My last update of a return to China concerned bans being lifted. In that post, I excitedly announced the opening up of the country on September 28 to those of us who hold, or have held, resident permit visas during the time of Covid-19.
Stipulation of a return included an invitation letter from the employer, which in my case is Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. My college would send me the letter, officially stamped et al, and I would work through my visa agent in Chicago to submit this to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. After that, processing would occur, which I was warned might take up to a month or two.
English teacher Danli, an extremely capable young woman helping in my school’s Foreign Affairs office, was put in charge of this. Her upbeat messages were encouraging, how the school was on top of things and she was finding out the necessary documents and procedures needed.
“I’ll get back to you, Connie,” she wrote. “Don’t worry. We are so eager to have you return!”
Three weeks went by after that upbeat text message. Her next reply included the following information:
It seems an invitation letter demands a bit more than just the college’s Party Secretary’s (the head of the college) go-ahead. According to the strict policies of returning foreigners, the provincial government office of Luzhou city has to approve. After consulting with numerous official city departments, and submitting detailed plans of how the college would monitor me for the virus after my initial airport 2-week quarantine, my school was told to wait before sending my invitation letter. The virus has been so well-contained in China that allowing others coming from outside, especially from America where our cases are drastically and uncontrollably rising, is on high alert.
Disappointing for all involved, including my department, my students and myself, but I completely understand.
My school will continue to try again in November since policies are continuously changing.
A New Role in Place: Keeping Busy
While I wait, an addendum was added to my job description with the General Board of Global Ministries. I am now the Mission Advocate (MA) for the United Methodist’s North-Central Jurisdiction. This includes the following UMC conferences: Indiana, West Ohio, East Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Northern Illinois and Illinois Great Rivers, which encompasses Marshall First. Details are yet to be given but from what I understand, an MA is the liaison between Global Ministries and each conference’s Conference Secretary of Global Ministries (CSGM) who passes on all mission and missionary program news to the districts. I will attend mission meetings (held virtually via Zoom), gather information to relay to others, host my own or present at meetings, post GBGM updates, relay current information online and be available for whatever else is asked of me.
I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that these duties demand a bit of quiet and “spread-out room,” which the Marshall First UMC has graciously given me in what is the prayer room. How very grateful I am to have my home church meet my needs in such a special way. I will use this sacred space to continue my work with the church while keeping engaged in mission and serving the Lord as I feel called to do.
Watch this space for more updates! Until then, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week.