Waiting for Our “Move”

When I was growing up in Sierra Leone our family had an African chess board that was hand carved out of wood, with playing pieces that were made to reflect African culture, complete with African huts and traditional chiefs for the chess kings.

While I never became very skilled at playing the game, I DID develop an appreciation for the game at a young age and a fascination for those people who could play the game well.

I have always enjoyed watching a well played game of chess and always find myself amazed as I watch the “masters” and observe the strategic precision with which they play. Those who are really good at chess always seem to know exactly which pieces need to line up in which ways in order to not only achieve their goal of winning the game but to also do it in a way that would confuse their opponent, keep them on their toes, and prevent them from being able to predict what the next move would be.

When learning to play the game of chess, it doesn’t take long for a new player to realize that the very first moves of the game (the ones that seem at first glance to be inconsequential and not really count as much) are actually the most vital moves of the entire game. The way you set up the pieces at the very beginning of the game needs to be done carefully because the strategic placing of those early pieces literally dictate the rest of the game and whether or not the outcome will be in your favor.

For the last several weeks, and even the last few months, the game of chess has been constantly on the back of mind, especially in how it relates to every day life.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last few months I have felt like our family is a piece on a chess board just sitting there waiting . . . . waiting for it to finally be our “move”.

Our family has been trying since mid-July to get back to our home in Cameroon, but it has just felt to us like every step in the process has been a struggle, and pretty much everything that could go “wrong” has.

After months of dealing with delays and complications of every kind, it is difficult to not grow discouraged or fall into despair.

With every complication we face, the question surfaces in our minds: If it’s God’s will for us to go to Cameroon then WHY is He making it so hard?

With every closed door comes the confusion: We thought we would be overseas by now . . . . What are we supposed to do? And where are we supposed to be during the waiting time?

Then the doubts begin to set in: Are we even going to be making it to Cameroon this year? Are we really hearing God correctly?

There has been the temptation to be anxious and worried: What if there’s another wave of COVID and all the borders close again making it impossible for us to travel?

There are the uncertainties: With the weather getting colder now, do we need to go out and get warmer clothes and prepare for the winter? Or are we going to be out of here before it gets much colder?

There has also been a lot of frustration and thoughts of: There’s no reason why this should be as difficult and complicated as it is!!

Yesterday would be a prime example of all these thoughts and emotions playing out . . . .

Yesterday morning we were informed that our visas were going to be denied (yet again!) and they wanted to know from us if we wanted our applications to be put on hold for 30 days and then try again or if we wanted them to just send the applications and all our documents back to us?

“Is there a third option?” I asked, “Because A and B don’t sound very satisfactory for us!”

It took several phone calls and email correspondences throughout the day before it was agreed that our application would get one more chance to be considered.

The difficulty (as they explained it to us) is that the Cameroonian embassy has the policy right now that they are only allowing residents and citizens of Cameroon to enter the country. They explained to us that granting a visa for our three oldest children shouldn’t be an issue because Keturah, Caleb, and Timothy all have expired residence permits that prove that they had been official residents in the country for a period of time. But the real issue is with baby Steven because he was born here in the US and has never been a resident of Cameroon before. According to their policy they have to deny Steven’s visa application, and since his application was submitted alongside the other children then, by default, they all get denied their visas.

What’s more, Mattie (a young lady from our church who was planning to come to Cameroon with us) has also never been a resident of Cameroon, so unless there is a change in policy within the next couple of days it is not very likely that she will get a visa either.

Of course, being in a “COVID year” restrictions and policies are constantly changing, so it’s impossible to know what the regulations are from day to day.

This was also a member of the third-party service that was explaining all this to us and not an actual official from the Cameroon embassy, so it’s impossible to know how the applications will actually be viewed by the officials at the embassy. But, considering we have already been denied the visas once before, it doesn’t look very good for us.

Yesterday was rather stressful with a plethora of phone calls, texts, and email correspondences, not only to try and get the applications moving forward but also scrambling to try and get further documentation submitted in an attempt to give the applications every possible advantage and to try and present a strong enough case for why we think the visas should be granted.

Yesterday also found us on our knees quite a lot as we realized that at this point it would literally take a miracle – a mighty act of God – to get our visas granted.

Fortunately for us, we serve a God of miracles! So it really isn’t a question of policy or whether or not the embassy is favorable to us. And it really has nothing to do with whether or not we’ve been able to present a “good enough” argument or sufficient documentation for approval. At the end of the day we have done everything we possibly can . . . . but ultimately it is up to God!

And here is where that image of a chess game comes back to mind . . . .

In all the events of past several months, and all the difficulties and delays we have faced along the way, I just keep coming back to the imagery and just keep feeling like that little chess piece in the game of life . . . . waiting. Waiting for God to masterfully and strategically line up all of the other pieces on the board before it can be our turn to move.

I don’t know what His strategy is. I don’t know what those other pieces are or how they are needing to line up. I don’t know why it is taking so long or why it has to be so difficult.

All I know is that at every “dead end” we may feel like we’ve hit a stalemate in our game but I know that God still has some unpredictable tricks up His sleeve. He has some moves ahead of us that we can’t foresee. And we still have the hope and joyous anticipation knowing that the Master Player is taking His time and strategically lining everything up for a dramatic checkmate.

Whatever the next move for our family (or however long the wait until the next move happens) one thing we know for sure is that it is not merely going to be GOOD movie, it is going to be what is ultimately BEST in every way!

Please join us in praying for God’s best will to be accomplished in our lives, and for our us to learn to feast on God’s presence, even in these times of uncertainty.