It’s a challenge maintaining legal status in Ukraine as a foreigner. Besides the innumerable documents, lines, stamps, and mean people you have to deal with every 6 months (or less), there’s the silly little dance you do with anyone in authority as they attempt to extort.
Last year we found a legal way to become Permanent Residents in Ukraine, by essentially investing a minimum amount of money ‘into’ Ukraine. The Cafe land/building purchase provided the perfect avenue to invest legally, though it was a very lengthy and meticulous process. Becoming Permanent Residents would allow us to avoid the time consuming visa and registration process, legalize our vehicle and items we brought over from America 4yrs ago (which we’re still paying / registering as well regularly) and us to travel in and out of Ukraine without ‘breaking’ our registration each time and starting over.
We often joke as missionaries how much time is actually spent maintaining documents here. Everyone is continually looking for easier ways, some play by the Ukrainian rules (take chocolates and cash) to get things done, others attempt a higher moral path with varying results. Until you live in a country like Ukraine, you can’t appreciate the moral complexities.
Anyway, after medical checks, alcoholism interview, criminal record report, and an enough paper to build a boat, we successfully met the criteria, and applied in Kiev. The Kiev immigration folks approved our application for processing, but instructed us to first submit it in from the regional Police dept in our area. We did this, it was just a formality, and the Police just needed to review and send back to Kiev for processing. We submitted it in August of 2011, and were told it should be completed by January. We returned in Jan to find that not only it hadn’t been processed yet, it hadn’t even left the desk of the Police here as they waited for some ‘incentive’ to push a paper.
The Police, like every branch of government in Ukraine is plagued by a cultural mindset that it’s your right to extort and take advantage of people for your own good when the situation presents itself. I, like every other Ukrainian in a position of need become an avenue of personal gain. I am filled with a fresh passion for God to do something miraculous here. His ways are higher, they are better. We are made in His image, and we destroy that image when we are selfish and abuse our fellow man. Ukrainians need to wake up, catch a vision of God and His ways!
I’m no longer interested in pretending that this current Ukrainian culture is acceptable to God. Sure, they have some beautiful aspects, rich history, and the average Ukrainian has a kind heart and understands in many ways the value of relationships more than the average westerner. But there is this concept that those in authority have a right to be selfish, rude to their fellowman, even demeaning. It’s the antithesis of biblical leadership and those with the highest responsibilities should be the servants, caring, protecting and helping. This reverse of polarity, this anti-god mindset must be confronted if they are ever to stop this cycle. But how? A vision for moral clarity, God’s ways are perfect, we’ve got to figure out a way to place before our community the beauty of God’s way, that they may catch a vision of it, recognize their folly and turn to God. I don’t know any other way to stop the insanity, that is, the circular nature of corruption. Sin begets sin.
My wife is pregnant, due in April with our #7th child, and our Visas were only approved until May. We returned pretty discouraged last week from Poland. Even though I own a registered Ukrainian company, our Ukrainian house and land is in our name, and we have the Cafe Property, we somehow didn’t qualify for a long term visa.. we had ‘no proof’ that we were legally allowed to be in Ukraine for more than 3 months. We understand God works in ways we can not see, but we sure were disappointed. Now we return to Ukraine with a sense of instability, about to give birth as visitors, who will not have legal status a month after the baby is born.
It’s with that backdrop that I ask you to pray for our Permanent Residence. Today our application is ‘supposed to’ be taken to Kiev.. what should have taken place 6 months ago. The Police have told us that they will find out ‘how much’ it will cost to process the documents in an expedited fashion. Most of us would willing jump at any ‘priority’ or ‘expedited’ fees, but instead of publicly offering these services, countries like this choose to wink and nod, hand each other envelopes with cash. It just feels wrong, shady, and completely unnecessary. Those requiring ‘gifts’ must not realize that they are ensuring the same terrible cultural aspects to their children. The need to see a better way, they need to see the corrupt ways they are embracing as reality. God is real, He cares, He sees, and this kind of open acceptance of immorality is not what He planned for us!
We have no guarantee that our application will be processed or approved. We appreciate prayer in dealing with these characters, we don’t want to be part of the problem here, and yet find ourselves in a sea of corruption. On one hand we are thankful that this part of the world even allows foreigners access to share the gospel in many different ways, maybe we should think of our brothers and sisters in China, or Saudi Arabia where it’s more about literally surviving. Maybe we are complaining about police that openly take bribes instead of giving lawful tickets, when we should be thankful those same police don’t throw us in jail for being foreign or sharing Christ.
We love our Ukrainian friends, we appreciate so much of the culture here. Yet, it’s time we stood up together to strongly oppose many of the openly ridiculous and corrupt ways. As His creation, we are better than this, Christ has come, we have no excuse and will not on that great and terrible day.
I am filled with a fresh perspective that I believe is God working in my heart. I want to see Ukrainians lift up their eyes. Lift them up to see God’s impeccable ways, and in doing so, see how far they’ve drifted from Him. God wants to restore an integerous view of authority, kindness, justice, and love for our fellow man. His church is His vehicle, I pray we are up for the challenge.