Getting International Guests to U.S. Events Is Difficult

CHICAGO, IL (February 22, 2010) – People who attend the Department of Women Ministries Triennial events consistently rate the International Celebration held on the second night of the conference as one of the highlights, but helping participants from other countries to get to the United States proves difficult due to problems obtaining visas.

Flags displayed during the International Celebration worship service.

The guests are sponsored by Women Ministries in each of the conferences of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The guests travel to various churches in their host conference before or after the Triennial event.

Triennial XIII will be held July 22-25 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. For the first time in the event’s history, a woman from Sudan will be able to attend.

A woman from Congo obtained visas because Cindy Ekstrand, a Covenant missionary to Congo, told the interviewer at the American Embassy that she would translate for the guest.

In the past, some women have traveled by foot for days to interview for a visa only to be denied. There seems to be no rhyme or reason why visas are approved or rejected, says Executive Minister Ruth Hill. Although one of the criteria is the likelihood that the women will return to their home countries, some with obvious strong ties are denied. (Similar issues exist for bringing international guests to the denomination’s Annual Meeting).

The participation of the women at Triennial is important, Hill says. “The international guests inspire Triennial attendees with their personal testimonies and stories of how God is working through women in their countries. Some come from countries in which being a Christian is not easy, and hearing of the power of God to advance his kingdom in those settings is very moving.”

Hill says the international guests are equally impacted by the experience. Oftentimes they have not traveled outside their country. “One guest had never ridden an elevator before, much less an airplane.”

The guests, who are active in their churches, return home even more inspired to continue their work, Hill says. “No one at Triennial XII (held in Chicago) will forget the woman from China who asked to be baptized. She had never seen so many Christians in one place. She returned knowing she has many ‘sisters’ in the faith who are concerned for her.”

The participation of guests also has led to new ministry opportunities. A guest from Colombia learned of the Advocacy for Victims of Abuse material published by the department. That led to the material being published in Spanish and being used in several Latin America countries.

To register for Triennial XIII, click here.

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