The Visa Saga

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In August my latest three month visa expired and when it was issued I was told that I would not be allowed any more but would have to apply for a Carte de Sejour. This would allow me to stay for another year but involved a lot more paper work, including a Police Report from New Zealand and Togo, opening a Togolese bank account, letters from the Hospital and the mission organisation ABWE and turning up in person in Lomé to be photographed, finger printed, fill out 3 more forms and pay 100 000CFA.

In an effort to cut down the number of days I would have to take off work (and because the Post Bus decided that it would not run on Monday) I decided to take the 10 hour “Night Taxi” down to Lomé one Monday night after work, spend all day on Tuesday in Lomé at the Togolese Embassy and then catch the same “Night Taxi” back on Tuesday night to arrive in time to start work on Wednesday. Well let’s just say I survived the ordeal! But not with the desired outcome as I now need some previously unrequested paperwork to prove that I don’t earn any money in Togo (harder to prove than you would think!). So Pasteur Laurent (our extremely helpful Togolese Pastor who lives in Lomé) asked for a one month visa so that I can stay until I can find this mythical proof.

The Saga continues

I thought I was going to be able to pick up my Carte de Sejour on Monday last week… But a week prior I got told that the paperwork I sent down to Lome three weeks earlier to be processed could actually not be processed at all in Lome but had to be done by me in Kara. So off to Kara I went armed with a Soduku book, snacks and water … I then found out that this wasn’t actually the correct place either – next time I promised to go to Dapaong as required.

As far as I could gather I was trying to find the mythical proof that I did not earn any money in Togo. Apparently this could be proven by going to the Tax place closest to me and applying (with four different forms) for proof that I did not pay any income tax for the last two years. This seemed reasonable at the time … To receive the official paperwork I had to declare where I was living, and since there are no street names or numbers in Mango I had to draw a pretty little map.

Then came the trap. I have to pay what best I can describe as “I live in Togo Tax” which is 30 000CFA per year – which was somehow dependent on how many rooms in my house and whether I had a metal or thatch roof. Then came the second trap. They would not be able to process my “I live in Togo Tax” until my landlord had paid tax on the income he had received from renting the house to us.

To make a long story short, to prove that I do not earn any money in Togo by proving that I DO NOT pay tax, I PAID tax for this year AND last year AND the tax that my landlord owes.

I have until the October 18 to get all my “now completed” paperwork approved before my “extended” one month extension visa expires.

Is mission admin flushing money down the drain?

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Here’s an article by Karl Dahlfred re-posted from mission blog, ‘Gleanings from the Field.’

When talking with people about our financial support, one the questions that I like least is, “How much goes to admin?”  It is a valid question, but I don’t like to answer it because there is often an unspoken assumption that paying admin costs is little more than flushing money down the toilet.  Everyone knows that some amount needs to go to admin because donations need to be processed and receipted (at the very least).  But admin money isn’t “really” used for ministry, but just for someone to push paper (or pixels) in an office somewhere.

For many people, admin fees are an unpleasant reality. They are part and parcel of working with a missionary organization, in the same way that paying taxes are an accepted part of being a citizen of a country (or should be).  They need to be paid but there is a suspicion that they are probably not spent well and would largely be better used elsewhere.  Therefore, if someone asks me, “How much goes to admin?” I feel like the lower the number that I give them, the happier they will be with my answer.  I am not going to doctor the numbers, of course, but I am never sure how my answer will affect the attitude and willingness to give of the person asking.

But the longer that I serve with a missionary organization that assesses so-called admin costs, the more grateful I am for all the people behind those admin fees.  All that money that goes to behind-the-scenes admin enables other people to do things that I would otherwise need to take time and money to do myself.  And in many cases, those support workers who are in the home office or field office or in cyberspace somewhere are doing jobs that that I am not equipped to do.


I can’t do the ministry that I came here to do…

AND receipt donations for tax-deductible contributions each month.

AND fold and mail prayer letters each month.

AND manage international money transfers.

AND spend days on end filling out forms and running back and forth to government offices to get my visa and work permit processed.

AND interview and process new missionary candidates, never mind entire short-term teams.

AND manage a mission guest house or holiday home.

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