Wednesday 27 February 2008

Real questions (and need for prayer) about how to make this "work" in Australia!

Well, my friends (and family)...

Here is a snapshot of current "complexities" -- real stumbling blocks which somehow need to get kicked away to actually be able to work in Australia as a chaplain who is a US citizen. It's not the hospital, nor the church, but the state!

Prayers for a break-through in this situation would be appreciated, including the health and well-being of my "chief advocate" right now: Rev. Jim Barr.

Apparently this comes about because there is no precedent for a non-Australian citizen working directly for a government-sponsored hospital (which most are, unless run by a religious body) thus a number of people are scratching their heads right now on my behalf.

But like a good chaplain should do -- I have reassured myself that it will do no good (at least for the moment) to get anxious! We leave this Friday for the 8-week sabbatical -- "coming ready or not!"

Grace and peace,Clair

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jim Barr <>
Date: Feb 25, 2008 7:51 PM
Subject: RE: Questions regarding next steps...
To: Clair Hochstetler <>

Dear Clair,

It's good to hear from you! I hadn't realised your departure onsabbatical was quite so imminent which is going to present some issues for us. We have run into problems at this end with Churches Council and the visa. Our options are narrowing and I need to talk with you as soon as possible to work out which is our best way forward. I have arranged a meeting with hospital administration tomorrow at 2 p.m. Canberra time (it is now 11.30 a.m.) to talk through our options. If I can summarise what I think the present situation is in point form:

1. The hospital cannot secure you a visa or even formally offer you the job until you have a working visa for Australia. This is because the position is classified under the ASO structure as an administrative position for which the hospital is not authorised to bring people from overseas.

2. Our next attempt was to see if the Churches Council would technically become your employer under contract to the hospital. The executive of the Churches Council has not agreed to do this because it wishes in principle not to become an employer and has suggested that one of its constituent denominations might undertake this task.

3. I have approached the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office who are considering whether they will act as the migration agent in cooperation with either the Churches Council or one of the denominations as the sponsoring body. They have a thoroughly professional approach and I'm sure would expedite the visa as quickly as possible provided we are able to use their services. I am in communication with the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, to seek his support forthe office to handle this application. The hitch here may be that it is the Catholic Church which has a Labour Agreement (LA) with the immigration Department which may only cover their own in-house staff. As when I last looked the Mennonites were not a congregation in communion with the Papal See this may prove to be an insurmountable barrier.

4. My own congregation may be willing to sponsor Clair (I'd have to get them to agree to that) but we don't have a Labour Agreement with the Immigration Department so even this course may not be open to us. I have to follow this through.

5. A final option would be for Clair to apply for a residency visa inhis own right (perhaps being sponsored by family near Brisbane?) and the hospital would appoint him when he arrives.
Whatever happens we need to have a discussion as soon as possible. I am not well at present and am working in short shifts and then resting. I'm available today for another half hour or so and then again tomorrow. Can you let me know if there's a time that suits you for a Skype conference?

Best wishes

Rev. James Barr, Minister
Canberra Baptist Church
1 Currie Crescent, Kingston ACT 2604

-----Original Message-----

From: Clair Hochstetler []
Sent: Tuesday, 26 February 2008 2:01 AM
To: Jim Barr; Hegarty, Jenny
Subject: Questions regarding next steps...

Dear Jim and Jenny:

Greetings from frozen northern Indiana! I can hardly wait to get towarmer locales - starting this weekend! I have a couple of questions that are nagging at me...

I am a bit confused right now regarding whether someone from TCH or the Churches Council of ACT is will provide the primary assistance, if any, with me/us, regarding the immigration process I need to undergo? I am well aware of the shift in terms of trying to arrange a contract for services between these two entities and the attempt to have my employment contract directly with the Churches Council, ever since our Skype conversations (between Jim and I) nine days ago. By now I imagine meetings in this regard are well underway.

However, being also quite aware of your (Jim's) leave of absence soon, for the surgery and recovery, and imagining the many pressures that must involve for you to get prepared to be sidelined for a stretch...I am trying to gain clarity before that all unfolds regarding whether I am expected to hire my own migration expert to finish this process, or will there a well-understood process from the hospital end (an expert there) who can assist me - even though my primary contract will likely be with the Churches Council?

Secondly, and related to the first question, what is a realistic timeframe for getting my contract secured to even get the process started - another month - when I am actually there? Obviously, the immigration process can't get rolling until I have that in hand.

As I said previously, I know this all takes time - and needs to getdone "right." We will need to use fax machines or scanned attachments sent my email to do all this before I get there in person. Using technology is not a problem for either of us, though, where ever we are. We will stay connected to the world daily even while we travel, via our wireless laptop and our Trio cell phone -- a GSM version which allows us to purchase and insert a locally-recognized SIM chip, making things work well in whatever country we are in at the time. And we will keep Skype up and running on our laptop, for facilitating direct conversations.

Here again are the broad strokes of our family schedule between now and mid-May:

Feb. 25 - farewell tea (party) at Goshen General Hospital
Feb. 27-28 - two days of intensive overlap/orientation with my successor at Goshen General Hospital: Shawn Gerber (who can't actually move here until mid-April)
Feb 28 noon - last meeting with the Goshen Ministerial Association
Feb. 29 mid-day: embark on my 8-week sabbatical, together with Carole Anne!

Feb 29 - Mar 7 - Southwest United States - Las Vegas, NV (Cirque du Soleil's "O" ) and traveling in the countryside hiking/seeing canyons like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area, Valley of Fire State Park, and the Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and time to meditate/retreat in the wilderness...

Mar 7-9 Los Angeles, CA and vicinity

Mar 9-16 - Kauai, Hawaii

Mar 16 - April 10 - Australia - based initially in Noosa Heads, theSun Coast of Queensland, a block away from Carole Anne's sister Linda and her husband Graham. We are still developing plans to visit other parts of the country such as Brisbane, then Canberra (our time in your city is, of course, already blocked out for March 25-28 with air travel you, Jim, helped us arrange), then Sydney, Cairns (the Great Barrier Reef) and Alice Springs/Ayres Rock (Uluru - Outback)

April 10-23 - New Zealand - various parts (initially in the north:Auckland)

Arrive at South Bend, Indiana airport @ 11 pm, April 23

Rest for two or three days at home

Attend son Jordan's college graduation in Kalamazoo and daughter Megan's 25th birthday party (Kalamazoo, MI April 26-27)

Evening of April 27 - farewell/service at Faith Mennonite Church inGoshen (last Sunday we can really count on being there)

April 28-29 - Packing/storing/selling

April 29 - "closing the sale" of our home (rental after that, until we actually leave)

April 30 - May 13 -- two-week auto trip. We plan to visit my brother Lee and his family in North Carolina, my uncle Alan in Williamsburg, VA (taking along my father's two sisters for that first leg of the trip, then just the two of us onward to) Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and on up to Worcester, MA (Carole Anne's home area) to visit her children and grandchildren plus attend the wedding of Becky Everson, a special friend, on May 10. We will return via a visit May 12-13 with special friends I have in New Hamburg and Stratford, Ontario, where I served three years in Mennonite Voluntary Service, right after college.

May 14-16 until ??? -- final storing/selling/packing of our things...and waiting for our visa/work permit for Australia -- unlessallowed to come in beforehand with our tourist visa, before the work commences. (The very earliest we could fly over is the weekend of May 17-19, but more realistically, it will be a week later.)

Warm regards,
Clair Hochstetler

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