Friday, March 25, 2016

5 Shepherds in a Row - A Complication at the Border

Five Shepherds all in a row, sitting remarkably peacefully in 16A-C. This is my solitude. Of all the places I have been, jetting at 30,000 feet is the only place where I am absolutely unreachable. There is a total absence of telephones, email, and social media. This particular plane doesn’t even have WiFi. 

I suppose this is a fitting transition for the next ten days. I find myself in an odd vacuum of no sermons to write (Journey has guest  preachers for the next two Sundays), no assignments due (I’ve completed the next two weeks in advance), and absolutely no obligatory visits (my family is joining my parents among strangers in Nevada, USA). I may just go mad. Or perhaps, if I’m fortunate, I’ll find some solace.

This missional life is an artform. I find myself with no particular skills of excellence, and yet adequately equipped for all occasions. In those moments where I fail absolutely and entirely, I am surrounded by those who perfectly fit the scenario. Most often this is my friend and travelling companion, Antony who in a Guatemalan National and beautifully bilingual. However, today I found myself in un navigable waters and I was rescued by two companions who are even more constant: Kellie and Jesus. 

It’s odd really… I’ve found myself in difficult border crossings before… and yet every time it just feels unnatural to me that an official has the authority to deny my exit or entry. I’ll just chalk that up to an overblown sense of American entitlement. Surely that is something that I need to release. Cognitively I know that I am entitled to nothing.

Even so, at the risk of sounding campy, or giving a naïve Sunday School answer, or sounding like a teen-age girl proclaiming that life will be peachy because, “I just love Jesus so much,” I have to tell you that time and time again… amidst situations that seem absolutely hopeless, a sincere and direct plea to God has resulted in a way.

My Passport expired in December and I had to apply for a new one at The US Embassy in Guatemala. While that was a God-story in itself… I had it today and presented it to the Immigration official in Guatemala. I was denied exit. 

We have 5 tickets purchased to join my parents and I feel like I really need a break. Denied. You can’t fly. You can’t leave. You have to go to the immigration office and get a special stamp.

The problem was that I was denied that stamp last week. Kellie was denied it as well. Our three children were granted it… but Kellie and I were assigned an interview date with Immigration. While the interview means that we’re being accepted as Guatemalan Residents and this is good news… it’s not great news if you want to travel. 

We were given an official letter of explanation by our attorney, and it even had the colorful seal and official sticker… but I was stopped dead with a very forceful “No” by the assertive Immigration Officer. Something broke in my head and all I could do was just step back, close my eyes, tell myself to just breath, and I prayed.

“God I need you now. I need you always. I just need you here. Help us.”

I felt Kellie step up beside me and began speaking in Spanish to the official. The official again said, “No.” Kellie stepped up closer and told the official that she was mistaken, that we had already been to Immigration, that we were processing for Residency, and that the letter granted us permission to leave.

I watched while holding my breath. This was remarkable. I did not expect this reaction from my wife and I have never witnessed her appear so commanding. It was like a presence of authority just draped over her like a uniform.

Without even reading the letter, the official that had said nothing but “No” suddenly nodded her head in approval, stamped our passports, and wished us a good trip.

If you know us… you know this type of thing happens over and over. While God has taught me to ask, and he gives me situations often to remind me that I have to ask, and He intervenes every time… I still find myself in awe.

I know that God isn’t our cosmic wish-granter. I understand that life isn’t always easy and certainly I don’t claim that my own is always a sunny day in the park. I’ll confess that these stories even sound a little campy to me and I never want to oversimplify my complicated and sometimes failed walk with God.

It’s just that I can’t deny it either. 

Me and Aleksandra... can't stop the style. Ha!

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