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Archive for January, 2008

Once again God tested and stretched my faith as I was working on my visas to have my Ukrainian visa renewed. First it was the visa for Stockholm then for UK and then for Ukraine.

Every time I need to renew my Ukrainian visa there are things that happens that tested my faith and trust in the mighty hands of God. He always show me how He works above the ways of the human beings. He works the way that He knows best and in His perfect time.

Getting a visa for Sweden this time was a bit hard in a way that the embassy requested more documents than before and this was also the first time that I’ve waited for two weeks for my visa to be realeased. I understand their job, no question about that. They just want to make sure that I am coming back to Ukraine and not staying in Sweden. This time I applied for a longer visa, as the Ukrainian embassy in Stockholm based their issuance of visa to a non-Sweden residence on the visa that I have for Sweden. Since, I’ve known that, I was and my Swedish friend tried to apply for a one year visa for Sweden. The problem was, the EU has a policy that, each person can only get a 6months visa for any country that is EU member. The Sweden was apologetic for the delayed of my visa as they verified everything and making sure that the documents that I’ve submitted to them are valid.

The favor of God was there even if I’ve got my visa later than usual and even if they only gave me a 6months visa for Sweden. The consul was really nice and symphatetic that I can’t get a one year visa for Sweden. The most important thing is, I was able to established a good rapport with the consul and the people working in the Sweden embassy. That is a blessing alone.

Then I also processed the UK visa to visit and meet with friends. This was also handled by God in ways of favours from the people in the embassy. God’s hands just moved as I processed the visa. The impossible became possible and God just gave me favour after favour from the people of the UK embassy. It was an adverture itself and I saw how God made it all happen. Was just amazed how God can change the hearts of the people for His purposes and glory.

First incident, I went to a wrong website to apply for UK visa, instead of UK embassy in Ukraine website, I went into the international website of UK and applied for visa. It doesn’t say about making an appointment to drop the original application that was printed from the UK website. Got to UK embassy in Kiev but was told that I can’t submit my application ‘coz I didn’t make an appointment for that day. But God works in ways that we cannot see. After talking with a couple of people in the UK embassy I was allowed to submit the application and my name was written on the list of applicants.

Second incident, was interviewed and my documents was checked. One document missing, which I didn’t think to bring as it was not asked of me the last time I applied for UK visa. I can’t produce it as I have to get online to get into my bank account (the only way to print out an statement of account since my bank is in Philippines). I was told to get on the nearest internet and they will wait for me and the document. Tried to print the needed document but didn’t work. Went back to the UK embassy and told them that I can’t print it out on the internet cafe. I’ve asked if I can just fax it from Donetsk when I get home. I was told that they don’t accept fax or do that. So, I have a choice to submit my applications without that document (which they told me a vital part for them to make a decision on my application for visa), or come back and make another appointment without submitting my application. I opted to submit my application and told them that I will just trust God to work it out if He wants me to get the visa. Left and went back home to Donetsk that afternoon.

Got back home in Donetsk, was just talking with my friend (Heather) in UK when I’ve got a call from the UK embassy asking me for the statement of account so that they can make a decision on my visa application. I’ve asked them I can print it out now and asked them how can I send it to them since I am in Donetsk already and I can’t just go to Kiev easily. There was a pause on the other end of the phone and the person came back on the phone and told me that since I am far from Kiev, they will accept and let me fax to them the needed document. PTL!!:) Right there and then was God’s hands working, changing the hearts and minds of the people working in the UK embassy. Then I know that God wants me to go to UK and meet my friends. Got my passport with the visa the following week via courier…God is good and faithful!:)

Fly out Ukraine on the 28th of November to Stockholm (Sweden) where I always get my Ukrainian visa. Went to the Ukrainian embassy Friday and asked for a new Ukrainian visa. I was told that, they can only issue a 6 months visa as my visa for Sweden is only 6 months and that I am not a residence of Sweden. A new law that they have since last year I was told. I’ve asked if the new law applies to all Ukrainian embassy in other countries. The guy told me that the laws varies in other countries. Right there and then I told the guy that I will come back Monday after making some inquiries.

