Wednesday October 17, 2018
Missionaries need to remember that when they serve in a foreign country they are guests of the respective government, and each country has its laws governing immigration and who may work in that country. Kenya is no different.
I serve in our mission as assigned by the bishop of Bismarck with the express consent of the bishop of Kisii. Also, I need to follow the immigration laws of Kenya. At the beginning, I entered the country on a visa, a document of permission to be in the country for a limited amount of time, that is, ninety days—this could be renewed while working on the following. The next step was to obtain ‘a residency and work permit,’ a process in which one must prove one is fulfilling a job that cannot be done by others because of training and expertise or, in the case of the church, one is serving the well-being of people. The government does not want foreigners taking performing jobs citizens can do.) Part of this process includes letters from my own bishop and the bishop of Kisii, documentation of appropriate training (i.e. copies of diplomas from educational institutions), the filling out of the appropriate forms, and a copy of passport and visa.
Earlier this year I was granted a residency and work permit after many trips to the Department of Immigration in Nairobi. At times, I encountered people who were just doing their job. At times, I encountered people who sought to assist me to the best of their ability. And, I encountered the bureaucracy that seems inherent in government institutions. As I was told, and, as I experienced, one simply does not know what to expect when going to the Department of Immigration. I have walked away from there being dejected and frustrated. I have walked away from there being grateful for someone who went out of her way to assist me in the bureaucratic process.
This week I made another trip to the Department of Immigration in Nairobi to obtain my national identity card, officially called “Republic of Kenya Foreigner Certificate.” Now, I no longer need to carry my passport and residency and work permit wherever I go—these documents needed for banking purposes and, at times, for doing business such as purchasing certain items.
I started this process shortly after my arrival in June 2017. At one point, because of the bureaucratic process, I had to begin the process anew, a particularly frustrating time. I am grateful, and I am fortunate. And, I stand in good stead with the government of Kenya, whose guest I am.