December 20, 2018 was a most exciting day. After a whirlwind of divine direction and intervention, I found myself in a local notary's office being cheered on by colleagues while (in my role as FLORECE's director) I was awarded the rights to a property via inheritance auction. It all happened so fast, and in the sixteen days that followed - in between Christmas and New Year's holidays and literally up to hours before departing on a long-scheduled family vacation - we feverishly worked to complete required steps to move the monies generously donated towards this purchase on behalf of the pregnancy center ministry in Iquique. Having delivered the final cashier's check to the judge and being assured by him that the paperwork would be ready to sign upon our return from vacation near the end of January, we happily began the countdown to ownership of the new FLORECE building.
Nearly three months post-auction, we are still waiting.
My WhatsApp chats with the auction judge's secretary bear witness to hopes raised and dashed, promises made and withdrawn, stories told and tweaked. On January 15, I read: "... We are writing up the public deed, hoping that next week everything will be almost ready to send to the registrar [of real estate]." The following week, on January 21 I was told: "... we only lack certifying the publications in the newspapers of all the auctions, and verifying all the heirs because they are many and we have to verify it with all the registrations of the property together with all the actual possessions." Three days later, I was assured that the lead heir "went to the registrar of real estate to request some copies and then we will finish doing everything hopefully."
Two weeks passed during which an architect toured the property (newly vacated by non-paying tenants) and drew up building plans we were eager to implement. On February 8 I asked for an update on the public deed but instead received this reply: "... [you] had better come to the office on Monday at 11 in the morning." Due to schedule conflicts I wasn't able to visit the office until the following week, when both Pedro and I sat down with the judge who told us that another heir had died and the paperwork to add his six heirs to the property was taking additional time. (He said they hadn't known of this heir's death prior to the auction; however, in a previous conversation with his secretary, she had told me they did find out just beforehand but could not make any changes at that point.) On this visit, the judge assured us that the paperwork would be ready the 20th of February or possibly a few days later.
Allowing for the extra days, I wrote to the secretary on February 26 and heard back this announcement: "There is a delay with the registrar of real estate, they indicated to me that the papers will be delivered the 5th of March." Thus on Monday the 4th of March I wrote requesting to be informed immediately when the documents arrived - but no message ever came. I eventually called and was told that the rough draft of the deed would be ready for me to sign that Friday. Four days later on March 8, I again went in person to the judge's office and signed the rough draft amidst evident confusion and discussion between the judge and his secretary over this and the next step. The next step, I was told, was delivering the rough draft to the notary to create the final deed and it would be completed on Monday.
I wrote Monday for assurance that the rough draft was being delivered. This was my answer: "Yes ... I think that around 1 in the afternoon it will be ready to sign at the notary." An hour later, another message followed: "For today I don't think the final deed will be ready." I pressed to know if tomorrow I could sign, and was told: "Yes it could be ... We already talked to the notary this morning ... What happened is that I had to photocopy certain documents."
At that point, I began calling daily. First I was told that there was a final heir who had to be notified by certified mail and given three days to respond. On Thursday, March 14 I asked if he or she had been alerted and this was the reply given: "Yesterday I was waiting for the recipient to notify, but he did not arrive, so I hope that today he will retrieve the documents to notify." I pressed for information, asking who the recipient was and the answer was "I don't know ... the other lawyer has to look into that." I asked for the "other lawyer's" phone number and was told: "The truth I don't have it."
Frustrated, I insisted that the judge must have the other lawyer's number because they have worked together on this case for so many months. Soon I received a phone call from the judge's secretary who said she had spoken with the other lawyer's secretary, who stated that the final heir was being given until 1:30 that day to appear. Otherwise legal documents would be sent the very next day via certified mail to him or her with a three-day response window. I wrote at 2:30 asking if the heir had appeared, but received no answer.
With tentative hope, the next morning I called to ask again. This time the secretary did not answer her own phone, but handed it directly to the judge himself. The details he shared were different than any we had heard before. "The final heir is homeless," he said. "They have been trying to find him or her for 40 days without success. But, surely it will be resolved this weekend. By next Wednesday you should be able to sign."
Perhaps understandably, I am no longer holding my breath.
The plans made with the architect and builder are on hold; we had hoped to begin remodeling on March 16 but without a public deed in our possession we cannot even receive permission from the municipality to do so. We are told that from the time I sign the deed at the notary, it will go the registrar of public records and possibly take two months for this step. Then, our request for a building permit goes to the municipality and could take another four months. The builder who had a crew ready to go will have to take another job and we hope that somehow his schedule will clear at the same time we are finally ready to move forward. My greatest frustration in all this is not the wait or the delays; had we been told of the timeframe from the beginning then we would have adjusted our expectations accordingly. It is the deliberate misinformation we were given time and again, perhaps in an attempt to save face, that is maddening.
Just last week, we sent an praise and prayer update via e-mail rejoicing at all God had done to bring about the purchase of this property and to provide an honest and qualified builder in a cultural context where one is often hard to find. This week, my heart struggled to praise. Yet, did any of this catch Him by surprise? I know the answer is no. I also know that superficial struggles disguise deeper lessons that He wants me to learn. Will I buck them, or will I bend the knee? I want to do the latter.
I carry the valuable weight of responsibility for my testimony in the face of disappointment, as I represent a Christian foundation before unbelievers and a personal faith in front of my children. I know that my knee-jerk response this week has not been to "glory in tribulations!" Yet God's Word says that "tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4) I have confessed my frustration to my family and asked their prayers for patience when I feel like boiling over. I have sought counsel to guide us toward proper decisions when pleasing options are placed before us that perhaps might not properly honor God.
There is a beautiful verse in Isaiah that my colleague and co-director at FLORECE suggested we pray together in the face of the messes and delays that have overwhelmed us this week. "Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God." (Isaiah 50:10) What a timely reminder that despite the disappointments, God is still in control and we can still trust His perfect plan for the FLORECE property and ministry.