The Lottery

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Our 3 sons:  Ivan (10), Lawrence (9) and Brian (5)

I could not believe my ears nor comprehend the message that my20150831_214723_resized boyfriend relayed to me that Sunday afternoon in 2003. I was in my fourth year of college and I was doing my teaching internship.  The only other big plans I had at that time were for us to get married.  But then he told me his news: he had won the green card lottery!  If we followed the process in place we could be traveling from Kenya to the United States in a year!

The news was both exciting and sad.  On the positive side, I had heard that the USA was a land of milk and honey, and that the opportunities were limitless.  Yet, I could not imagine leaving my parents, my siblings or my friends behind to venture into a territory that was so unfamiliar.  And even if we wanted to go, we didn’t have the financial capability of taking care of the required expenses.

Even with the financial obstacle in place, we were excited at the possibilities and decided to share the news with our friends and family.  Their reactions were, “How are you going to do it and you don’t have money? No one will lend you money? Others were like “We are so happy for you! We will do whatever it takes to assist.” The process is expensive and we needed a lot of financial support from friends and family in order to get through. Many times we doubted whether we will make it and questioned our decision. Then to our surprise, they generously decided to help us. 
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I remember my mother-in-law falling telling us how she fell in a dumpster as she went to her uncle’s house to collect money that he had promised to contribute. We expected to raise enough money within 8 months, but a year later we were still short of funds. My in-laws friend in Washington DC happened to visit around the time when it seemed like we had reached the end of the rope and when she heard our story, she offered to pay both of our tickets as soon we got our visas. What a mighty God we serve! By the end of the year, due to help of family and friends, we were able to afford the process and we sent in our application.
After our application was sent in, we waited with anticipation.  I finished school, and we got married.  Together we anticipated the final letter from the US Consulate.  This letter would have necessary details including our Visa interview date.  Time Passed.  In the time that I was waiting, I began listening to this Swahili gospel album that had just been released.  It was so encouraging and I could not stop singing the songs over and over.  The lyrics were hopeful, they said, “When the Lord says He will bless you, nobody and nothing will ever stop Him.  He is the God in charge of all the blessings!”
kenya
Over a year passed and the final letter never arrived! We felt “nervous, discouraged, sad…” Those who knew our story kept questioning us wondering why we were still in Kenya. Were we lying to get people’s money?   We thought maybe we made a mistake filling out the last form we sent.  And maybe that potential mistake disqualified us from finishing the process?  Discouraged we decided to go on with our life in Kenya, find jobs, and maybe start the family we had always wanted. We started buying building materials and found a lovely location for our house.
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  -2 Peter 1:4
Then, seemingly out of the blue, my brother-in-law ran into a good friend of his.  As they talked together my brother-in-law shared with him our story and how our letter never arrived.  His friend told him we needed to contact the US Consulate via e-mail to ask them what happened.  This advice surprised us.  So many other people “familiar” with the protocol advised us to never contact the Consulate directly.  But, my husband took his counsel and wrote them an email explaining our story.  This one step was critical for us.  We often consider that piece of advice as divine intervention.  We believe that God positioned my brother in law to meet his friend that day (essentially an encounter with an angel!) a trusted friend who gave us exactly what we needed to do.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 8:37-39
We received an email response the very next day instructing us to contact our local US embassy right away, because they had already sent our letter –a year before! They did not reject us, or disqualify us, instead they had approved our application long ago!  In an instant, our life shifted again.  We followed all our instructions; received T.B. shots, had X-rays, completed a physical checkup and all the other documentation. 
I remember being in the nurse’s office when getting the immunization shots and she told me not to get pregnant before six months were over, since the vaccine (MMR) might have a severe side effect on an unborn child. I assured her it will not happen.  Believe it or not, I learned that I was pregnant a month after getting the shots. It was a very scary and stressful time for us. How careless was I? How come I didn’t use protection? What was I thinking? I had no answer to any of those questions and many more. Sometimes things just happen! We had several ultra-sounds done and every time the doctor assured us that our baby would be okay. We had several family members pray for us as well.
After all the required documents were ready, we went to the US embassy and got our visa!  It was exciting to get the visas but then another set of worry and anxiety kicked in. How about the unborn child? How will we provide for him with no jobs and no income? My husband’s cousin, who lived in East Palo Alto, California, was gracious enough to host us temporarily in her small apartment. I remember my mother crying as she bid us goodbye. I could tell she was deeply worried but she kept assuring me that all will be well. I had even thought of carrying cloth diapers for our baby in case we couldn’t afford to buy a lot of baby stuff when we got there.
Moving day arrived and we traveled to the US when I was about 6 months pregnant. Our first born son was born healthy three months after arriving in the US.  Now we were here in the United States of America, a family of 3.  Our expectations were that surely we will get jobs right away and provide for our young family; find a church home where we could make several friends who would indeed make us feel right at home. However our reality was totally different. Jobs were not easily forthcoming; it took several years to find a home church, and we barely knew our neighbors!  I cried a lot and even reached a point where I wished we would go back.  It was not an easy transition.
2004Even in the midst of all the chaos, uncertainties and wavering faith, I knew deep inside that we were going to be alright because God had given us the signs from the start of the process. The Swahili song kept playing in my heart again and again and every time I sang the song, there was peace in my heart that just calmed me down and I knew all was going to be okay.  My husband and I would pray together, watch Joel Osteen sermons on TV, read our bibles and we tried to make sense of what was going on. When God says He will bless you, nothing will ever stop Him. A friend of my husbands cousin was used by God to help us get our Social Security numbers, taught us how to take bus rides before we learned to drive, and apply for government aid until we were able to be on our feet.  
Check back again each month, and I will unfurl my story on our adjustment to America and my life raising my 3 sons.  We experienced culture shock, met good Samaritans along the way, and many more adventures. 

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