As most of you know, I had to complete some training in Canada that was required of my mission board these last few days. I had also planned to take ten days back with my US churches prior to heading back for a full schedule of camps. It was an important schedule to keep.
While at the training, I was watching the corona virus situation closely. By the middle of last week, I asked you, my prayer partners, to pray for discernment as I weighed whether to continue to my church partners, which I was dearly looking forward to doing, or whether I should get back to France and cut my trip short. I didn’t want to get “stuck” for a long period of time away from my ministry.
Thursday I felt I should send a message to the mission board saying to cut my trip short after just one weekend at my churches. By Friday, I spoke to one of the pastors of my church who suggested that I could be placed in quarantine. Perhaps this wasn’t the best time to come…at all.
Heeding that advice, I called the travel coordinator at the mission, who suggested that I needed to get to where I need to be on the next available plane and stay put. God was indeed answering those prayers for discernment. The coordinator booked my immediate travel back to France and I set off with restrictions getting tighter and tighter by the minute. I was praying fervently that I didn’t get stopped somewhere along the way.
The flights from Canada to London via Dallas went off easily. I was not able to obtain a boarding pass for the last leg to France, however. This was unusual and made me wonder why. During a change of planes in Dallas, I was able to get that boarding pass. It made me feel a bit better.
I arrived in London Heathrow, and after waving out the window in the direction of Iris (my daughter living in London), I headed for the passport control at the gate for my last flight to France. It’s all electronic these days. I went to the control gate and scanned my passport. To my surprise, instead of opening the gate for me, it gave me a rejection notice saying to return to the airline’s desk. Rejected passport? What’s up with that?
I returned to the airline desk and explained what had happened. She looked at my passport and said it was due to restrictions with the virus. She asked if I originated in the US. I told her that I originated in France, had been to a conference in Canada, and had spent all of 45 minutes in the US to change planes only. I added that I live in France and that I am merely trying to get back home. She studied my Visa and asked for a residency card. I showed her that my visa states that I am specifically exempted from the residency card – and I pointed that out to her. After more deliberations, a supervisor was called. More questions and deliberations followed, along with them pointing at the computer terminal and mumbling between themselves.
Finally, after some very tense moments, the supervisor handed my passport back to me saying « you should be ok ». She indicated I could proceed to the plane saying the restrictions are changing every minute. This time I scanned my passport and the gates opened. There were a few more tense moments as the plane apparently lost its slot for the French airspace. We had to sit on the tarmac for an hour and a half waiting for the airline to negotiate another time. Finally that was obtained and we were off. All the while, I was in my seat preparing to argue my way back into the country and reviewed all the scanned documents in my phone that demonstrate my residency.
When I arrived at the immigration desk, I smiled, handed the agent my passport open to the Visa page and prepared for a heated interrogation and negotiation. Instead, he glanced at the visa, stamped my passport, and handed it back to me. He didn’t say a single word…not even a «bonjour ». I tried to contain shouting « thank you, Lord! » as I walked past the border control booth.
Today, I am very thankful for making it back home to France through a rapidly closing door. I am thankful for God’s guidance and answer to everyone’s prayers to get me safely back. France increased to Stage 3 today following the number of confirmed cases doubling overnight. If I had tried to return today, I’m certain I would have been blocked. I am so thankful that our God is sovereign and in control of all things, including this present situation. Even now, we can rest in His arms know He has the power to carry us through.
« 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. »Colossians 1:16-17
« The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.«Proverbs 16:33
« In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. »Ephesians 1:11