10 months into our Greek adventure, we have learnt that transitioning to a new country takes a lot more time and energy than you might think! We have found that many hours, lots of paperwork, patience and perseverance is needed.
Before we moved to Greece, we were told that if we made a pie chart of our life, we could expect to tear up 25% of it in our first year here. It was very wise and true advice especially in Greece where a favourite phrase is “σιγά σιγά” which means “slowly, slowly”!
Setting up a new life in a different language and culture is exciting, challenging, at times frustrating and without doubt humbling. There are so many things that we would be able to sort out by ourselves in our home nation that we have needed help with here.
Although it’s been far more challenging than we ever imagined, we can also testify that God has been with us and provided each step of the way. I could share so many stories of God’s faithfulness on this amazing roller coaster ride of faith but here’s just one:
In order to get access to public healthcare in Greece, we needed a social security number. So off we went to the social security office. They told us, we could not get a social security number unless we were registered for tax. Sadly, the tax office said that we needed a social security number to get set up here for tax. So, we were at a bit of a stalemate!
Our Greek Accountant followed up for us and found the right person who could help us. On our 3rd visit to the social security office, we finally had an appointment with the right person. Unfortunately that person couldn’t speak any English. We couldn’t speak enough Greek to explain why we were there. Amazingly our accountant was available and able to speak on our behalf by phone throughout the entire appointment.
Language wasn’t the only barrier, we also needed just one more piece of paper to add to the pile of identity documents. Our accountant was able to email us the paper. We had to find somewhere to print it off before the social security office closed. Unusually for Greece, it was pouring with rain that day. Up against time, we ran frantically through the streets of Athens looking for a print shop. When we finally found one, they couldn’t help us. However, one of the customers in the shop knew a place that printed documents. He kindly walked down the street with us, in the rain, to show us the way. At that point, it honestly felt like God had sent an Angel to guide us to the right place. We got that last piece of paper printed and, dripping wet, made it back to the office just in time.
This is just one of several examples where it has taken a number of attempts, lots of paper, patience and help from others to make progress. At times, the complex jigsaw of different pieces seems insurmountable. Patience often feels like a never-ending lesson that I keep revisiting as the Holy Spirit grows this fruit in me. A lesson in letting go of my timing, trusting that God has planned all my days. When I look back, I can often see how what seemed like delay was amazing provision at just the right time!
I am thankful that God has given us the grace to persevere. As it says in Romans 5 v4, suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. We have wrestled with so much that is new and uncertain this year. Thankfully, many of the jigsaw pieces are now coming together. We have seen God’s faithfulness again and again and our hope in God has grown.
So, to finish the social security story. It turns out that we got the numbers exactly when we needed them. Just in time to be able to book appointments for the Covid vaccine when our age brackets were released. God is so good!