My wife Bameri and I received a disappointing phone call from our travel agent one morning during the first week of March 2010. I remember him saying, “your visa interview is confirmed for the 28th of April.” We were disappointed because that meant that we were not going to be able to attend the training in the US that was scheduled to start on the 5th of April, more than three weeks before the visa interview date. Our travel agent, who was also our friend, was almost apologetic, saying “I am sorry but the earliest appointment available at the Consulate is April 28th.”
Up until that moment when we received that information, we had been very hopeful that we would be able to get an appointment with the US Consulate in Kolkata in March itself. We had prayed and sensed a go-ahead from God. We had applied for the training and had been accepted. Our two kids, whom we wanted to take along with us, had received permission from their school to go with us without losing a year as long as they kept up with their lessons when in the US. The funds were beginning to come in. A week before, a businessman friend had emailed us, saying that he was going to purchase return flight tickets for the four of us once our visas were confirmed, emphasising, at the same time, that there were “no strings attached” to what he was doing. He was simply blessing us. All of these strong indications, caused us to believe that we were meant to attend that five-month training. It was hard, therefore, to receive the news that we were possibly not going to.
We asked our agent if we could somehow request the Consulate to give us an earlier appointment. We even suggested he call them. But he explained that doing those things would actually be counterproductive. Finally, we realised that there was only one option left: trust God and pray.
A couple of days later, as I was driving my two-wheeler on the outskirts of the city, I felt as though God was speaking to me in my spirit. It seemed as though he was saying, “you will be there before the training starts.” Hearing God’s voice was both encouraging and faith-building.
The next day, during a time of personal prayer, Bameri had an experience that gave us more hope. I was bringing the kids from school and as soon as I entered the house she said: “Almond, while I was praying, I saw a picture of a thick iron door that you and I were unsuccessfully trying to push open. The thing just won’t budge at all! But as we stood feeling helpless in front of the door, I heard a voice that said, ‘you can’t but I can and I will.’” Immediately after she heard those words, she said she saw a hand appear and effortlessly lifting the iron door, opening a vast space behind it, and the two of us, along with our two children, walking through to the other side.
The two experiences, hers while praying and mine on our two-year old Honda scooty, gave us courage to look forward to a God-intervention in a situation that was otherwise impossible.
It was either the 17th or the 18th of that month one morning when Bameri, who had been praying inside our kids’ bedroom, called me and said, “I think the Lord told me to open the website of the US Consulate!” At that point, my expectation for a miracle was high although, I must be honest that as we opened our computer to check the Consulate’s website, I was experiencing something like hopeful trepidation, almost ready, in a way, to be disappointed by bad news.
What appeared before us on the computer screen was almost surreal: all the five working days of the following week, March 22nd to 26th, were open for visa appointments. Immediately, we called our travel agent to tell him. He said that he will check although it was highly unlikely that such a thing would have happened. Perhaps we had made a mistake. But when he called us back about ten minutes later, the first thing he said was, “it is a miracle! Which date next week would you like me to book an appointment for you?” It truly was a miracle, a divine intervention. Otherwise, how could one full week of booked appointments, for at least a hundred people, be suddenly cancelled or changed or what I really am not sure? But the fact is, one whole week of appointment slots opened up, had all become empty in an unthinkable way, giving us the freedom to not only choose the appointment date but also the time.
A number of things related to our trip were coming into place including the door opening for the the visa interview. Even so, the following week, as the four of us were answering questions that an otherwise cordial visa officer was asking, I found myself racked by severe anxiety mixed with an alarming dose of unbelief. Despite all that God had so far done for us, I came face to face with my inability to fully trust him. Bameri and the kids, on the other hand, seemed to be doing fine, answering the questions with calmness and confidence. I was frustrated with myself but still remembered to pray that my palpable stress would not lead to the officer denying our application.
Fortunately, God is so unlike us and, true to what is written in his Word, the Bible, he genuinely sympathises with our weaknesses. He understands our struggles and is so willing to help us.
The next day, we were both overjoyed and humbled to receive our passports back, showing that not only was our application approved but that both my wife and I got ten years while the kids, five each. We flew out of India on the April 1st, had a few days of rest at the training centre, which helped with the jet lag, and when the course started on April 5th, we had little idea that we were stepping into a new, heady, fearful and mind-blowing adventure with God, with each other and with many strangers who became lifelong friends.
There were other naturally inexplicable events that took place during the five months of training, things that could only be explained as God engaging with our lives and journey, that reaffirmed to me, and to us, that God is not only real but that he is willing to walk with us through any circumstance if we allow him to. And after all these years of following Jesus and having a personal relationship with him, I am convinced that he opens shut doors, create pathways where there are none, takes us into the world of impossibilities to show us his ability in the midst of our inability, and to teach us love as he reveals more and more of himself to us. I will share in future posts, other stories, including some from the those five months, about absurd provision and how God’s hand mysteriously moved a country to change its laws to enable us to go there and do his work for a few months.
Photo credit: Giordano Rossoni @ https://unsplash.com/photos/7lhl4XdI-XU (edited)