Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Open Doors

Have you ever gotten good news that felt like bad news? Like when “Yay! A new puppy!” becomes “Now I’m buying expensive dog food and picking up poop for the rest of my life.”

In January, I got to attend Extreme’s annual summit in Manta, Ecuador. We began every morning with prayer and worship. One morning, we were asked to get with a partner we didn’t know well, pray for them, ask God what He wanted to share with that person, and share what God told us. My partner, the pastor of the Chile church plant, told me that my message from God was to not freak out. Don’t freak out about my future plans in Brazil or the visas and just trust that God would take care of things. Sounds great, right? I immediately felt warning bells going off inside of me. God’s word is timely and perfect. However, I was not at all worried about visas or my future plans. Why would God tell me in a prophetic word to not freak out… unless a storm was coming. My dread was now at odds with the promise. Getting the visas we need might be more difficult than I was expecting, but God had clearly promised me He would take care of it.

Extreme Leaders and Dr. Verne Ward at the Extreme Summit 2017

 A week after we returned from the summit, we had a farewell service for a short term mission team from Brazil. They had been doing missions in different parts of Argentina (including our city) for a month. After the service, there was a moment of chaos as too many people tried to hug each other in too small a space. In the middle of trying to hug all of the Brazilians, one of them, Flavia, stopped me and held my face in her hands. She started speaking very intently in a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish that I could mostly understand. She said I would be blessed in Brazil, that God was sending me like Nehemiah, with the favor of the government, to rebuild the walls of His church in Brazil. She again emphasized that God was granting me the favor of the government for all the documents and visas I would need and that God would greatly use our ministry for His plans in Brazil. Again-pretty incredible, right? And at the same time I knew it was time to get serious about these visas God kept promising.

A couple of the Brazilians joined our outdoor small group while they were with us.
Flavia is seated to the right of me. 

 As I began researching the visa process, the problems weren’t difficult to find. On a tourist visa, one can only be in the country for 90 days at a time and no more than 180 days a year. One must be a clergyman to get a missionary visa or take classes in a seminary to get a student visa. One must receive a salary from a Brazilian company to qualify for a business visa. The only visa we might qualify for, and by a long shot, was a volunteer work visa, and the list of documentation we needed to provide was about as long as my arm. What just took me a minute to type took us weeks to discover with frequent phone calls to people in Brazil, visits to the consulate in Cordoba, Argentina, and emails to the consulates in the States. It was a long hallway of closed doors. Actually, it was a long hallway of slightly ajar doors. At each one, we pushed and pushed to a near solution only to have it snap back in our face and force us to the next unpromising option. This was the reason for the prophecy. Even after we finally decided to move forward with a student visa for the seminary extension in Brasilia and a ministry practicum in Anápolis, we are still having to overcome impossible hurdles. I came to the logical conclusion dozens of times that this simply couldn’t work out. What we want to do does not qualify us for Brazilian immigration. We don’t have the resources or the documentation to legally live in the country. All the doors are closed. However, I didn’t freak out. My mom will tell you that’s not true. There were lots of times that I yelled, complained, maybe even threw a pen or two. But I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I didn’t stop. I didn’t let the frustrations freak me out to the point of giving up. And eventually, doors started opening.

One of the many small, weird frustrations was trying to prove I belong to the Los Angeles consulate jurisdiction. I don’t even want to belong to the Los Angeles consulate jurisdiction. I’d greatly prefer to belong to a closer consulate, but whatever. I had to prove that I was applying to the correct consulate by showing I am from Idaho and not another state, specifically that I have lived in Idaho for the past 12 months. Except I haven’t lived in Idaho for the past two years. No utility bills. No voter registration. Email from the consulate- you can use your driver’s license. Perfect! Wait, my driver’s license expires in June. I’ll get a new one that only shows I’ve been living in Idaho since June. I’ll show both the new and the expired licenses. If they let you keep the expired ones. Worth a shot. Except I changed my address to my Meridian address and I still don’t have a utility bill to change it back to Lewiston. If I have two permanent addresses that might cause me problems.

This is my brain on visas for four months.

Anyway, I went to the Lewiston Sherriff department with my old driver’s license. My eight year old driver’s license that had the correct Lewiston address printed on it, but I knew the computer system would betray the Meridian address. I got a number and sat down. I waited for an hour and fifteen minutes. An hour and fifteen minutes of watching people who had recently moved to the valley argue with the nice lady about how they could possibly prove their residence without a utility bill and what qualifies as a utility bill and whose name appeared on said utility bill and what are they to do? Each one was sent away without a license. The office closed at 4:00. They locked us in so they could finish the ten or so people still waiting in line. I was finally called up to the same nice lady who was now a tired, nice lady. She did my vision test, recorded my signature, took my picture, while I waited nervously for the last question to be asked. “And your address is 2482 Rebecca Way?” No, it’s the 25th Avenue address on the card. “The Lewiston address?” Yes. Pause. Please. “Ok.” She changed the information on the computer and printed a temporary license. I walked out the door with the expired license and received a new one a week later.

It’s a weird, small story, but this happened a dozen times- being in the right place at the right time, knowing what to say or who to talk to, people suddenly changing their minds about what they were willing to do or give. In the visa process and in my fund raising process, God has been obstinately doing things His way in His time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have to do anything. No one gave me a check for $40,000 and Brazil didn’t just mail me a visa. In fact, I still don’t have the visa. But God had all the open doors ready for me ahead of time. He also gave me the right encouragement at the right time to keep me going long enough to find them. I’m flying to Los Angeles on Thursday. My visa appointment is Friday morning at 11:00. Please pray with me that God would hold this door open. That I would be in the right time. If it is approved, I will be on a plane to Brasilia on August 9th, ready to do more work and discover more of God’s plans. 

Pastor Junior with the Brazilian pastoral and 40/40 missionary candidates. We interviewed
three pastoral couples and five missionaries. We approved one pastoral couple and four
missionaries. One more Brazilian missionary and the team is complete!

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