Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Honoring Ruth: (1) First I Gotta Get Outta Guatemala!

Contemplative moments are something I have enjoyed for as long as I can recall. I was first aware of this the summer of 1994 that I spent walking behind a Skagg three blade, four foot cutting deck walk behind lawn mower. Endless fields stretched for sun-scorched hours as I’d make parallel rows below an open sky.

While it is a traumatic event for many, airline rides though the open sky have now become my arena of thought. The orderly presence of humanity spiced with endless accidental bumps, the cries of children, and the warm jostle of the craft create a unique miniverse that hums with the backdrop of the turbines and the slicing of the thin cold air.

I am considering death, life, eternity, and the present and aware state of my recently passed grandmother. It’s a glimpse into her immediate consciousness that I desire. I want to know what she feels, what she sees, what occupies her thoughts, and what expression is on her face. I consider that a heavenly body may not have a face as I know it. I do not doubt that all this is ongoing, I simply wonder what she experiences at this moment as I brush along the firmament.

This flight carries me to Ohio where I will stand as watcher and in honor of the passing of her life into forever. She has been ill for quite some time, with care from some incredible ladies who have been her friend, her advocate, and her hospice nurses. My uncle Stephen is there, weary from the unparalleled experience of being her primary caregiver. No-one would choose to endure the things he has, and yet I know without doubt that he would never trade it away. I owe him an unpayable debt for his sacrifice, and I envy the depth of his experience.

If you know me well, you know that I despise when people tell me they’ll pray for my safety. With an identity of a follower of Jesus, I understand that safety really isn’t part of the deal. I do believe that God protects, and I can tell you how He has many times, it’s just that I try to focus my prayers more closely to His will being done, His kingdom expanding, and my walking in His favor. And so these past few days when I’ve told people of this homecoming, I’ve been specific when I asked them to pray.

The broad idea was that I walk faithful to the will of God and act in ways that reflect my belief. Specifically… I asked them to pray that I make it onto the flight. Volcano Fuego had the airport closed, ticket prices increased beyond my budget, and my visa is expired. Our family is in the final stage of gaining residency in Guatemala and our visas are past date. I have a letter from Guatemala Immigration that states I am in process, but it is designed to cover me for in country encounters with authorities, not for international travel.

The word from our attorney was that they “probably would let me through,” but that I would need to explain hardship, and explain why I did not have an official travel letter. This has been a concern for me with my limited language skills, and a non-refundable ticket that was made possible by the loving generosity of seven dear friends who attend Journey Church Guatemala.

I was unsure of how things would go with me and the Immigration official. He was all that separated me from the gate. Since the aiport has been closed, about 6000 people were still stranded in Guatemala as of yesterday, and so there was a good chance that I’d get bumped from my flight, or my seat would be double-booked. In order to get the best shot of getting on-board, Kellie dropped me off at the airport at 3:30 am, more than three hours before boarding time. And so a lot was riding on this prayer supported moment.

God answers prayers in many ways. Sometimes the way I expect, and sometimes I have something to learn from an alternate experience. I crossed the yellow line and approached the official at his summons. To my astonishment the entire exchange lasted no more than 20 seconds. He took my passport and begin flipping though the visa stamps. I told him that my visa was expired. He looked up and I handed him my form for in country explanation. He glanced at it, replied, “no problem,” stamped my passport and I was released to travel.

He did not verify a single fact or examine a single stamp. I have never processed through that quickly. I walked away… waiting for him to call me back. But he did not.

And so here I am contemplating grand concepts, big imaginings, and temporal events, all silhouetted with the backdrop of my faith. I’m not sure what the next seven days will bring, but I am sure that I am where I am because I am walking in the favor of God. It is good to return to honor my Grandmother.

-To Continue the Story-

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