COVID has added various challenges to all our lives this year. For me personally, it significantly delayed my visa process. What I expected to take 3-5 months actually took 1 year 2 months and 13 days. To the many of you who have been praying for me and supported me financially THANK YOU for your loving care and generosity! God has not only extended my visa, he gave me another testimony to share about his grace and glory.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mei Piao. I am the counseling intern at Lighthouse. In August 2019, I submitted an extension for my working visa. Previously, for the same visa, it took three and a half months to get approved. I know God could have easily approved my visa a year ago, and that would have been enough for me to see God’s grace in his provision. Yet, a year of waiting, which consisted of some anxious dreams, sleepless nights, and 2 months of unemployment, has brought God’s word to a whole new meaning. As Job said “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore, I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1).
“Fear not, stand firm, see the salvation of the Lord” (Exod. 14:13)
The government’s estimated processing time was 5 – 7 months but after 7months, there was still no update on my case. And then COVID hit. The USCIS office closed for three months. I never look up news on politics, but I started hearing how political change doesn’t work for the advantage of foreign students and workers. The longer I waited, the more anxious I felt about the uncertainty. Theoretically, if I had a stronger faith, I would be less anxious … but how?
Exodus 14 was an eye-opening passage for me, and I was able to have a glimpse of God’s heart towards his anxious people. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt after the 10th plague, Pharaoh changed his mind again and pursued them. The Israelites were trapped in between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. After witnessing the 10 miracles that God performed in the previous chapters, the Israelites quickly forgot God’s promises and power when their life was at a risk. They feared greatly and they blamed God for taking them out of Egypt to kill them. (14:10). From their perspective, there was no way out. If they moved forward, they would drown to death. If they moved backwards, they would be killed by the Pharaoh’s army. God knows Israel can’t deliver themselves. Instead of rebuking their lack of faith, he comforts their fearful heart. He said to the Isarelites through Moses “Fear not, stand firm, see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today” (10:13). After all, it was as easy for God to fight against Pharaoh’s army as much as it was to part the sea. God has hardened Pharaoh’s heart and led Israel to the Red Sea so that people will know that he is the Lord (14:4).
At times when life feels out of our control and the problem feels too big, God knows our limits. God’s heart isn’t necessarily for us to deliver ourselves or just tough it out, but to know that he is the Lord. When I felt anxious about the uncertainty of my visa, it was comforting to know that God knows I am weak and that my problem isn’t too big for him.
“For those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10)
Waiting is hard when you don’t know how long the wait is. The delayed visa process indefinitely delayed my plan to visit family since January and I haven’t been able to work since September. If my visa had been rejected, I would have to leave the country within a month. All that to say, it felt like waiting for my visa was keeping my ministry and life on hold. However, in God’s reality, my ministry doesn’t depend on my visa– it depends on God.
Waiting is hard when your desire seems so good in your eyes. Caring for the souls of people as a biblical counselor is a heavy burden, but it is an immense privilege and honor to be part of God’s ministry that has eternal significance. I would pursue ministry despite its job insecurity and unless God closes the door, I don’t want to give up on pursuing it. In my knowledge, I don’t know of any other church that hires counseling interns, so leaving Lighthouse could potentially mean the end of my formal ministry. If I’m being honest, my greatest fear is that God would close the door because I am not useful for his ministry. In God’s reality, ministry isn’t about me or what I can contribute. It is God’s ministry, and he will not delay the building of his Kingdom. Whether I continue on or not, God doesn’t need me.
Waiting is hard when there is no certainty for what you are waiting for. God has never promised me a visa approval, therefore, I have no assurance that he will. Waiting on the Lord means anticipating that God will fulfill his promises, not being anxious that he will fail my desires. Ps. 34:10 says “for those who seek the Lord lack no good things” My unmet desires aren’t the indication of good things I lack in my life, rather it is a reminder that my life isn’t about me. Ps. 34:9 says “for those who fear him have no lack!” The delayed visa approval isn’t God withholding good things from me, but him offering greater things that I didn’t ask for– a sanctified heart that fears the Lord and seeks him.
I would not have chosen to go through this season, but God knew I needed this year of waiting to see with my own eyes what I heard Isaiah say in Is. 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”