There I was sat on a typically uncomfortable plastic chair in the crowded waiting room at the migration offices of Guatemala City. People had been coming and going, usually with a significant waiting period in between, all morning and I had been sat with my friend and colleague Benjamin for several hours. We were fortunate enough to have a lawyer and his co-worker with us doing the hard graft on our behalves. All we needed to do was wait, sign a piece of paper and pose for a photo.
This was the second to final stage in the long road to residency.
We had already obtained the necessary documents in the UK, had them notarised and sent to the foreign office, been to the embassy in Guatemala, had the authenticity of our passports validated, paid for translations and much more, all with the enlisted help of a lawyer.
Now we were handing in our applications at migration.
I have no idea what offices like this are like in other parts of the world, not even in the UK. However, I imagine as with most things Guatemala has its own unique and slightly dishevelled way of running migration offices. But whatever my opinion, the system works. You just need to carve out several hours to partake. And of course, there is little to entertain you within the grey walls of a waiting room.
Having said that, people watching in a busy waiting room can be quite entertaining, I like to guess where people are from and what brought them to Guatemala and more specifically the migration office. You get to see such a diverse mix of people. I recall observing more than one nun sat knitting as they waited for their number to be called. I felt for the parents who had to bring small children with them and find creative ways to entertain them. At a guess I saw over 10 different nationalities represented too.
Anyway, after the long wait I was handed a piece of paper that informs the reader that I am legally allowed to remain in Guatemala indefinitely, without a visa and with a view of soon being a resident.
What a strange feeling, to hold a piece of paper in my hand that meant that I can now stay here in Guatemala without leaving every three months for my visa. Technically I never have to leave again if I don’t want to. In a few months I will be issued residency, along with a formal document in my passport and a Guatemalan ID card.
Of course, in England I took my residency for granted, I didn’t even consider it as a thing. Why would I? It is my country of birth and therefore, in theory, a place I will always be able to live.
It makes me think about belonging and home. I will soon have residency in two countries. Countries that could not be more different if they tried. Both and neither are home to me now. My heart divided. When I am here in Guatemala, I miss my family and friends and at times long to be back in England, within a culture I understand and for that reason, among others, feel like I belong too.
At times I yearn to have the same freedom I once had living in the Yorkshire Dales. You can take the girl out of Yorkshire, but you can’t take the Yorkshire out of the girl. Yet before I even moved to Guatemala, I knew in my heart that England was not where I would always live, I knew my life would take me someone far away.
When I went back to England after living in Guatemala for a year and a half it was great to see family and friends, however, I found myself missing my life here. I missed my new friends, the people I now call family, I missed the children, the youth, my apartment, my life. However, I do not completely belong here either.
In truth I don’t belong in England or in Guatemala, or anywhere else on this earth. And I don’t want to. I belong to God, and Him alone and my home is where He is. In that sense I can be at home anywhere and nowhere. God is everywhere, He is present. Yet we still must wait until Jesus comes again, until He redeems everything, the whole world back to Himself and there is a new heaven and earth. Redeemed and saturated with God’s glorious presence. Nothing separating us from Him, no more sin. This is the home my heart truly longs for, Eternity. To sit in the courtyards of His mansions. An earth renewed, freedom in it’s truest form. In the presence of The King. In glory.
A place I already have residency for, and I didn’t have to stand in any queues or wait in any crowded rooms. No forms or documents required or stamped for authenticity. No proof of identity.
I am His and as His child I have residency in His Kingdom. What an amazingly beautiful truth.
And it can never be taken away from me, it is mine always.
Surrender and repentance the only requirements. And a life lived for Him, a life far greater and fuller than one lived for myself could ever have been.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”