You knew that. If you didn’t, let me repeat- it’s complicated. Really, it’s not you- it’s just how it is. Perhaps it is how it has to be.
This is moving to a new country. It isn’t a simple process because it is a big deal. In a little while Nikki and I will be one of thousands who move to a new country every year for whatever reason they have.
When we arrived in the visa section of the French Embassy we noticed that the room was void of any personality and only had a few rows of clear IKEA chairs to greet folks who were searching for a way into France. There was no personal touch. They simply assigned you a number and when the board flashed your number it was your turn. Tears will not sway one of the workers. They ask for paperwork and check off a list as they get the papers. Sometimes they feel the papers are strange (like the fact that our employer is in Tennessee while we live in Pennsylvania).
This is one side of the missionary process that we were quite unsure about. We knew we would have to raise funds to support our work, make sure our daughter had a passport but beyond that how would it really work? The visa process has been long and involved. We have received help from numerous people in France who we are a huge part in even getting us to the point to have the chance to receive a visa.
((UPDATE: MORE PAPERS WERE DELIVERED TO THE FRENCH EMBASSY TODAY. WE FLY OUT IN THREE WEEKS SO LET’S ALL PRAY/HOPE THAT WE RECEIVE A PACKAGE WITH PASSPORTS NICELY STAMPED SHORTLY!))
Basically, to get a long term stay visa one must have places to live, money to live on and a reason to be in the country. Rest assured, ‘I love crepes and want to eat them everyday’ is not an adequate reason for a long term stay. Or, ‘I have a million dollars’ is not enough funding to magically be let in the country. It’s a tough process that, to me, is designed to be tough. It’s not that the French don’t want people in their country, one just has to prove one really deserves or wants to be there.
Which brings me to this point. Sadly, we have not gotten to travel the entire country talking about France or our ministry. There hasn’t been enough days or enough appointments to do that. What we have gotten to do is see many different churches from dynamically different backgrounds worship the same God in various ways.
All of these churches seem to do a really good job at welcoming and wanting to reach people for Christ. Sometimes it seems that personally we don’t do a good job of sharing Christ with people. We allow ourselves to get in the way. We seem to want to block people who are different in many ways from us to a clear path to Christ’s forgiveness. This isn’t getting a visa or going to some building that is technically in a foreign country. This is sharing who you are, what you love and why it matters to you. This is giving an extra dollar to someone or refusing to insult someone when it feels right. This is forgiving or turning the other cheek.
Yet time and time again we choose to put ourselves ahead of Christ. And this all goes for me too. There have been times when I’ve let my normal old destructive self get in the way of any good and reasonable chance to describe why I am (supposed to be?) who I am.
The church building is not a consulate. Jesus is not looking for people to prove to Him why they matter. Jesus is not looking for you to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on people for His sake. So let’s do a better job of allowing others to come to Christ rather than come to us and our standards. Let’s help people see Jesus has already ‘stamped their passport’ so to speak and wants them to see Him for who He is.
We serve a God who DOES have a personal touch for everyone in the world. We serve a God who does not stand behind glass walls separating Himself from the world but a God who has put all of Himself (and there is a lot of Him) close and next to all regardless of who they are or where they are from.
Ephesians 2.8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.