Charred Paper

I had to know if my university diploma survived the fire. This was more than a feeling of sentimentality for me.

In order to stay in Papua New Guinea or any other country for any length of time, we need a visa from the country. (A visa in this case is authorization to enter the country, not a credit card.) To get a visa, we need a work permit. To get the PNG work permit, we need two documents of education, such college degrees or a high school diploma. PNG will not take transcripts. Period. They require the certificates.

So I went looking for my university diploma among the charred remains of the attic after the fire. I found it about three feet from where some plastic coolers had melted down from the flames. Which is more miraculous: the fact the paper survived, or that I found it?

MSU diplomaI looked for my high school diploma as well, but I still couldn’t find it. I started the process of getting a replacement from the school, but I felt prompted to drive back to the house. The restoration company was there, packing out what they could of the attic. A pile of charred rubble sat at the foot of the attic ladder. I asked one of the women, “Have you seen a high school diploma?”

“Was it red?” She meant the protective cover.

Yes, it was red.

She went to a box and pulled it out. Like my university diploma, it was a little singed, but it was intact.

I thought then that I won’t ever again doubt that God will protect and provide the necessary paperwork for international travel. It so often bedevils missionaries, but I couldn’t imagine ever worrying about it again. Well, maybe I would someday, but not anytime soon.

Shows what I know.

Debbie has her college diploma for one of her certificates, but lost her certificate for Life Coaching in the fire. At least, we think she did. We have gone through dozens of boxes that the restoration company packed looking for it. We never found it. Debbie called up the school asking for a replacement and they told her they send them out only once a month. That meant we had to wait a month. That month has come and gone. So has the first ten days of February. It still hasn’t arrived. We’re already getting behind in sending in paperwork so we can leave in August, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. That makes me very tense.

Yes, I believe God kept my diplomas safe, and I believe he helped me find them, but remembering that hasn’t helped. So I forced myself to remember that in the end, when all is said and done, this is not my ministry. It belongs to God. If the lack of a piece of paper throws all plans into chaos, it’s his problem. I’m just doing what I’m told to do.

(Update: the certificate came four days after writing this entry.)

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6 Responses

  1. Clint says:

    wow. crazy. We were lucky that Honduras is pretty relaxed about Visas. Plus we were just on a visitors visa.

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, visitor’s and tourist’s visas are different. So is travel into Canada. I sometimes wonder if visitors to other countries are even aware they travel with the consent of the governments of both countries.

  2. Ben Pehrson says:

    Wow, this is an amazing story of God’s provision and your journey of faith. It reminds me of when we were first coming to Papua New Guinea, and I was finishing an M.A. thesis and waiting for work permit and visas as you. But we had applied for these 8 months before this. One of my profs said, “You know, I don’t think God’s going to let you go until you’ve finished that thesis.” This turned out to be true. We received my work permit the same day I turned in my revised draft of the final chapter, and we received our visas the same day I turned in the whole thesis. You’re right. This is His ministry, and our job is to be faithful in each moment along the way.

    • Steve says:

      Well…if these papers take eight months to process like it did for you, I have to start changing some plans. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long for us. At any rate, your story does sound similar. The same lesson is to trust God with tomorrow.

  3. Dad says:

    Wow! God’s affermation in this desired ministry is great!

    Steve, is it OK to send this to Chuck, our Deacon of Missions? I think he’d love to see it too!

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