U.S. Immigration Delays Pastor’s Call

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No one expected that more than a year would pass from the time Rev. John Huizenga was called from Lethbridge, Alberta, till he moved to his new church in Lombard, Ill. But that is exactly what happened.

Huizenga was pastor of Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in Lethbridge when he received a call from Lombard CRC. He and his three children are dual citizens of the United States and Canada, but Huizenga’s wife, Sandra, is a Canadian citizen. The application for permanent residency in the U.S. for Sandra led to many months of waiting on the U.S. Immigration office to act.

Attorneys were consulted, appeals were made to government officials, and plans for housing, leaving old jobs in Canada, and schooling for the children were made and unmade.

Rev. Huizenga participated in meetings of Lombard CRC via speakerphone. Because of continual unexpected delays he ended up preaching three farewell sermons for the Lethbridge church. Don Engelsman, council president for Lombard CRC, now wonders whether his congregation would have made the call had they known in advance how difficult and lengthy the process would be for all concerned.

Huizenga was finally installed in his new church in March 2009. As of this writing, Sandra is still living with their high-school-aged daughter in Lethbridge, awaiting a final interview. She expects to join her husband in Lombard this summer.

“At the very least,” said Rev. Huizenga, “[the CRC] ought to get together with other bi-national denominations and approach the U.S. government about creating a more timely and just process for moving pastors between the two countries.”

Synod 2004 requested that the denomination’s Board of Trustees look into the matter, but the board informed Synod 2005 that the possibility of obtaining special status for personnel to move across the border was too remote to make pursuing it feasible.

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