Well we have been living in the US of A now for over a week and boy has the time flown by. We flew in late on Saturday the 3rd of September (also our wedding anniversary) to San Francisco airport and stayed over night in a hotel before driving north to Redding. The flights were fairly uneventful other than a slightly stressful entry into Chicago where my acoustic guitar didn’t turn up on the luggage collection belt and the border officer did not stamp our visa form with the date we needed for our return flight. After our onwards flight to San Francisco I was informed my guitar had taken a minor detour to Dallas, Texas. Which looking back actually turned out to be fairly helpful! We struggled as it was to get our luggage around without an extra piece to carry. The airline were great and had the guitar sent on the next flight back and had it delivered to our motel the next morning, just in time for our drive north! The first of many answers to prayer this past week.
On the Sunday we drove north and stopped off at the Jelly Belly factory once more and got our free tour and samples. We arrived in Redding and went to the evening service, still a little jet lagged. It felt great to be back after our previous visit in February.
The next day we hit the ground running after having met up with our Scottish friends. The plan was for the five of us to share a flat together, so we began setting ourselves up. Within a couple of days we had our american ‘cell phones’ and bank accounts and had begun looking for a place to live. Hot work in 40 degree temperatures! After a few unsuccessful places, both due to distance from Bethel and the local availability of drugs, we were beginning to feel a little disheartened! So clinging to the God who has provided so much for us to get our here we gathered to pray and worship together. Straight afterwards we went onto the Bethel site which lists housing and cars etc for sale and spotted a brand new flat listing. It met our requirements except on price so we gave them a call and went to see it. We clicked with the landlord and managed to negotiate on the price. After sleeping on the decision we revisited the following day and agreed to take it. God had provided for us a newly renovated 3 bedroom flat (apparently used to be a church) at a price which included utility bills and the landlord would furnish it with some new furniture to our specification. If you know anything about the US housing market you will know that is very rare! We move in on Wednesday.
The more we got to know the area the more we realised a car would be necessary if we could manage it. People tend to openly laugh when you suggest using the local bus system! They live in their cars round here, drive-thru starbucks, donut shops and ATM’s for instance!
So we began hunting. Car hunting in California is really tough. Even the locals helpfully told us this! Cars are not MOT’d or serviced and there seem to be no minimum requirements as long as it moves and the police don’t stop you! Also since the US introduced the cash for clunkers scheme older cars are few and far between and expensive. For a ten year old car you are talking about paying around 3 or 4 times more than you would in the UK. A little bit of a minefield and as the ‘out of towners’ we must have looked like sitting ducks! We just kept asking God for help whilst touring around local dealerships and scouring the internet. We also followed leads from Bethel including a GMC van like something out of the A-team!
After a while we decided to follow up a listing by someone in the church for a dodge caravan (a 6 seater people carrier). We had originally discounted it over price but we thought we would go have a look. Before going on I prayed God would give us confirmation if we were to buy it. We clicked quickly with the nice young couple who owned it, they invited us in for a drink of and then we went for a short drive. The car seemed good, a few minor issues but they were to be expected with an old car. The way they welcomed us in and we got on was the confirmation for me, the ongoing relationship at Bethel was also a huge positive. They had previously done the school and understood what we faced as international students in setting up. They offered us the car at a reduced rate and talked us through registering it and tax etc. We had a brief team chat after and then went back to say we wanted it.
1 week later we had a flat, a car, cell phones a bank account and were getting to know the area. Not to mention the amazing services we attended over the weekend. Heidi Baker spoke on Sunday night and it was very powerful, I think I am still processing that but God was calling us to a fresh surrender in order to see the lost saved. What a first week, it is not that I have always felt him at each step and it has felt very unclear at times but there is no doubt he has been at work in our circumstances as we have clung onto him. God has well and truly set us up!