Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Heart for This City

Early this morning as he maneuvered our car into a temporary parking place near the extranjeria office, my husband let out a whistle. We were later than planned, but earlier than our last visit two months ago. The office still would not open for another 30 to 45 minutes. 

outside the extranjeria office last September

Even so the line of people already snaked around three city streets, or 3/4 of the way around an entire city block. Perhaps it is the summer influx of foreigners. Our local paper ran a story just this week stating that Iquique is the third most "cosmopolitan" city in the nation, with 30% of last year's births attributed to non-Chileans. Flooding the region in search of stable jobs and a better life, they find a relatively sympathetic system which allows the "regularization" of work documents for those who have managed to enter Chile legally or not.

inside the extranjeria office last September

My husband reminds me that this long line is still better than things used to be. In our six years in Iquique, the extranjeria office has changed locations at least three times. Two years ago when we first began the long process for Ian and Alec's paperwork, Pedro had to spend the night outside the office just to be able to make it inside the next morning.

Although the government website informs us that they boys were awarded their permanent residency in September of last year, our last two visits have been fruitless except to receive yet another stamp extending our wait for another few months. I am so hopeful that today we will finally close this chapter in our lives, but I am not sure whether Pedro will even make it in. Such is life in Iquique.

After being away for a month, the drive downtown and home again felt fresh and so did my eyes for the city. The faces in line at extranjeria represent only one facet of the needs here. "Disheveled" doesn't begin to describe the rail-thin man staggering outside his shack on a street corner in oversized, dingy clothes who tossed a stringy head of hair and waved a wine bottle as I drove past. It was only 8 a.m., and he was only one of dozens of homeless and hopeless we see here every day.

Even those who seem to have it all together, simply don't without Christ. Last night one of our kids' former teachers whom we had seen recently and who seemed to be doing well, wrote a cryptic post online. He recognized having made a weighty mistake and now facing the consequences. His words about "trying to show oneself as a strong person and inside being broken" saddened me very much. 

I felt led to write him and share that our testimony (Pedro's and mine) is that without Christ we would be completely lost every day, but with Him we can daily renew strength and find His forgiveness. I knew Pedro would be willing to talk to him and told him so. This morning he responded in a way we hear all too often in this confused society, thanking me for the good "energy" found in my words. It is not "energy" he needs but Emmanuel, God with us through salvation in Jesus Christ!

the clouds hovering over the harbor remind of the clouded lives of so many without Christ

May my heart continue to break for Iquique, for it is a broken place. My prayer to God is that this year would be a year of reaping, of seeing years'-long relationships finally bear eternal fruit for His Kingdom. He is the God of these people and this place, and I sing along with those words of hope that "greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city!"

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