Can you picture it? A small waiting room, every chair taken, other people standing, pacing, all awaiting their turn. The lady behind the desk can see that I have returned…again. From my earlier visits, the word impossible was the only one I understood.
One of the hardest parts of living here is actually completing all the necessary steps to receive continued permission to stay as a guest in the country. It’s not easy – it tries your patience, your endurance, and always tempts your flesh to complain or to forget why you’re here – or who has brought you here. The residency process is a refining fire that will hopefully shape me into the faith-filled, prayerful, and highly-enduring daughter of the King that I wish to be.
To my benefit, He has shown himself Ever-Faithful.
Friends had told me what to bring. They said that it was easy. Well, early that morning, I packed the other official documents I’d gathered from my first permit process experience– just in case. And, only one document remained before I could submit my application for my next visa.
The first time I made the visit, the system was down. The second time, the lady turned me down saying that I needed to bring in a utility bill with my name and address. Sadly, no bills were in my name at that time. I can’t open a utility in my name without residency and I can’t apply for residency renewal without a utility bill. Can you feel the frustration?
The timeline was tight. My application was due to be sent and I lacked this final document. Fearful and anxious thoughts are always an option in cases like these— I could easily choose that route (and I did for a couple hours). The other option is to pray and rest in Him. Thankfully, the Spirit encouraged me to persevere in the latter.
So, after class, I returned for the third time with a plan.
I hoped to ask the lady behind the desk to talk with my friend over the phone who could better explain my situation. Perhaps, my friend and this lady could find a solution. Of course, I entered with doubts, praying for the ability to pray and not doubt like James 1 talks about.
“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” –James 1:6
Not to my benefit, the lady behind the desk had just dealt with some fairly upset characters when I approached her. I prayed for favor. She patiently explained the same process again and I understood perfectly well, but this time, I asked if she’d be willing to talk to my friend via phone. I expected more frustration. Instead, the lady kindly said that only her boss, the Director of the office, could make that call and asked me to wait in the line by her desk.
Seeing this as progress, I thanked her and joined the next line. The woman continued to manage more frustrated individuals. Voices rising as patience waned.
During my turn, I spoke slowly asking the Director to listen to my friend explain my situation over the phone. She kindly agreed to the arrangement. Just then, one of the photocopy shop brothers from my neighborhood walked in. He greeted me with a smile and a handshake asking me if all was well. In a huge city, to see a familiar face in a random office was immediately encouraging.
As the Director talked to my friend, it suddenly occurred to me that I had extra documents from my previous visa. It was from another official government building— and the print out included my name and address. O the Father is so kind! He knew I would need this.
I pulled it out and handed it to the Director.
Her face brightened, and I caught the words “It is possible” coming from her mouth. The woman started to ask me for my name, ID, and address. The room was chaotic, everyone talking at once and over each other. I tried to answer her efficiently fumbling for my documents.
Then, the photocopy shop brother piped in over the crowd “She lives on my street!” Hilarious. He was clearly tracking my poor situation from his seat and decided to offer his help. “Yes”, I smiled, “that’s my address.”
The woman typed and clicked away at her computer and in a moment hung up with my friend and motioned for me to follow her. She took me back to the lady’s desk and explained that my document would be sufficient.
PRAISE THE LORD!
With some speedy typing over a couple minutes, the lady behind the desk handed me my final document, signed and sealed. In shock, I prepared my things quickly hoping to not hear the words “just kidding” before I left.
On my way out, the brother from the shop asked, “Is everything well?”
“Yes!”, I smiled, “All is well.”
That’s all my language skills could afford to say. But blessed be the day when my language acquisition is sufficient enough to respond “Yes, my Father took care of me today and answered all my prayers.”
Amber (not her real name) submitted her visa application! All 47 pages worth. This is just one of the possible challenges to cross-cultural mission work. A reality many of us can only imagine.
Would you pray not only for Amber to receive a year-long visa this time but also for those brothers and sisters out there who are reaching the nations to overcome their challenges? Would you pray that these challenges strengthen trust in God and result in hope?