UK_Gibbons :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions
Ministry in the UK

Is Getting a Visa Really This Hard?

Getting to the mission field is easy and then the spiritual battles begin, right? This was our thinking when we began our journey towards ministry in the United Kingdom (UK). We had much to learn. Who would have thought entry into England would be so difficult?

In 2012 when I finished my seminary work, the Lord directed us towards missions, specifically in England. We contacted Gospel Fellowship Association (GFA) and were excited to hear: “We want to help you find the place of sGibbonsUK__9__frame.jpgervice that God has for you, whether or not that is with us.” We were convinced by GFA’s sincere desire to serve Jesus and their strong Biblical stand that they were the group that the Lord wanted us to partner with to help us minister. In December of 2012 my wife, Danielle, and I took a survey trip to the UK. The Lord led us toward church planting or revitalization, and we desired to be in a major urban area like London. To adjust to the culture and get experience in local church ministry in England, we wanted to partner initially with an established British church. GFA connected us with a church located about an hour away from London. We spent time with them and were overwhelmed by both their desire for us to come and the need throughout the UK. We knew the Lord wanted us to be in the UK. We planned to enter England through the sponsorship of this church.

GibbonsUK__8_.jpg

We joined GFA and began part-time deputation in August of 2013. Progress came slowly at first and then faster when the Lord supplied enough support for us to transition to full-time deputation. However, in November of 2015 we received news from the church in England that the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) had requested a review of their license to sponsor foreign workers. The United Kingdom, like many other developed countries, uses a complicated tiered system of immigration. The system delegates the day-to-day responsibility of tracking, supporting, and monitoring immigrants to individual organizations. These organizations go through an expensive and rigorous application process in order to obtain a license. They are then recognized by the UKBA as registered sponsors who can recruit labor from abroad. The organization must then maintain the rules and guidances given them by the UKBA to keep their license. When the UKBA reviewed the church we were going to, they decided that these policies were not observed, revoked their license, and eliminated any opportunity for them to reapply in the future. The loss of this license meant that we could no longer get a missionary visa to enter the UK through the church, and was significant derailment to our plans.

GibbonsUK__6__small.jpg
GibbonsUK__8_.jpg
"Policy follows popular culture."
Gibbons_UK_New__1_.jpg

This was not an isolated incident. As we researched other options, we learned many other groups experienced this as well with the result that thousands of people across the UK lost their visas. Policy follows popular culture. The culture that had been growing for years in the UK was to restrict or end immigration altogether, especially immigration from radical religious sources. To be fair, the UKBA cracked down on all organizations that fell within that tier, not just ones from a particular faith. This way of popular thinking continued to build until it peaked on June 23, 2016, the date of the European Referendum, now known as Brexit. This entire movement left us without a way into the country. However, the Lord did some marvelous things to bring us to our place of ministry.

GibbonsUK__5__edited1.jpg
Gibbons_UK_New__4_.JPG

Following news of the loss of sponsorship from this church, we began to search for another sponsor or another avenue for a visa. After several months of research, we still had very few options. In May 2016, after much prayer from us and our supporting churches, the Lord led GFA to begin the process of becoming a recognized sponsor in the UK. This investment would require tens of thousands of dollars from GFA. We were thrilled with this decision but recognized it would not be easy. Governments in general are not known for being quick and pleasant to work with, not to mention that the British people had just voted to greatly reduce the amount of people entering their country. The odds were not in our favor. Despite the challenges, we knew that our God is sovereign, even over the British Crown and her government. GFA worked with a group of British solicitors in the process, and we began to work, pray, and pay. The first step was chartering a new organization with the existing GFA missionaries in the UK. There were piles of paperwork to work through and policies to follow. Next we sought charity status for the newly formed GFA UK. Governing documents were needed and protocols had to be written and official meetings were to be assembled and everything voted on. During this time we also continued raising support, a challenge that looked like a hurdle blocking our path. However, by the end of 2016 we had seen the Lord provide 100% of our support after 3.5 years of deputation.

GibbonsUK__4__small.jpg
Gibbons_UK_New__1_.jpg
Gibbons_UK_New__3_.JPG
Gibbons_UK_New__6_.JPG

While finishing deputation was a relief, we needed the Lord to remove two large obstacles before we could leave for England. The first was the final step of the sponsorship process, and the second was the supply of the needed funds for our visas and transition to the UK. When we added all these costs, the total surpassed an eye-watering $50,000. Here was another mountain which we could not overcome. We needed the Lord to intervene, and that is what we and our supporters asked Him to do. The Lord did this miraculously in June 2017. We had been slowly saving towards this amount when the Lord provided the full amount through a church in California that was closing and wanted to give its assets towards missions. When I met with the remaining deacons, they handed me a check for exactly $50,000. Seeing God bring this amount in for us so easily and quickly was a faith-growing experience. God had answered our prayers again, in a miraculous way so that only He could get the glory.

GibbonsUK__2__Small.jpg
Gibbons_UK_New__6_.JPG

One more mountain needed to be moved: a sponsorship license for GFA UK. This required tons of paperwork with everything filled out perfectly, a lesson we learned the hard way when our first application was rejected. We continued to pray and ask the Lord to give us favor in the eyes of the British government. Through prayer, the Lord granted us a positive response from the UKBA in October of 2017. We were thrilled! He had opened the door for missions work in the UK for us and also for any other GFA missionaries who come behind us. The Lord allowed us to get our visas quickly, and we have been in the UK since January 2018. These answered prayers have grown our faith in the Lord tremendously. As we begin our work in the UK having already seen the Lord do great and mighty things, we now eagerly anticipate Him to do more for the glory of Jesus, our Savior.

GibbonsUK__7__small.jpg