I am ashamed to admit it, but as a pastor, too often, I don’t expect God to show up. My default is to trust in human systems and working the angles. It is a part of my fallen human nature. It is a lack of faith and trust. It is a sin in my life against which I must struggle, learning to take every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ (2Cor 10:5). How often do we expect God to show up? How often do we expect God to make things happen? How often do we look to God instead of looking to others? On November 14th, I had an amazing experience at the Chinese Consulate. It was amazing because God showed up and made things happen that I couldn’t have worked out. It is amazing because in the midst of the situations, my initial response was to gripe, complain and think that the situation was unchangeable. But at each instance, God prompted me to pray, to ask for prayer and then he worked it out.
Answered Prayer #1
Here’s how I saw God at work in a Communist Consulate: My family and I are in the midst of adopting a child. Because I am a pastor, the Chinese government requires me to make a trip to the nearest consulate in order to apply in person for my visa. I was informed on the phone ahead of time by a visa expediting service that though the consulate will make you an appointment, the reality is the day functions without any attention being given to appointments. All applicants are treated on a first come first serve basis. So I caught the 5 am flight to Seattle and the 6 am flight to San Francisco. I took my first ever Uber ride with a Brazilian man from SFO to the Consulate’s office. We had great conversation, talked about faith, soccer and the places we would like to travel.
I arrived at the consulate at 9:45 a.m. That was my first mistake. As I walked around the corner, I saw the line waiting outside, just to enter the building, ½ a city block long. I started to grumble in my heart, and then I started praying. After a 30 or 45 minute wait outside (thankfully it wasn’t raining.) I entered the building and drew my number -102. The counters were on number 30. Ugh. Being generally clueless as to what to do I waited, thinking about how this wasn’t a good idea and my chances of success were pretty minimal. After an hour waiting and only 10 numbers being called I started to worry more. Then I prayed. I texted my wife and asked her to pray and within 30 minutes this nice Chinese man comes up to me after he has put all his biking clothes on and asks me what number I have. I tell him and he says. I think you could use this. He gives me his ticket -052. He then left. I found out later that day that my daughter, Bekah, asked God to move me up in the line somehow. Answered prayer #1. By 11:45 am I was turning in my Visa application.
Answered Prayer #2
As I stood before the visa agent, I told her my story about flying in and the need to get a visa today so I could travel to adopt on Sunday. After the story, the gal says they can’t get me a visa today but I need to come back tomorrow. I retell her I live in Washington State and flew in for this since we travel for the adoption in days. I pray. And she says, let me ask my supervisor. A few minutes later she returns saying it will be ready at 2:30. Answered prayer #2.
Answered Prayer #3
I ask her what to do in the meantime and she says, don’t leave, stay in the building. So I sit and read until 1 pm when I realize the line to pickup visas is growing increasingly long. Debating when to enter it I finally jump in and work my way up to the front. I get to the front at 2:25. It was 5 min too early so they send me to the back of the line again. At which point I met an Anglo lady who works as a visa expediter. I ask her some questions and we enjoy a half hour’s worth of conversation. By 3 pm or so, I am back at the front and one of the last people present. Then it arrives, my coveted visa to China. The marvelous part is the expediter said she has never seen same day service from the consulate, ever. Answered prayer #3.
Answered Prayer #4
And to top it off, I was issued a 10-year, multiple entry visa. It is what I asked for but I had been informed that pastors normally don’t get such unhindered access to the country. I seriously doubted I would receive it. In fact, I expected to get a 30-day single entry visa. Bot God made things happen. Answered prayer #4.
When God shows up, mountains are moved
Is God able to make things happen when all the ways of men seem to stand in the way? Yes. Does God prompt others to meet our needs and further his Kingdom? Yes. Does God do more than we can ask or imagine? Yes. So the next time, you are questioning God’s power and the immensity of a situation that seems unchangeable, remember that you can turn to the God who made it all and still reigns over this world. It is God, not men, who makes things happen.