It all seemed so easy.

I had been informed late in July that my application for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) had been granted. My documentation was all ready and all I had to do was go pick up my new OCI card from the Indian High Commision in Holborn, Central London.

What could be simpler? I had just got back with my family from holiday and with the John Maxwell re-audit training coming up in Florida on 17 August, there did not seem much time to go to the embassy myself as I had so many other things going on. No problem I was told. Just send a special recorded delivery letter with my British pasport, paperwork and an enclosed special delivery recorded envelope with my return address. You will get it back in 2, maximum 3, days turn around time. So that’s what I did on Saturday 4 August and waited. And waited.

By Wednesday 8th, nothing. Then I noticed on the embassy’s website – holidays Friday and the following Wednesday.  This was beginning to be of concern. I rang the embassy through Wednesday and Thursday. No response. I sent an email to the address given on the website. To date that email has never been replied to.

Where was my passport? Thanks to the Royal Mail tracking service it had definitely arrived at the right place on the Monday. My trip to the John Maxwell (JM) training was beginning to look in serious doubt if I had no passport. I was beginning to feel an inward churning inside! This was not good. We prayed about the issue as a family and I sent a request for prayer to my fellow JM mentorship trainees on Facebook. I went to bed on the Friday night (10th) handing over my angst to God, trusting that if He really wanted me to get there, then He would provide a way and if not then there would be a reason that would eventually be made clear.

Saturday morning and I was heartened to see a string of messages, encouraging me to keep trusting and that a way forward would appear in due course. Later that morning I had a surprise visit from a psychiatrist friend who told me an amazing story about how his engagement ceremony with his fiancee in India was only possible because her passport and visa arrived on the morning of her flight from South Africa with the ceremony later that same day! What was your plan B I asked? The only plan B was if she did not arrive was to do the engagement over Skype! All the guests had been invited, preparations made and it was too late  to postpone!

Sunday, and we went to church as usual at All Souls, Langham Place. With the Olympic celebrations there was a special Psalms and Songs service at 4pm. We stayed on in London and came to the special celebration. After the service we met a long time friend who I had not seen for over a year as she had been in India. I mentioned the OCI scenario to her and she was very clear – Sunil you have to go to the embassy yourself! I didn’t want to hear that and I certainly did not want do that, but she was adamant. She also mentioned that there was an out-of-hours number on the High Commission website that was worth ringing.

That Sunday evening I checked the website again and found the number. Was it worth ringing on a Sunday evening at 8pm? I tried it – and someone picked up! I explained my predicament and the person on the other end advised me to ring in the morning at 10am and that it could all be processed quickly.  I was encouraged, but still not sure. I rang back again after 15 minutes – is this the number I should ring and will anyone answer on a Monday morning even though it is an out of hours numbers and I had not been able to get through during working hours on the standard number? Yes, of course! I went to bed, relieved that something seemed to be happening. I would ring in the morning and also got someone to start calling the High Commission at 8.30am when it opened.

I woke early Monday morning with a strong sense – Sunil you have to go to the High Commission this morning. But, I said to myself, there is already a lot I have planned to do. The response – you HAVE to go! So I did. I got to the High Commission by 7.45am only to see 100 people in front of me! I asked the man at the front of the queue what time he had got there and was told 5am!

Somehow I managed  to get seen at 8.30am and was advised to come back at 10am! Telephoning the numbers we had for the High Commission from 8.30am to 10.30 am produced no response! In  between I listened to one of my favourite Bible teachers, Tim Keller on the beauty of God! That certainly helped to get things in perspective! Passport or no passport I could handle it.

When I went back to the desk at 10am,  the lady wrote my name on a scrap of paper and said to come back at 4.30pm! No other news- nothing else I could do. I got on the train to return to my meetings. On the train the thought came – had I done everything I could? No, they did not have my contact number in case there was a problem or they needed clarification. So I turned back to see that lady at the desk. 20 minutes later I was there again. Oh, she said, I was thinking it would be useful to have your contact number just in case!

Anyhow, back to work, curtailed meetings with profuse apologies and a return to the High Commission for just before 4.30pm. Welcome to India in the UK!  I felt like I had travelled 5,000 miles back to the Subcontinent even though I was in Holborn! No polite queuing – just go to the front of the line and ask what to do!  No matter that I had no reference number. I just had to sit and wait! Finally at 5pm- the passport appeared with my OCI! Resolution with only 8 working hours to spare!

Lessons learnt:

1. Don’t necessarily believe a three day turn around with post – especially if it concerns the Indian High Commission!

2. Focus on what you do want and not what you don’t want.

3. Keep in relationship with God and make the peace of God your goal.

4. Keep knocking and searching, being open to what God wants to show you. There are lessons He wants to teach you.

5. Suspend the need to know how it will work out.

6. This verse from the Message Bible is in the context of overall salvation, but I think it also has relevance to how we live day to day. Luke 13:23

“.. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life – to God!- is vigorous and requires your total attention.,”

That also means you may not necessarily get what you want. God wants your focus to be more on Him and trusting that He knows best.

7. I also like this quote from Thoreau, who I don’t necessarily always agree with everything he says, but I think illustrates my experience:

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; and he will live within the licence of a higher order of beings.

What does this experience teach you?

Do you have a similar story of unexpected provision that you feel able to share?

Leave your comments here.