We had very little time to prepare for our departure to Baku. We were excited for the new challenge before us, but we were also aware of all the emotions that accompany a decision like this.
We realized that it will be our last Christmas in South Africa for a while. Theunis’ parents were now well settled in our home in Durbanville, and they were approaching their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Together with his brothers, Theunis planned to celebrate the occasion. None of us had a big enough home to host such an event. We had friends who lived in a beautiful home in Stellenberg, and we knew that they will be away for the summer holiday. They agreed that we can use their home during that time, and it was a great choice. We moved into their home for a week, and we celebrated our parents’ anniversary and Christmas as a family in style!
Our departure date was set for the end of January 2013. After all the celebrations we had to turn our focus on our final preparations for our move to Azerbaijan.
The position of Field Leader for the Caucasus region (Azerbaijan, Republic of Georgia, and Armenia) did not provide a foundation for a residence and work permit in Azerbaijan because Operation Mobilization was not formally registered as an organization.
Operation Mercy is an international relief and development organisation established in 1991 and headquartered in Sweden. They work in Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. (https://mercy.se/) We encountered the work of Operation Mercy for the first time in Turkey during the earthquake of 1999 and since then met many of the leaders of the organization in the region. In 2013 the International Leader of Operation Mercy was a friend we met during our years in Turkey. Operation Mercy had an office in Baku and was looking for a Country Director. This was our best opportunity to get a residence and work permit for Azerbaijan. My experience as Earthquake Relief and Development Coordinator for the Protestant Churches in Turkey put me in good standing for this position and my application was accepted. After our experiences in Turkey, we were very relieved to know that we can enter and stay in Azerbaijan on a residence and work permit valid for one year and renewable after that.
We were in for a big challenge and a steep learning curve, because I will now have to wear two hats – Field Leader for the Operation Mobilization team in the Caucasus and Country Director for Operation Mercy in Azerbaijan.