Sometimes this work is about the big stuff – political systems, principles, and most importantly, people’s lives. But sometimes the petty stuff rears up its head and threatens to take over. As this week wound down, it was flooded by the petty stuff.

The trouble with the petty stuff is not only that it’s a distraction from the big stuff, but that sometimes it can have serious and devastating implications for our work and the very people we are trying to support. This week’s petty theme was visas.

A few months ago, my organisation invited someone from one of our focus countries to travel to the UK as a keynote speaker at a series of speaking engagements all over the country. This person has suffered enormously over the past few years but through it all, her faith has not only stayed strong, it has grown. She has the potential not only to motivate the hundreds or even thousands of people who might have the chance to hear her to speak out on behalf of the Persecuted Church, but also to inspire and challenge people in their own walk with God. At the same time, she has not found the last few years of tribulation easy, to put it mildly, and this visit would be enormously encouraging to her as a reminder that she and her family are not alone in their ordeal.

We did everything right: provided all the paperwork, gave her the materials and the money she’d need for the application, assisted her through the process of filling out the forms, all well in advance. This week, less than two weeks before she is due to travel to the UK we were informed that her visa application was denied.

It wasn’t denied because she forgot something or missed something, but because they felt the pay slips which they asked her to provide to prove she was employed were “insufficient”. Considering that my organisation explicitly stated, in writing, that we planned to cover all her costs while she was in the UK and that we have a great twenty year track record of inviting people just like her to the UK,  it just seems ridiculous to me that they would throw out the whole application because of a pretty irrelevant detail. Petty.

The worst part is that the whole process has been outsourced to a private company – so whereas in the past we’d have been able to call up the consulate or the home office back here to find out what was going and to clarify the situation – now no one seems to have any idea at either end who we should talk to to try to sort this situation out. The rejection letter she received has no name, no contact details, just a reference number for the person who apparently reviewed and rejected her application.

She’s heartbroken, feels that she’s failed us somehow, and is deeply disappointed at seeing what she told me was the fulfillment of one of her dreams slip through her fingers. My colleagues who have been working hard over the past few months to set up a series of speaking engagements for her and to arrange all of her accommodations, translation and other logistics are discouraged and anxious. I don’t even want to think about the amount of money and resources that have been invested in this visit at a time of economic difficulty. I am frustrated.

One of my directors reminded me though of a phrase often quoted by one of our founders, “We don’t believe in miracles, we rely on them.”

So here’s to miracles – it’s good to remember that even when the petty details loom large in our life, threatening to derail everything, God is still in control and will, if we trust Him, work things out exactly as they should be.