Christian Workers having to Pack their Bags
See foot of this message (and "Comments" thread) for updates
In October 2008 new legislation governing immigrants, work permits and residency in EU countries appeared suddenly, catching many unawares; and is now is having a direct and sudden impact on Christian ministries in the Highlands and beyond.
This development which is variously resulting in Christians from North America being debarred entry to the UK the prospect of those already living and working in Scotland having to go home.
So far, in the Highlands, the Luis Palau Association has been affected by being unable to have a worker from America based in Inverness in the planning stages in advance of the June Festival outreach.
Chris and Pattie Hyslop
Meanwhile Chris Hyslop who returned with his wife Pattie to the Highlands in December 2007 to take up a position with Highlands and Islands Youth for Christ are having to pack up and return to their native Canada. Chris's serves as a Missional Church Development Worker. He and his wife and HIYFC colleagues were taken completely by surprise by this new legislation and when Pattie started to make enquiries about how it would affect the couple she discovered that her research put her in a position of knowing more about the new rules than those civil servants who were supposed to be implementing them. She has learned that Youth for Christ is not classed as a religious organisation, and because it is a limited company it falls under the scope of the new arrangements for employing ‘foreign’ (non-EU) workers.
Leo and Cheryl Rose
Another Christian leader who has been working sacrificially in the Highlands for the past five years is Leo Rose who, with the indispensable support of his wife Cheryl, has set up and is now leading Inverness Bible Fellowship. The couple are now facing the prospect of having to return to the US if a ‘local’ worker (UK or EU citizen) can be found to take up the pastoral leadership role. As voluntary work is now subject to the same legal restrictions as paid workers, Leo is having to advertise the ‘vacancy’ and, because the work is voluntary, the employment agencies will not help with the work of publicising the position.
(Click here to find the job specification for Leo’s present position.)
Please pray for all these folks who have brought their gifts and talents to the work of building the Kingdom in the Highlands and Islands and are facing the prospect of having to leave.
The Hyslops and the Roses are content to leave it all in the Lord’s hands and that is indeed where these things rightfully lie. However, it is a change in the ‘operating environment’ and a new situation of which we all need to be aware. These folks have brought themselves and God's giftings in them to the Christian community in the north of Scotland; and they are appreciated.
Footnote: Highlands and Islands Youth for Christ are currently advertising for a Centre Director. <Click here> for details.
Update 17 March 2009
Leo Rose reports:
After spending 200+ hours preparing our visa applications to extend our leave to remain in the UK, we have sent them off to the Home Office. The new regulations as of Nov/2008 now require a certificate of sponsorship issued by a sponsor organisation pre-registered and approved by the Home Office Sponsor Management Unit. Additionally the Home Office now utilise a points based system. Therefore, without a certificate of sponsorship and a high score awarded by the Home Office via the points based system, it would be impossible for us to remain.
We did receive a certificate of sponsorship through Calvary Chapel Bible College York England. This bible college had been seeking and recently obtained accreditation through the UK educational system. An added benefit of this accreditation is that the college was given sponsorship status earlier this year. Therefore, they were able to offer a certificate of sponsorship to us. As far as the remaining points and how we score on the points based system, as well as the final decision whether we will be permitted to remain, this is in the hands of the Home office. We are told it will be 4-6 weeks before we should expect a decision regarding our visa applications.
Ultimately we are still trusting in the Lord. Though it is true because of the new regulations we have seen some missionaries, Christians sent home or even blocked from entering the country, we are trusting that the Lord can go before us and make a way for us to stay, should this be His will. Technically our visas are now expired [15-March-09]. The law allows us to stay now that we have applied for extended leave to remain. So for now we wait and trust Lord which is always our standard operating procedure, amen?
As far as the multiple letters which citizens had written to MPs on our behalf, no action was ever taken to simply extend our visas for 30-60 days which would have permitted to us to meet the 5-year requirement and we would have then qualified to apply for settlement/permanent residency.
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1