Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Immigration Education

My job as pastor gives me opportunities (on a regular basis) to be in places; meet people; share experiences I never would if I had any other position. Let's just say, there is never a dull moment! Smile.

Yesterday was a prime example of the daily tutorial available to me. One of the dear ladies who has been in our church for four years now has recently been thrown into a life-altering situation that would cause most of us to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to come out until everything was better.

Things won't be getting better in her situation any time soon. And so she has been forced to square her thin shoulders, lift her tiny chin and plunge ahead doing the best she can for herself and her daughter as she goes along. (Can you tell that her walk is a challenge to greatness in my life right now?)

When she called last week and asked if I could drive her to an appointment at the immigration office Monday morning, I was happy to help. We've been praying, of course, but some days we just need to put legs on our prayers.

There was confusion about our arranged meeting spot and so instead of leaving at 7:30 as we had planned, it was almost 8:15 when we left Winter Haven and we needed to be in Orlando at 9:00. (Cue the theme from the Lone Ranger and Tonto!) I wasn't breaking the law during the entire drive; but my angels sure were hanging on for dear life. Smile.

When we arrived at the immigration building, I dropped off my friend at the main door. And she rushed inside clutching her bright orange folder with all the necessary documentation. I was shocked to discover that I would need to walk through a metal detector, have my purse searched and produce proper I.D. before I would be allowed to enter as well. Intimidating stuff for a Monday morning.

After being assigned a number, we took our seats in the pristine waiting area that could have contained two basketball courts. I was immediately immersed in a sea of multi-culturalism. People sat in groups of two or three talking in hushed tones. The clothing, the facial features, the dialects - it was a place RIPE for people-watching. But back to the story........

My friend quietly explained that the officer at Bay 4 had been extremely kind to her on a recent visit and was the one who had given her instructions about all the documentation she would need for this return appointment. But she had also dealt with the officer in Bay 2; he had been extremely rude to her once, we did NOT want to deal with him.

We nervously watched the screen as numbers were called and officers were randomly assigned to deal with each case. After a very long time, my friend's number was finally called: "B45 - Bay 2"! Her shoulders sagged a bit as we rose to walk over. Officer Bay Two lived up to his reputation. He was abrupt, curt, impatient and even a bit insulting.

I didn't want to over step my bounds, but I also know how much effort this woman is putting into every step she takes these days. Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and said, "Yes, all of this makes perfect sense when you look at it day after day. But for those of us unfamiliar with all these documents, it's a little bit daunting - don't you think?!" Then I simply smiled and glared at him.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the "Southern Slap-down," that's what it sounds like. Southern women may sound slow because of the drawl; but make no mistake we can be pretty quick when it's needed.

Apparently Officer Bay Two has dealt with Southern Slap-down Women before because he backed off after that. And although we didn't get everything we wanted, he did finally provide clarity that my friend would need for later.

On the way home, she turned in her seat to look at me as I drove. Her sweet voice and thick accent combined to create rich, lyrical tones as she mused, "Don't you think it's incredible that the Lord made us friends? Just think, Pastor Sheri, from the beginning of time He saw me in Sri Lanka and you in the United States and He said, 'They will be friends.' I think that is amazing!" She was beaming and I immediately had tears in my eyes.

Yes, amazing is the word!


  1. Beautiful story, surely you put your hands on your hip when you spoke graciously to the officer....................your an amazing lady, so thankful God let our paths cross.

  2. You are so awesome and yes, you are going to have to teach me this "Southern Slapdown" technique!

  3. Beautiful story of someone with tremendous burdens seeing how and trusting the Lord to work it out. (Reaching for tissue now.)
    Also must learn the Southern Slapdown technique! The Southern version would very well leave one pondering if they'd been reprimanded or not! Up here in the North, ummm, no pondering required...not always the best route! :)