Traumatizing Tramites

In Bolivia, the word for official paperwork is tramites. Most people just call it traumatizing, because that is what it is. If you don’t care about details you can skip the next few paragraphs, because the point is at the end.

In March I started the process for a year long visa to live in Bolivia. Four months later, after sending every important document I own, and calling ten times to check in on the status of the visa I had my passport back with a stamp in it, but that was just the beginning.

As soon as I arrived in Bolivia, I met the lawyer that works with missionaries in getting visas.  The first day, we went to the bank to make a deposit, and then to a narcotics office to get the forms we needed to prove I have no drug record. Several days later we went back to that office to pick up forms, and then headed to the Interpol office. I expected a scene from an action movie, but was dissapointed. After going to Interpol, I went to get my picture taken for all of my documents, and then to a notary to have several forms stamped. Several weeks later, we went back to Interpol to pick up the forms, but there was another problem. A week after that, we went back again - this time with no problem at all. Except that the pictures had been misplaced, so we went back to take pictures again.

Another very important step in the visa process is making sure you are healthy. Luckily, there is a one stop shop where you can be x-rayed, have blood samples drawn, be examined by a doctor, and have you teeth “examined” (looked at).

After this we went to another office – FELCC- to have forms signed proving that I do in fact live where I say I do. However, the man wasn’t there, so we would have to come back another day. After going in vain to FELCC, we headed to Transito, where I think I proved again that I live where I say I live – I’m not completely sure what that was for.

When I tried to go back to FELCC, there was a marathon blocking the roads, and so I walked for a couple of kilometers, trying in vain to get a taxi. Three hours later, I arrived, and discovered another missing document. Thankfully the lawyer talked the man into letting him come back later in the week to bring the form, so I was able to sign.

After this, all of the forms were sent to La Paz to be approved. Several days ago I got word that documents were back from La Paz, so today I GOT to go to Immigration to finish up the process. We arrived at Immigration about 9:30, and waited in line to have the documents approved. The man reviewing my forms was very thorough, and found a mistake on one form. He informed us we would have to go back to the Transito office and have them correct the form. We walked outside and the lawyer looked at a group of taxi drivers standing outside, and asked  “Okay, who wants to take us?” I felt like I was in a movie, they all jumped up and started fighting over who would take us. After being serenaded by a Spanish version of “My Heart Will Go On” in the taxi, we arrived at transito to find about 50 people waiting in line. The lawyer went right to the front and asked them to please fix the mistake. I was amazed when they obliged!

Twenty minutes later we were back at immigration, and the man reviewed all of the forms again, and this time approved them and gave me my fine for taking longer than 30 days to obtain the visa. HA! They gave us a form to take to the bank to pay the fee, and then when we got back, we could continue with the process. We arrived back at Immigration, and two people before my turn, they announced that they would be closing for lunch for the next two hours. We could come back at 2:30. So close, yet so far.

After lunch things went smoothly, and we finished the last (supposedly) part of paperwork. Because I had a lot of time on my hands, I started to think about how different the process would have been without a lawyer. He knew what he was doing. He knew where we needed to be, what forms (for the most part) we were supposed to have, and he already knew most of the people in the offices because he does it so often. He was my voice when I didn’t have any idea what to say or do. As frustrating as the process could be, I wasn’t worried, because I knew that he knew what needed to happen next.
And then I started to think about how Jesus talks about our “advocate” In John 14-16 Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—….. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—“ In 1 John 2:1it says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

So while I am not looking forward to doing any of this paperwork again for the two year visa, I am so thankful for the way God has used it to show me what it means to have an advocate- to be able to be humbled in feeling completely helpless, and to allow someone else to help!

Since I wouldn’t wish tramites (paperwork) on my worst enemy, (or maybe I would… :)) I pray that you would be encouraged to think about what it means to have an advocate  in Jesus, and would learn to depend on Him only!


  1. You forgot to mention that those two other people in line were your two beloved roommates... and that sometimes lunch in town can be really fun if you should be teaching but have to wait for the office to open again.


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