Crossing the border: turn the other cheek

Sometimes we have “aha moments” where something that has been in the shadows stands out in crystal clear form.

Sometimes these moments are painful.

Mine happened a few days ago.

We were trying to cross a border from a neighboring country back into the country where we live.

It had been a rather stressful trip.

On the way down our car had started breaking down in the middle of the steppe. (This means there was nothing for miles in any direction — no food, no water, no triple AAA).

We had prayed and given the car breaks. It would run for awhile and then start shaking and cut out. We approached the border and it was clear we needed to try to get it across.

As my husband was praying and talking to customs agents and managing to get the car across between sputters and jolts, the kids and I had to cross the border on foot (all passengers do).

Between the crowd that got angrier and angrier as the minutes added up while the passport agent attempted to process four foreign passports (which he was clearly not accustomed to seeing) and the drunk taxi drivers making cat calls, I had had just about all I could take.

We reunited and drove a couple kilometers before the car clearly wasn’t going to take us any further.

We had six kilometers to our hotel, but it was a no-go.

A kind man pointed us to a good mechanic, and God’s providence was again evident when the mechanic knew exactly what was wrong, had a fuel pump for our car’s make and model (a miracle of miracles in this part of the world) and agreed to fix it while we waited.

Below: The name of the mechanic shop was “Samson.”

photo 4

We waited for a couple hours in the heat. The kids played in the dirt and we felt a little like we had been evicted since the mechanic needed everything taken out of the car in order to fix it (see photos below).

Kids on carseat on road    photo 3     photo 2    Abby on road

But the wait paid off and the car got fixed.

The conference was great, but in the back of my mind I knew we were going to have to cross the border back into our country with two passports for my oldest son: an expired one with a current visa and a current one with no visa.

That was what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had told us to do, but I knew that I might not be able to explain that with my level of Russian and that, even if I could, they might not care.

All the while my husband would be trying to get the car through and there would be no way for me to contact him since cell phone service is sketchy. On top of that, a friend of mine had had her cell phone stolen while crossing the border just a few days before. Great.

As we approached the border, I could tell my stress level was running high.

We prayed quickly and my husband helped me get the kids out the car.

I made my way past lots of people standing around with merchandise they were planning on trying to get across the border (not sure why they were just waiting) and many people pushed their way past me and the kids since we couldn’t walk all that fast.

Some people were so impatient they would cut in on us, and my biggest fear was us getting separated.

Thank God we didn’t, and I found myself in front of a customs agent who handed me four migration cards to fill out for all of us. I knew we only needed one (the kids don’t need one), but he instructed me to fill out four. I didn’t feel like arguing and took four.

Then I remembered I didn’t have a pen.

I approached another customs police officer and asked for a pen.

He rudely informed me they don’t give out pens.

I asked him what I should do, since I had three kids and needed a pen.

Usually this would have worked, since this culture is very child-friendly. They usually try to help a mom with young children.

But this time he yelled back that they don’t give out pens.

And this is when my big, aha moment came.

I yelled but it was clear that yelling wasn’t going to help and so I lifted my hand and made a motion like I was slapping him across the face.

He made a grunt like “watch it, lady!” and walked away. Not content with that, I screamed for him to get me a pen. No good, of course.

But a gentle woman from behind asked me if I needed a pen, and I gratefully nodded.

I guess this is a regular problem since while I was using her pen a man offered me a lot of money for it (and he appeared to be quite poor). I said it wasn’t mine and returned it to the gracious woman.


But my aha moment was this: I have a problem with anger. It doesn’t often show (I don’t think) and fear usually helps amplify it, but it is there nonetheless.

Afterward the emotion had passed, I understood that I could have landed myself in jail and put the kids in real danger. I had been foolish.

I also realized that my husband’s patience often mutes my emotion and that I do better when we are together!

Reunited on the other side, I told him the whole story — including what I should have done, which was to ask the other non-uniformed people for help. He nodded.

And now I’m praying for God to deliver me.

“For the anger of man (or, in my case, woman) does not produce the righteous life that God desires.”

Our fear is an opportunity to trust in the Lord — to seek Him and obey His voice instead of letting our emotions run wild.

It might be painful to realize my anger gets out of control sometimes, but knowing the truth is the first step to being set free.


Below: If you ever break down in our neck of the woods, feel free to contact…

photo 1

“Samson Auto Shop. Work with a guarantee.”

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