Sunday, December 2, 2007

Uncle Sam Vs I am Sam

Hello from Lethbridge, Canada! When I was all the way back in Venezuela earlier this year I began to right down a few notes here & there for possible film scripts that I'd perhaps like to develop over the coming years. I love writing & it's simply a way for me to sit back & relax. At first I only had the pieces of paper containing my travel documents to write on so I eventually bought a small notebook to keep my ideas together & off my official papers. I had no idea that 10months later I'd be paying a price for my 'doodling'. Before I leave for Russia I needed to secure a Visa, which can be very difficult. I was advised by an Australian diplomat in St Petersburg to view a certain website & secure the services of a professional Visa-acquiring company. I found a company who would secure both an invitation & visa from Russia for non-USA citizens & it simply required the filling out of a few forms, the payment of a fee & my passport to be sent to them for the Visa to be entered. The passport was supposed to be returned to Great Falls a few days before I arrived there but upon my arrival it was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately it was the thanksgiving holiday & so no one was at work & I simply presumed that because of the holiday it had been held up in the post. After a discussion with the Grove & Donisthorpe families we decided that I'd keep walking & as soon as it arrived they'd run it up to me. I'd entered the country on the 30th of August with a 90 day Visa & so needed to be across the border by the 29th of November. As the deadline approached the Passport still hadn't arrived so we began to call the company to find out what had happened. Apparently it had been accidently thrown into the 'wrong pile' & the very appologetic company was fast to send it by express delivery to Vicky Donisthorpe's office. In the mean time I continued walking north towards the border & as is expected in these areas, the border patrol pulled over to check on me. The gentleman asked for identification & I offered him my drivers license & a photocopy of my passport page, explaining that the passport was being delivered to me the next morning. The officer looked at me blankly & informed me that I was in breach of immigration laws by not having my actual passport on me. Apparently these companies who take overseas visitor's passports do so against US law & the only way I could legally obtain a Visa for Russia would be to fly to San Francisco (the nearest Russian Embassy & sleep inside the Embassy foyer while they organised the Visa (in other words, there is no legal way to obtain a visa to Russia if you're not from the USA). The officer invited me to take a seat in the back of his patrol vehicle while we sorted it out & he began to ask me questions. He asked who was bringing the passport to me & if I had a phone number so he could call them. I reached into my bag to pull out my little notebook with Greg & Karen Grove's number in it & wouldn't you know it, it wasn't there. I was at a loss as to where it could be but it wasn't starting to look good in front of the officer. At that point he happened to turn over the photocopy of my passport, which I've been carrying since the beginning of the walk, and he turned to me asked, "What's all this?" I had no idea what he was talking about at first but my heart sank when I saw what was written on the back. The 2nd script idea I'd had while walkign Venezuela was for a political version of Ocean's Eleven where instead of hyjacking a casino, the people in question would hyjack the world leaders, blah, blah. And as it turns out I'd penned my first idea for this on the back of my passport photocopy, complete with a detailed timeline of when opperatives would be placed in government poitions, van's hired, etc. I tried to explain what it was & that I had an extened version of the script idea along with a stack of other ideas in my little notebook to which the officer looked me in the eye & said, "Which you can't find." I couldn't believe this was happening. He was a kind fellow, but I understood that the odds were stacking up against me at that point. I was locked in the back of the patrol car behind a cage screen as he radioed through to Homeland Security to find out who I was. They replied back in code & the officer turned to me & informed me that my visa was in fact expiring today! Without my passport I couldn't prove anything but I insisted that I entered the country on the 30th August & that it was written in pen, by the issuing officer, that the last day was the 29th November, today was the 28th. The officer didn't even look up, "That means you have to be out of the country on the 28th. A 90 day visa is only valid for 89days." So, with nowhere to go & no way of explaing myself we drove off down the highway to Border Patrol Headquarters. It took a few hours to sort through everything & it looked to be getting worse at one point when they believed that the compnay I'd sent my passport to was not a real company but an identiy theft scam. I sat in the interigation room chatting with my armed guard & laughing about how 'in-trouble' I was. He suggested that I perhaps brun my photocopy of the passport page. I agreed. The guard was a mild-mannered young bloke who was very chatty so it made the stay a litte more comforting. Thankfully, my little notebook WAS in my bag, but I'd accidently dropped it into the wrong pocket with some clothes & not realised that it was there. When I was leaving Great Falls, Vicki Donisthorpe had given me the front page of the Great Falls Tribune containing the story about the walk to assist with my crossing of the border. I didn't honestly think that I would need it or that it would help in any way, but as I sat in the interigation room with the armed guard I could see half a dozen officers going through everything in my folder. The door was slightly open betwen the two rooms & I caught sight of one officer pulling the newspaper front page out & opening it up. He read over it for a moment & then his face dropped. He looked up over the paper & announced to the others, "He's on the front page of the Tribune!" They all gathered around & read the story & the officer who'd brought me in said, "He didn't tell me he was on the front page of the Tribune!" I thought to myself, "I wasn't aware that the media was an offical document!?" As they dispersed back to their seats I heard an out-of-sight officer laugh that they'd need to find new jobs if they threw me in jail. They eventually tracked down the company that had my passport & found that it had already been sent & was enroute to me at that very moment. All in all it took about 3hours from start to finish but we'd pretty much all become friends by the end & one of the officers even took down the web address to check it all out in their own time. I was very appologetic & rather embarrased but by the end of the day they'd granted me an extension on my visa for no charge & the head of Homeland Security gave me a lift to where I was supposed to be staying for that night. I stayed the night with Brian & Vicky Barrows & it was a great way to end the day. They had a bible study that evening so I gladly sat down with them & opened up my little bible, which they all reckoned required a telescope to read. I had a very blessed evening with them none-the-less & was very refreshed through our time together. The next morning, Greg & Karen Grove arrived with my passport & little brother Chris who'd taken a day off the previous day. Karen & Greg kindly offered to drive me across the border & have lunch with Chris & I in Milk River. After 89days, made up of 15 rest days & 74 days on the road, I'd crossed a total of 3174km across the United States to fall short of the border by a mere 25km. So in total I clocked 3174km on foot & 25km in the back of a Patrol Car. Not a bad percentage breakdown really... I gladly accepted the lift across the border & set about planning the next stage of the walk. Regardless of how I travel whether as a free man or suspected criminal, there's always an oppurtunity to pray! A big thank you to the many people who have played such a significant role in this week passed, especially Wally & Marlene, Brian & Vicky, Brendan & Wendy, Carla, Charles & Natasha, Penny & Don, Don's dog Amigo (smartest Border Collie this side of the border), Stan & Kathy & all those who stopped on the side of the road with a bite to eat or a hot drink. It has been very cold this week with temperatures between -8degC & -33degC, but that's a whole other story :-) God bless & please keep praying for unity! Sam.
"Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." Ps27:3


Benjamin said...

Hey Sam,
Keep going mate! The Lord is moving through you. A BIG hello to your lil bro as well. Great to see the support for this mission.
March on lads!

Benjamin said...

Sam, I can't help but believe that much of the progress for Unity that has been taking place over the past year and especially months has in many ways to do with the offerings and prayers of your journey. New head way has emerged from last week's meeting between the Pope and the ecumenical head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Todays headline on the cathnews website was "Christian unity being built "brick by brick"". They were in fact the words of the Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensek, the head of the Russian orthodox Church. The Lord needs your offerings and the prayers of all at 4:01.
Walk on!