US visa application process involves leaving a room for uncertainty. Even though you prepare all the required documents and pay the application fee, getting a visa is not for granted. On top of that, the application costs a nonrefundable 160 USD. It is pricey if you are your hard-earned money was made in a developing country. So, you need to be sure that there is a a high chance of getting the visa before you try.
My first visa application was in 2014 together with my wife and daughter when we were working in Thailand. It wasn't difficult since we were coming to the US for my wife's graduation. She was attending an off-campus program offered in Thailand by a university based in the US. We only needed to prove the objective of our visit. Having a brother living in the US was also another factor for the smooth application process. How long your tourist visa lasts depends on what country's passport you are holding. My wife and my daughter were granted a 10-year visa as Filipino passport holders and I was given a 2-year visa on my Ethiopian passport.
Two years later we wanted to visit again. By then my visa had expired and I needed to renew my visa. I had an intriguing encounter during my visa renewal in May 2016. Since getting the first visa is no guarantee for the approval of the second, I made sure I had all the documents: a letter from my employer, a bank statement and an invitation letter from the US. When it was my turn, I approached one of the available officers and the interview started. The officer asked me, “What do you do in Thailand?”. I replied, “I am a lecturer.”
He was at the same time checking my Ethiopian passport. He then asked me about my plans in the US, and I told him it was a visit. As I was preparing to give him the supporting documents, he said, "No need." I was a bit confused until I learned why he trusted me without the papers.
It turned out his favorite teacher in college was a blind Ethiopian lecturer. The lecturer was superb that everyone loved him. He would even give them exam papers and go back to his office. Nobody cheated because they loved him. That was it as to my interview. The officer needed only my passport. The reputation the blind Ethiopian lecturer built counted for me. He got me an easy visa! I left overwhelmed. A good reputation of one man made it easy for his fellow countryman in another part of the world. There is no limit to the ripple effect of good repute.
In US embassies, there are several officers to interview applicants. You line up and go to any window as it becomes free. You can’t choose your interviewer, neither can the officers select their interviewees. Did I end up with that officer by random chance or divine providence? I believe it was providential. God has the power to control of the circumstances we face when we entrust the result in His hands.
When you experience God's providence at a personal level, it gives you an array of hope for the things that happen nationally or globally. Have you ever felt frustrated seeing innocent children suffer because of incurable diseases, war or natural disaster and ask, "Why is God not intervening?" Numerous tragic events in this world make us wonder if there is a loving God up there, but a when you personally experience God's providence, it compels us to pose and rethink. At times, reason won't let you move, you will have to rely on your faith to follow God.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3: 17-19 [NIV]
Have you experienced God's providence guiding your way and making things simple? How did it strengthen your faith?
What is your prayer when you are shaken by the tragedy of this world and wonder why God is not intervening? What keeps you follow God?