Moses and the people of Israel found themselves in a crazy tough spot. God had sent ten plagues on Egypt and compelled Pharaoh to let His people go to freedom. Then Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them with his army.
Israel came to the Red Sea, and they were trapped between it and the army of Egypt. The people were terrified, and grumbled!
They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12 NIV)
But God did not bring them out of Egypt to have them die in the desert. The pillar of fire, that was the concrete expression of His Presence leading them, set itself up between Israel and the Egyptian army. This was Moses' response to their outcry:
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14 NIV)
God told Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea. A violent wind separated the waters, and Israel walked away from the Egyptians and through the sea to the other side. When the pillar of fire withdrew, Pharaoh pursued the Israelites into the sea. God caused the waters to crash down on them and drowned the entire army. At last, the Israelites were free!
Have you been in a crazy tough spot where the only thing you could do was stand still, pray, and trust God to deliver you?
We found ourselves in just that place this week. Our son and daughter-in-law have adopted five siblings from an orphanage in Ukraine. The adoption was finalized in court by videoconference at the beginning of July, but COVID-19 travel lockdown in Ukraine kept the judge from filing the paperwork for most of July, and then there was a 30-day waiting period. Peter and Mindy got the word they would be able to fly to Ukraine to pick up the children, get them passports and visas, and finally bring them home on either August 27 or 28 - this past Thursday or Friday.
They booked a flight to Ukraine for Friday, then got word that Ukraine was going to close the borders again because of COVID on Saturday (the day they would arrive). So they got the flight changed to Thursday, in order to get to Ukraine on Friday, ahead of the border lockdown. When they got to Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., to leave, they found out Ukraine just went ahead and closed the border.
Miraculously, they were able to convince Turkish Airlines to allow them to board for Ukraine because they were first-degree relatives of the children they had adopted. They laid over in Istanbul for three and a half hours, and were again detained and questioned about flying to Ukraine with the border closed. Again, miraculously, they were allowed to board the plane at the last second and fly into Odessa, Ukraine.
At Odessa, they were detained in customs while their paperwork was verified. There was no guarantee they would be allowed to enter the country. In the end, they were allowed to enter the closed border in order to gather their children and bring them home!
During all this, we were standing still in prayer and asking God to open every door. We prayed and believed that God would make a way where there seemed to be no way. And He did! At 7:30 am on Saturday (Indiana time) Peter texted that they had the children and were having pizza for a late lunch at 2:30 pm (Ukraine time).
The process to get passports and visas for the children will take two to four weeks. Their adoption advocacy agency has arranged for an apartment for them while they slog their way through the paperwork. Again, we are standing still in prayer and asking God to make the paperwork fly through so Peter, Mindy, Rusalina (17), Radick (12), Nastia (8), Angelina and Elbrus (5-year-old twins!) can fly home to North Carolina in just a couple of weeks!
Sometimes we are prone to see prayer as a last resort, after we have tried everything we can do to fix a problem. I am convinced God wants us to see Him as our first defender, and not our last resort! Other times it's obvious there is nothing we can do, and everything depends on God. In those times, God is delighted when we turn to Him in faith (not panic) and wait and watch as He parts the sea or moves the hearts of customs officials to pass His children through the seemingly impossible barrier.
This I know: if customs had turned Peter and Mindy away and sent them back to the USA without the children, and they had to wait until the end of September for the next opening of Ukraine's borders, God would still have been with them. God would have provided. God would have watched over the children in the orphanage for another month until they could be united with their Mama and Papa.
In His grace, He parted the Red Sea of bureaucracy. Peter and Mindy were able to walk through on dry ground. And soon, very soon, we will be able to drive to North Carolina and hug our new grandkids! All thanks and praise to God!