Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Against all Odds

When Pat said he needed to get a visa for Paraguay, a plethora of negative emotions washed over me, reminding me of his aborted attempt in 2005. This time the secretary was nice on the phone, he'd said to me, canceling someone else's appointment to get him in at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. So we got up at 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning and drove to the Porto Alegre airport and it was 5:30 a.m. when I fell back into bed, only to be awakened two hours later by the phone. It was Pat. He was still at the airport and his news was sobering: The airport in Curitiba (his destination) was closed. His flight was being redirected to São Paulo, then back to Curitiba, only arriving in the afternoon. He would miss his appointment. Would I call the Paraguayan consulate and see if he could get another appointment that afternoon?
You'll have to talk to Melissa, the secretary told me when I called, because she's the one who set it up. Our office closes at 4:00, 4:30 for visas and passports. She won't be in until 10:30 this morning.
I called back at 10:45 and asked to speak to Melissa. She had already been briefed and her response was curt and polite. I can't see him this afternoon. I made an exception for him to come in at 11:30. I canceled another person to put him in. We close at 3:30 (!) He could come in tomorrow. I tried to explain that we had made our best effort to get there, getting up at 4:30 a.m., but things were out of our control, that tomorrow wouldn't work because he already had a ticket for São Paulo. She gave me another rehearsal of how nice she'd been to get him the 11:30 appointment. I'll have him call you, then, was my weak response, and hung up. I had not expected this, thinking they would be more accomodating, more understanding of the situation. I felt "serf-ish" and didn't like the feeling. My prayers throughout the day were pleading, whiney! I didn't fit in with the heroes of faith.
It was close to 10:00 p.m. when the phone rang again and Pat's voice beamed over the line. "I got my visa! It was a miracle! That's the only explanation for it," he said. His plane had finally landed in Curitiba at 2:30-ish, and the only baggage Pat had checked in was a box of books he was bringing as a favor for someone else. But where were they? He waited and waited, checking his watch as the minutes ticked away. Finally, in desperation, he said, "Just forget the books. I'll come back for them later," and that's when they showed up. But Pat was discouraged by this time and felt like giving up on the visa. It just didn't seem like it would work. He started thinking about the cost of returning--another $100 by bus, $260 by plane...and then another thought won out-- just try it anyway. After inquiring about a taxi and told it would cost him almost $30, he decided to take a bus for $5, even though he lost another 15 minutes. He walked into the consulate at 3:40 p.m. The secretary was there, pleasant and agreeable. The main secretary had left word to call her back when Pat arrived. There were forms to fill out and a pile of papers to be notorized at another location. Back to the consulate he flew, and the secretaries were still pleasant, not once threatening to close the office, not acting disgusted or irritated by the hour. And it was 5:50 p.m. when he walked out the door--with his visa in hand--totally amazed at what God had done!!
As Pat's words tumbled out over the phone, like the Psalmist David, my "mouth was filled with laughter, and [my] tongue with shouts of joy; then [I] said among the nations (to the Brazilians who were at my place for our cell group meeting when he called), 'The Lord has done great things for [Pat].' The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad." Psalm 126:2,3