As I write this, I’m in Guatemala by the grace of God waiting to pick up our First Baptist Benbrook team at the airport. In my last update I asked for prayer in getting a new passport. Well, you won’t believe how your prayers were answered!
Last Thursday, I had just gotten home dog tired after painting a house in Overland Park, Kansas, with Bill Burrows and Bruce Dalman, and the phone rang. It was Tom Jones, my friend who has helped me fly with American Airlines on standby for many years.
“Your passport is no good for this trip,” Tom said after a short conversation.
“What?” I questioned. “I thought I had about six months left on it.”
“Guatemala requires at least six months on a passport to get in, and you are under that by a week,” Tom informed me.
With only four days before my flight, I learned that to get a passport expedited that quickly by mail was about $500! But if I went to a regional office, it could be done in one day for $170. I learned that Kansas City had no such office, but that Dallas did, and it wasn’t too far from a friend’s, home in Dallas. Francisco Nunez has worked with Cesar and me through the years and was instrumental in us becoming friends in Costa Rica almost 20 years ago. After a few phone calls, the plan unfolded for me to fly down Sunday evening and then get in line Monday morning before the passport office opened to have the whole day to get the passport. Tuesday would be a backup day and one to go see the Benbrook team in Fort Worth, along with a couple of other friends.
Sunday, because of weather in Dallas, my flight got canceled, and I tried to get on two other flights to no avail. That blew plan A, but if I got on the Monday flight at 6am, I could be in Dallas at the passport office by around 9am.
Because of the backlog of customers that didn’t get on their flights on Sunday, plan B failed. Monday was worse. I didn’t get on the 6am nor the 11am. Now, plan C. If I couldn’t get to Dallas by plane, what about bus? I found that if I jumped on a Greyhound bus at 1pm, I could be in Dallas by 1am. Francisco was willing to pick me up at that hour and then help me get to the passport office at 7am on Tuesday morning. I’d still have a day to get it all done before flying out on Wednesday.
On the bus somewhere in Southern Kansas, I get a call from Tim Tucker, the organizer of the Benbrook team. “I just got on the Dallas passport office website, and it says that it’s closed on Tuesday.”
“You’ve got to be kidding!” I replied, trying not to cry. “What in the world would cause them to close an office like that? If I had known this, I wouldn’t have broken my neck to ride the bus.”
When I finally got to Dallas, all around the bus stop there were barricades and police. I called Francisco, “Donde estas? (Where are you?)” I asked in Spanish.
“About half a block away,” he replied. “Walk this way and I will tell you what is going on.” As I jumped in the car, Francisco pointed up the street. “That’s the passport office right there. And yesterday morning, a 22-year-old former military guy went berserk and shot the front door with a machine gun. That’s why they are shut down. The police and FBI are doing their investigation.”
“I guess that explains the Tuesday closing. What about Wednesday?” I asked.
“No one knows,” Francisco replied.
That night we checked out the Dallas news and got the details. At 8:40am, the gunman was shooting, and police reacted quickly and shot him dead before anyone got hurt. Here is a link to a news report.
Tuesday I did my errands and got to see the folks I needed to see. Everyone I saw took a moment to pray that I would have success on Wednesday and get to Guatemala as scheduled.
Wednesday morning, as I slid into the passport line, people were sharing stories. One couple told me that they had gotten there at 7:30am on Monday and were processed and told to come back at 1pm to get their passport. They were overjoyed, because they be able to make their flight that evening to Australia. They had just walked out the door and gotten into their car when they heard shots. They didn’t stick around but pulled out and drove off. Needless to say, there was no passport waiting for them that afternoon and Wednesday it was like they were starting over.
Another guy told me he had been in line on Monday, and when the gunman did his thing, they were escorted to a room, and no one gave them any reason for a couple of hours. He got more info by phone from his wife on the outside, but still news was sketchy. When the passport people took them back to start processing passports, a police officer came in and announced, “Everyone must leave!” When this man went out to get in his car, they told him that he could not take it. The whole building and parking lot were a crime scene. He had to call an Uber to get a ride home.
In that moment, I teared up. I realized how God had spared me. My plan A would have had me there at 7:30am that Monday morning like my new friends going to Australia. Plan B would have had me there by 9:30am, right after the shooting. Plan C for Tuesday was shot, by no opening of the office, but instead I had a wonderful day with my ministry friends in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. On Wednesday, though it was an exhausting wait of 6 hours, I got my passport about an hour after my new friends who would have gotten theirs on Monday. An hour later I was at my gate at the airport as if nothing happened!
As I reflect on all of these happenings and a few I didn’t mention here, I am grateful. Not only was I spared any potential harm, but God allowed me to make important connections and still be ready for the team to show up Friday night! God is good!
Thank God for His amazing protection and provision for me. Our team from Benbrook would appreciate your prayers this week as we head to the jungle for some days of hiking to some new villages and working with some new pastors.
What are you grateful for today? Thank Him for your “snafus”. He may be setting you up for a miracle!
Thanks for your continued investment in this ministry! Any gift of any size means a lot to us. Muchas gracias!
We hope to share more when we get back from the jungle.