The Bench is Hard

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. Acts 16:6-8

As has been the case is the history of the church, the Lord has directed the steps of His people. I’m grateful to know that’s true. So many times the Lord has opened a door for me to go. Recently He called me to stay. Benched me, so to speak. Let me be clear, from my perspective it’s easier to be in the game than ride the bench. But, I learn a lot about my motivation when Jesus calls me to sit one out.  I wanted to update anyone interested in my most recent “almost” training trip to Northern Uganda, the anticipated next assignment, and share some personal needs.

Oct. 26 Larry Szyman, Peter Berguson and I were scheduled to begin our trip to Northern Uganda. This would be course six of the nine course curriculum. Larry has been heavily involved in the work in Uganda from the very beginning nearly six years ago. This would be Peter’s first trip with us. We were surprised when the Delta ticket agent told us we were required to have an e-visa prior to arrival. That had never been the case before. Each of us had attempted to secure an e-visa in advance, but each was unsuccessful. I wasn’t all that concerned because we had always been able to secure a visa on arrival. As soon as we arrived in Amsterdam we went to work on the visa question. To my surprise KLM confirmed the requirement of an e-visa before travel. We would not be allowed to board our flight without an e-visa.

We contacted our national partner in Uganda who started working with his contacts at the embassy. Each of us was working online to try to learn if we could reapply or discover the hold-up. Just minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave we discovered that Uganda issues visas for 90 days. But, they are also single entry. That answered the question as to why my application was not allowed. I had been granted a visa two months earlier, used it, but the 90 day period had not been passed. 

We also discovered that Larry had received an e-visa for our earlier trip. When he pulled the prior approval up on his phone it had the date of issue, and indicated it was good for 90 days, which was enough for KLM to allow him to travel. They actually had to reopen the door of the plane. Larry was on his way. Peter and I would stay to work on our visa situation and plan to catch a flight to Entebbe the next day. 

My status with Delta gives me access to the lounge, which is a much more comfortable place to work, not to mention the food and beverages provided. Phone calls, texts, emails, trips to the KLM desk. Our next bit of news was the discovery that there was NOT a flight going to Entebbe the next day! We were going to be in Amsterdam for at least two nights. That was when we learned the lounge closed at 10:00 p.m. We couldn’t hang around there all night. We were also told the KLM agents were not sure if we would be granted entry into the Netherlands which would be required for us to leave the airport. There are two hotels attached to the airport, but both were fully occupied. Another hike across the airport to learn we would be allowed to leave the airport. I was able to book two nights for Peter and me at a hotel with shuttle service. One more wrinkle… when we left the airport we were informed we would be required to have another negative covid test before we could board a flight. We found a place we could be tested that night.

And, we kept hitting roadblocks with our visa. We got word that the computer system had gone down at the Ugandan embassy and that they had all gone home for the day. Approval would likely come tomorrow. We were told the visas would arrive later in the day. Then, by 10:00 p.m. No. 

Peter and I both had our negative covid tests in hand, thanks to an exceptionally helpful young lady at the testing office. The following morning around 11:00 a.m. the next flight was scheduled to depart for Entebbe. If we didn’t get on that flight there would be another two day delay which would just be too much to overcome. We spoke to a KLM agent who was familiar with our story. He gave us the latest time we could check in for the flight. If our visa approval didn’t arrive before that time he would book us for a flight back to MSP. Peter and I continued to check for an updated status. We had to get in line to book our flight. As we approached the agent Peter’s approval arrived. Mine did not. 

Because I knew Peter would be well cared for by the team in Uganda, he was booked for the flight to Entebbe. I was booked for the flight to the bench… I mean, MSP.

Even when there are surprises to me, there is peace in the working of our Sovereign Lord.

Another beautiful reality in the wisdom of the Lord is the instruction for teachers to invest in, and raise up other capable teachers (2 Tim.2:2). We have been very focused on that challenge. With this (almost) trip my learning group was to be taught by the two Ugandan Lead Trainers I have had the joy of working with for the last two years, as well as three sessions by our national partner. My role was going to be, to coach and encourage. God has shown Himself wise once again. Whew.

But now, for what could be next. I have been asked to travel to Liberia to join one of our team, then travel to Sierra Leone. The purpose of this trip is to put on a conference for pastors, and scout the potential of a training site in Sierra Leone. If things go as currently planned I should be home just before Christmas.

I wrote that last week. Things have changed and it appears I have been benched for a bit longer.

The wrinkle… and a request for you to join me in prayer. Two plus weeks ago, on the day I went to apply for a Liberian visa the fingers on my right hand just wouldn’t work. A couple days later I decided to get things checked out. Most recently an MRI of my neck indicates the two disks in the base of my neck have compressed to the point I have little use of my right hand. (Yes, I’m poking my keyboard with a renegade finger.) 

The medical professionals are advising against any delays in the hope I will regain more movement in my hand. So, the decision was made that I not go to Liberia and Sierra Leone.  My hope is that dealing with this situation will hopefully increase the likelihood I can make the training trip to Uganda in March.

It appears my international training is finished for 2021. Another amazing year for sure. I wouldn’t have chosen to finish the year on the bench, for fortunately we serve One who is wiser. Lord willing, in the first half of 2022 we will graduate a great cohort of leaders in Uganda.

I pray that you enjoy this season of your life, in the game or on the bench. Our King is building His kingdom. I am so grateful for each one who prays and those who support this work financially. 

Keep lookin’ up,

ME

3 thoughts on “The Bench is Hard

  1. Dear Brother, thank you for sharing your journeys, and almost journeys, with us. We are blessed by Him through you. You will remain in our prayers. Enjoy the bench. He has you there for His good reasons.

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  2. I’m not so sure it’s the bench. I believe you are being moved to a higher calling. There is sometimes a view gained from afar that comes with insight that is not available from close up. May I suggest prayerfully seek what it is that you might see from this position. I’m asking God to reveal to you what would have been missed if you had gone.

    I’m also trying to be unselfish in asking for your healing. I’ve received so much through you that it’s hard not to selfishly want more. May you be healed for the glory of God!

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  3. The bench is hard but He is good. Praying He would, in His infinite mercy, reveal some of the ways He is working in and through this time of bench warming and for healing of your hand. Or a typist. ❤️

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