I’m not going to lie. Today was bittersweet.
It started off early with a tour of Paynesville (one of the suburbs of Monrovia). Emmanuel and Henry (our driver) picked us up and took us on a mini-tour to see the Apostle (Emmanuel’s father) and Bishop Clayee (a good friend, fellow pastor, and another orphanage director). Then we were off on a wild ride through the city and beyond to Bomi County, a place where none of our intrepid teams have gone before! How exciting. ;-) We had to pass through a security checkpoint and travel for three hours over some of the most pot-holed, congested roads imaginable. We all emerged a little sick, rather sore, and even a bit confused about why Emmanuel had taken us on such a grueling trek... And then we met the congregation.
A couple years ago, Fatu (the pastor of the Bomi church), was converted to Christianity by a series of dreams. She was disowned by her Muslim family, and regarded with suspicion by a Christian church that doesn’t really believe in female pastors. But when Emmanuel met her he knew that the Lord had touched her, and entered into partnership with her. In his words, “The Lord called her. What can I say to that?” Not surprisingly, the Bomi church continues to grow, and we were blessed to see the newly purchased land that will someday be home to a church, school, parsonage, and guest house. Emmanuel and Pastor Fatu are already thinking ahead for our teams and creating a space for us when we visit. It was absolute joy to stand on the land that had been recently burned and cleared (some stumps were still smoking) and imagine all that is to come. We were also able to meet several members of the congregation. They sang over us and we prayed over them. It really defies explanation--it was just so wonderful to be there with them. Emmanuel told us on the way home, “I am sorry about the long trip, but I think that seeing is believing, and I wanted you to see.” We saw. We understood. We believed. Wow.
Because the trip to Bomi took so long, we had to race back to the city for Eve’s embassy appointment. Deacon brought Eve in a cab and met us at the consulate. We were the first people there for the 2:00 office opening, and therefore the first in line for an appointment. It didn’t take too long, but in the end, our request for Eve’s medical visa was denied. The officer who heard our case could barely look at Julie and Allen by the end of the interview, he felt so bad for Eve and the entire situation. But he assured us that the only way her visa could be granted would be if we could present compelling proof that Eve would return to Liberia after treatment. As a five-year-old orphan, there simply is no compelling proof.
Honestly, we were all a little numb. We’ve worked so hard on this, prayed unceasingly, and tried to do everything in a good and godly and loving manner. And yet, God is full of surprises, and as we were leaving the consulate, we ran into the one man in Liberia who could still help us. Talk about a God appointment.
I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I do believe that this curve in the road of Eve’s story needs to be talked about and prayed over by the board of One Body One Hope before we share the possibilities for the next chapter. And yet, I didn’t want to leave you without hope. God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good. That is still true, even in the aftermath of a denied visa request.
Sending love and hugs from Liberia.