I texted my friends in UK and asked them to check for me about the law or policy of the Ukrainian embassy in UK in regards to a non-residence applicants. My friends told me that, there is a possibility that I can get a one year Ukrainian visa in UK. And then my friend in London texted me again and told me that it is easier to get my Ukrainian visa processed in Edinburgh, Scotland. My friend even made a call to Edinburgh to inquire for me about the visa. I was told then that Edinburgh can see no reason why they can’t give me a one year visa and wondering why the Ukraine embassy in Stockholm won’t give me a one year visa. So that settled it, I am going to process my Ukrainian visa in Edinburgh, Scotland.

While visiting and meeting some friends in Scotland I went to the Ukrainian embassy (with my friend Dawn Staff) and showed my application and document to the consul (which I talked with on the phone prior to my coming to Scotland and made an appointment to see him Monday morning). He checked the documents and told me to fill-up an application form and pay the processing fee. After paying and everything, the consul gave me a piece of paper when to come back for my visa…PTL!!:) God was working at that moment in my faith and trust in His power. And He just gave me favour with the consul. I was chatted a bit with the consul as I was waiting for my friend. I’ve witness God’s hands worked that morning in Ukrainian consulate office. I can’t thank God enough for all the favours and guidance that He gave me all these time just to get a one year religious visa for Ukraine.

One thing that I’ve learned every time I go out of Ukraine to get a new visa is, TRUST and have FAITH in the mighty God that make things possible when it seems impossible to the human eyes. It may seems hopeless or the end of it, but for God it is just the beginning of His mighty works if we TRUST and have FAITH in Him!!:)

By the way, I’ve got my one year religious multi visa for Ukraine on Friday of the same week!:)

Indeed God is the God of impossible!!!:)

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When I was in Sweden in December last year, I had the rare opportunity to observe one of Swedish Christmas traditions: the First Sunday of Advent. It was a privilege to observe and learn this interesting culture and tradition of Sweden while I was staying with my hosts in Stockholm.

Just a little backgrounder:

The Swedish people celebrate and observe on the first Sunday of December by gathering together as a family and lighting the first of the four candles for each Sunday of December in preparation for Christmas.

They celebrate the Sunday Advent by toasting a special red wine and eating the traditional Swedish bread called boular (a soft bread with raisins and glassier sugar on top). The red wine is heated and poured into a special advent glass. Then they will put some raisins in the hot red wine. So you’ll see the hot red wine, the boular, and the special advent glasses (and the special spoons that go with them) all laid down on the Swedish dining table to mark this special occasion.

More on the First Advent:

With the First of Advent, four weeks before Christmas, the countdown for Christmas begins. In the much secularized Sweden, this is one of the few holidays when many Swedes attend church services and sing old Christmas hymns. In people’s homes, the approach of Christmas is marked by bringing out the Advent candlestick, often a small box holding four candles. Each Sunday before Christmas one more candle is lit.

The Swedish Christmas traditions are, like in many countries, a blend of the international and the domestic, the national and local. During Advent, many windows are decorated with an “Advent star” made of paper, straw or wood shavings. Children also take out their Advent calendars, where one flap is opened each day until Christmas Eve. Both these traditions were introduced in the 1930s and have German origin.

Advent is the start of the ecclesiastical year. Until just a few years ago, this Sunday was also the day when shops and department stores unmasked their Christmas decorated show-windows for the first time, and people strolled the streets window-shopping and buying mulled wine and gingerbread biscuits from small stalls. This tradition is still present in small towns but in bigger cities the Christmas season begins earlier nowadays.

More information about Swedish traditions and festivities can be found in the theme site Celebrating the Swedish Way on www.sweden.se/traditions.

(Note: To view my photos on Sweden taken in December 2007, click here.)

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