We had already been to this office before, now two months deep into becoming residents in our new home country. We had already been turned down on numerous occasions. But this time I arrived well-prepared, complete with proof of an eye exam, my passport, copies of my visa, extra passport photos, my resident ID card, and my US driver’s license. That’s when I heard the sentence that my foreign ears had already begun to understand. “Sir, all of your paperwork looks fine, but you are missing one thing.”
I couldn’t help but smile while reading that paragraph from Gene Lee’s “Abiding in Christ is the only way to survive cross-cultural transition this morning” because I’ve been in the same situation (and heard the same sentence more than once.
Sadly one of the biggest challenges to missions today is paperwork. Please understand I don’t blame the Government agencies (they are just doing their job) but the individuals, businesses, and yes even religious groups that took advantage of residency or immigration laws. However the constantly changing laws can become a source of frustration for missions work.
Specifically the new laws and their paperwork affect Missions in two ways:
- You will hear something different every time you try to apply or come to the office (sometimes from people in the same office)
- And there will constantly be a new form to be filled out
- situations like this make it VERY EASY to get angry
Last Fall I was going through an application process that would help me serve the Lord effectively in St. Vincent. I came with the necessary paperwork (including a letter sent by fedex) but was told additional documentation would be needed. By the time that had been mailed (three-weeks) I was told they couldn’t see me for at least two more. That was mildly frustrating, especially after receiving a call two days before my appointment asking me to fill out another 10 pages of paperwork.
Finally I came in with all the necessary documentation but was declined…their reason was the letter I brought in the summer was now too old.
The same letter I handed them five-weeks earlier 🙂
Often we think about challenges on the mission field in terms of spiritual warfare:
- Sharing the Gospel with the unsaved
- Planting new Churches
- Correcting the wrong doctrine of cults
There are classes pertaining to these and other “big challenges” but nobody in Bible College teaches us how to respond when they ask for “one more meaningless piece of paper“
And that’s why Satan loves to use it so much.
May God help us all understand it often isn’t the huge challenges of life that make us quit, but the small daily frustrations.