washington State, PMU has had to register in that state as a non-profit entity, apply for a business license, and a few other things. Please pray for us here in the office, especially Karen, upon whom the bulk of this labor falls, that it will all be done as quickly as possible.
The Lord is helping us through the difficulties of the permission stage, and we are on our way to getting the new church plant well established in the Tacoma/University Place area. Do keep this fledgling group in your prayers, asking our Father to prosper the work and expand it mightily in the days to come. If you would like to become a financial partner with the Yongs, we would welcome it, now that we can legally ask you to do so! He has his own support account, and is also drawing from the Church Planting Fund. Both accounts have room for more supporters. Blessings to you as you help us come alongside you in the missionary work of starting new churches right here at home.
Dr. Len Pine, PMU Field Director