I walked up to the counter and handed the woman my passport and paperwork. She examined in closely, scanned my passport, and looked over my paperwork.
30 seconds go by.
60 seconds go by. She is still clicking on things on her computer. Tension builds.
“Tell me why you coming to Canada.”
“I’m speaking at an event.” She types that into her computer.
“OK… what type of event.”
“It’s a retreat for Lutheran church leaders. I’m just here for a couple of days.”
“OK… but why are YOU here? Why did they invite YOU to speak?”
This went back and forth for about 5 minutes. She would type on her computer and occasionally ask a vague question. I stood there waiting for her to give me my passport back.
I’ve visited about 30 countries and gone through tons of passport checks. I know that the longer you stand there the worse it is. The first stage is standing at the counter answering questions. Then, if they aren’t satisfied with your answers, they take you and your passport into a side room and ask more questions. And if that doesn’t go well you officially get detained. Time is not your friend. You want this process to go quickly and on this night it wasn’t going quickly.
In the back of my mind I was trying to figure out why this wasn’t going well. After all, I’m an American and I’m going to Canada for 3 days to speak at a small gathering of Lutheran youth workers. Our countries are friendly. Lots of people travel back and forth for a wide variety of reasons each day. But the longer I stand there the more introspective I get. I’m wondering if my newly renewed passport has an error. I’m kicking myself for checking the “business” box on my declaration. I’m wondering if I have an unpaid parking ticket or something. And I’m wondering if her computer told her that my dad was recently deported from Canada when he made a wrong turn and illegally entered Ontario on his way to a coffee shop. Why DID this group invite me to speak? Yeah, what made ME an expert on those topics? Why didn’t they bring a Canadian to do this?
Finally, I put on my smile and asked her, “What haven’t I told you that you need to know?”
She smiled, (always a good sign) and said “I’m trying to figure out if you need a work permit. Is this event open to the public?”
I described the event to her, that is was just for denominational pastors and wasn’t open to the general public, and 30 seconds later she handed my passport back to me and loudly said, “Next.”
Why are YOU here?
Her emphasis has stuck with me. It’s a great question. And a question we all need to wrestle with, no matter what God has called you to do.
Why are YOU here? Why you? Why not someone else?
He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
Ephesians 2:10 The Message