|One of the signs of stress.|
The part of our June plan that I was most worried about was our visa situation. We needed new visas soon. Through May and the beginning of June we gathered the necessary documents and made “plans”. We had never gone to Moldova to get visas before, but understood that we could get them in two days. I talked to the embassy and they said that they work on Mondays, Wednesday s and Thursday. If we apply for a visa on one of those days, we can get it the next working day. OK, so here was the plan.
Weekend: Travel to Kiev, pick up Anya from camp, leave Joseph and Micah at camp.Monday: Julie, Alfie and Anya travel back to Odessa.
Tuesday: Leave Anya with Brittany and Julie and Alfie travel to Chisinau to apply for visas.
Wednesday: Arrive early at embassy and apply for visas.
Thursday: Pick up visas and take bus back to Odessa.
Friday: Travel to Kiev to get Joseph and Micah from camp.
We knew that because of the status of our current visas that we may have problems at the border crossing into Moldova. We also knew that if we had problems in Moldova, that we could not come back to Ukraine without a new visa for 90 days. We decided to pray and take the risk. Our attitude was something like, “Here is our plan Lord, please make it work.” Everything went fine until Wednesday. The border crossings were no problems. We thanked God for giving us favor in the eyes of the border guards. We got a room near the embassy on Tuesday evening. We found the embassy so we could easily get there the next morning. We had documents and copies of documents.
Wednesday morning comes and we arrive at the embassy a half hour before it opens. There is already a large group waiting. We add our names to the waiting list, we are 49 and 51. OK, a little stress. We should have come earlier, but we have all day to apply. I pray, “Lord please let the line go quickly and efficiently.” I walk around to relieve the stress and notice a paper taped to the embassy door. It is in Ukrainian so it is a little hard to read. I read it and understand it, but spend about five minutes trying to convince myself that I don’t understand the Ukrainian and everything will be alright. The sign says that the embassy will be closed on Thursday…that’s tomorrow! That means that we won’t be able to pick up our visas until Monday! OK…stress level increases and I start making plans in my head. I can beg the embassy to issue the visa today…but…but we are number 49 and 50… “Why didn’t we come earlier?” Stress level increases more. I’m angry at myself for not coming earlier. What if we don’t get in before the break at 12:30? OK…start to pray. “Lord, please, please, please make all these people go away!” That was a panic prayer. “OK Lord, sorry for panicking. I have two prayers. Please let us apply in time to get our visas today and help me not to stress and say anything stupid to my wife. Help me to trust you Lord.” I think and plan some more. It is time to put plan B, C and D on standby and began formulating plan E. I talk to Julie. “So, what is the backup plan? Who will pick up the kids if we are stuck?” There is a plan, but I don’t want to be stuck! “Lord, I don’t want to be stuck.” Plan some more…John can pick up the kids and they can stay in Kiev, or maybe he can send them to Brittany or Leah on a bus, maybe Igor is in Kiev and he can drive them down to Odessa. We will need some more money for the hotel…”Why or why didn’t I come earlier? How did I miss that tomorrow is a holiday? Why do these people celebrate so many holidays?! Don’t they know that there is work to be done?! Why are there so many stupid holidays? They only work three days a week and they are taking one day off? What is the matter with these people!?” (OK, not very fair...calm down, breath…..breath again). Stress level increases…I’m on the edge….”Lord help me not to snap and say or do anything rash. Help me to trust you”…more thoughts running through my head, more prayers….
I look at Julie. She looks calm. She turns to me and says, “Do you think we will have clothes in heaven?” In my mind my head explodes. My vision blurs. Time stops as I try to absorb her question and the calm look on her face while our hopes of getting a visa this week slip into the abyss. Praise God, I hold my tongue. However, I guess in that instant, my face communicated much to Julie. She simply says, “Oh, you’re worried about the visa? The Lord will work it out, but I’ll let you be.” She is not worried! This makes me mad and embarrassed at the same time. “Why isn’t she worried?” OK…pray…think….plan. How about walk a little. …walking… “Lord, this is not the worst thing in the world. We have friends, we have help. Help me to accept whatever plan you have for us.” I walk around a little more. It is a little after 10:00am and the guard comes out yells, “Who is here for visas?” What! That’s us. I raise my hand and head for the gate. Julie didn’t hear him. She is calmly sitting on a bench and reading. I call her and say her we can go in. She looks surprised and heads over to me. As we go in, I notice that we are going in out of order.
When we get in, we fill out the necessary forms and stand in line. I have all the arguments ready. “Please sir; if you could issue the visas today we would be very grateful. You see our daughter is in Odessa and our other kids are in Kiev. We can’t wait until Monday. I know you are not working tomorrow. Perhaps we could just pick up the visa in the morning….pause…perhaps there is an extra fee to expedite visa service. We are ready to pay extra.” We get to the window and the man says, “You want these today…right?” Time stops...again the vision blurs….sound stops…those words were like manna from heaven. There is a flash of blue light and I’m back at the window. “Uhhh….yes, yes of course that would be great.” “No problem” he says. “Pay for the visa at the bank and come back after three.” “Yes, yes, thank you so much.” We leave for the bank, but the Lord is not done with us.
As we leave the gate, a young man says, “You guys buying visas?” “Yep”, we say as we pass him to go to the bank. We pay for the visas and return to the embassy to drop of the receipt. When we return we start talking to the young man. He is an American named Ethan who is also trying to get a visa to return to Odessa. He is an independent missionary who works mainly with orphans. He has his documents but is number 72 on the list. We talk. He asks what the sign on the door means. I tell him that the embassy is closed tomorrow and will not be open again until Monday. I watch as he takes the news very well. He doesn’t seem stressed. (I’m a little embarrassed at remembering my earlier reaction.) We ask the guard if Ethan can get in to do his visa. The guard says that he doesn’t know. There are a lot of people applying for visas. About 12:45 we are waiting with Ethan and a man comes out and says that is all for today, everyone else will have to come back on Monday. Ethan is disappointed, but takes the news well…again. A discussion at the gate starts and intensifies and the guard agrees to take 10 more people and the rest will be first on Monday. He takes 10 more and that takes him to number 71. Ethan is disappointed but takes the news well…again. He has to stay until Monday. As he is getting ready to leave and another man says, “Come on…Take the American kid.” The guard asks, “Do you need a religious visa?” Ethan says yes and the guard motions him in. We ran into Ethan again later and were able to help him get some extra documents. We all got our visas and traveled back to Odessa the next day together on the train.
The Lord not only changed our plans, He improved them. We got our visas faster than we planned and the embassy still got their holiday. More importantly, through the examples of my wife and this young man, the Lord showed me how little I trust Him. My instinct is still to fix it myself. Yes, I pray but my blood pressure still increases, my mind goes to plan B, I try to fix it myself and take over. I don’t mean that we don’t need to plan, but what I need to do better is “rest in Him when the plan changes.” Really, I need to rest in Him all the time. We (I) should still plan our way, but on the road, it is always best to let Him direct our steps. I am honestly a little embarrassed but thankful for His lesson.