Saturday, October 20, 2007

One Essential for World Ministry

I've prayed for missionaries for years. I've included countless "Pray for my visa" requests. I learned this week that it is a little different when it is your own visa.

Last week I began the process of applying for a visa to go to Brazil for 10 days in November. The first item on the application said, "Submit a passport good for at least 6 months after your return." I pulled mine from the file and found that it expired in February. I had only 4 weeks to get a passport and visa. The normal passport process is now 10-12 weeks and the visa process can take another 1-3 weeks.

The only hope was to go to San Francisco and see if I could get a passport in the morning and a visa in the afternoon. Someone gave me a plane ticket. And I cleared Friday for the trip. Here's how I told about my day to Bruce.

Yesterday, I got up at 4:30am and hopped a 6:55 flight to Oakland. I took the BART into downtown San Francisco and walked 8 blocks or so to the passport agency. The guard let me in even though I was early for my 10:30 appointment. Even then I didn't see an agent until they'd gone through almost 30 people and waited until 11:00. The agent took my paperwork and said, "We'll put it in the mail."

"Wait, that won't work for me. I leave too soon." I replied.

"Well then you can pick it up at Will Call at 3:00."

"That won't work either. The Brazilian Consulate closes at 1:00 and I have to be at the airport since my plane leaves at 4:00."

"I'm sorry. I don't know what to do. If I mail it, we cannot guarantee when you will get delivery and it may be late and 3:00 is when it will be available." And with that, she walked away and disappeared behind the corner. In a moment she returned with a smile on her face and as she spoke with a smile her accent was more evident, "For you, we do a favor. You can come back at 1:00 and pick up your passport at Will Call."

"Thank you, but my visa office closes at 1:00."

"That's the best I can do."

"OK. Thank you very much. I'll be back at 1:00."

I left with a glimmer of hope. At least I could complete half my mission and come away with a passport if not a visa. I walked 15 blocks to the Brazilian Consulate to tell them about my problem. When I arrived on the 9th floor the lobby was littered with people sitting everywhere. I looked in the room and realized I wouldn't get to talk to anyone for a long time. So I took a number, number 550. The one window that was dealing everyone non-Brazilian was at 527. So I left and made a new plan. I'd eat lunch near the Brazilian consulate, then stop and get a new number, and run get my passport and return. Perhaps they'd still let me in.

At 12:45, after a Subway Club for lunch, I went back to the Consulate. They were only on number 537. At the current rate if I took a new number I'd miss my plane. So I didn't. I ran another 15 blocks to get my passport. Much to my surprise and relief, it was done at 12:59, one minute early.

I walked the 15 blocks back to the Consulate. They had opened another window and were now at 546. I sat down long enough to fill in my new passport number on my visa application, but not long enough to get cooled off. The red LED screen invited me to the far window. "I am so happy to talk to you." I told the attendant. In my haste, I hadn't even signed my new passport.

In a matter of minutes I was finished. "Have a nice trip to Brazil," she called as I left at 1:30. Amazing!

I caught the 4:05 plane home and made the football game that evening! Besides the documents the whole day had cost me only $20.
I wanted you to be able to thank the Lord with me.

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