Many of you have heard something happened, but are not sure what all went down. You may have wanted to ask, but weren’t sure if you should. Well here it is, the full scoop on why the US government barred me from leaving US soil, AKA Dave Kulp’s Passport Fail.
Celia and I stood in the security line with the rest of the team ready to check our bags and depart on her first international mission trip. We stepped up and handed over our passports.
The American Airlines attendant asked, “Mr. Kulp, do you have another passport?”
“What do you mean? No, that is my only passport.”
“This one is EXPIRED.”
“No, it’s not. It says June 2016, so I still have 7 months.”
See…as a prepared team leader this past summer I instructed the team to get out their passports and check the dates to see if they needed to update them. You might have thought that I didn’t check the date. I did.
Or maybe you thought I didn’t know about the odd rule that your passport is effectively expired 6 months before it says it expires. I knew that rule, but we were traveling 7 months before expiration. Or so I thought. See…I checked the date, but when I checked it I read that the expiration date was June 2016, but in reality it expired in June of 2015. When the woman handed the passport back to me I fully expected to point out her error and move on with a big smile exhaling while exclaiming, “well that was close!” But when she handed it over I simply said, “You are right, it is expired.”
All of this transpired in 30 seconds. With passport in hand I turned to Adam Dyer who was 5 feet away and told him we had a problem…that my passport was expired. He laughed and said “No, it’s not, you’re joking.” I proceeded to convince him that I was indeed not joking. I then handed all of the leadership documents to Adam (including the sermon I was supposed to preach in 2 days), we circled up the team, shared the news, hugged, prayed and then sent them through security.
When it all went down I wanted the floor to open up. I wanted to crawl under the desk. I just wanted to disappear. I mean seriously…I was the team leader. I told people to check their passports, I checked my passport, but I failed. I thought of the supporters who sacrificially gave to our trip. What would I tell them? Celia said, “Dad can you promise me we are still going to go?” I told her, “Cel, I hope that is the case, but I can’t promise that.”
That night I made an appointment with the passport office in Atlanta for 8:30am Monday morning to get a same day expedited passport.. Then with nothing else that could be done I asked Celia what she wanted to do. We went and got salted caramel ice cream at Brewster’s, and then brought it home to make milkshakes blending in whatever Halloween candy Celia wanted. We then watched a show and headed to bed.
When I started to spread the word everyone was very kind and understanding. Mary spoke truth to me reminding me even my mistake was a part of God’s providence. Tom Hawkes told me that mistakes happen, that it was okay. Forde Britt said he understood how I felt, and instructed: “I’m telling you: let it go. Be free of it.” On Sunday night I drove to Atlanta. The next morning turned in my documents, and returned 5 hours later to retrieve my new passport. After driving home we headed back to the airport and Celia and I were on to the next flight to Greece.
Often when things disrupt the plans we have for our lives it is helpful to consider what happened, to get some perspective to look for God’s hand at work. After considering what happened I want to share four take-aways I have in hopes that they will help you process the disruptions that pop up in your life. Here are four things I now understand:
- I should not be put in charge of checking passport expiration dates for any future trip, either for myself or for others. It’s that simple #LiveAndLearn
- This really is a minor thing that happened. That night my emotions were telling me this was a HUGE issue, but with just a little perspective it is helpful to realize that this was not the end of the world. Yeah it will go down in Uptown Lore, it will be filed under my name right next to “The Mountain Lion prayer,” but in perspective this is a minor mess. The world would go on…I knew this in the moment, but the feelings were like a train that I couldn’t stop. Having perspective on things that pop up in our lives is good, even if it takes a little while to be able to get there.
- I now understand why this hurt so badly. Yeah, it was not the end of the world, but in some ways it felt that way. I was told it was just a mistake, but I couldn’t let it go. Why? I have put a lot of thought into this, and I now see how this was a perfect storm for an assault on my idols. I desire the approval of others and I was now going to have this big fat failure on my record. I want people to see me as competent and the idea of telling people what happened felt like admitting utter incompetence. I like control, I like to be in control, I like to make things happen and I feel good when things go according to the plans I have made- but there in front of the American Airlines desk my plans came to a grinding halt. For all of these reasons this event hurt. God was still God, He was still on the throne. The team was fully capable and would serve and fulfill our mission, but I would not be with them, and that hurt. And that pain reminds me that God still has major work to do on those idols.
- God is sovereign. Just as Mary reminded me minutes after this happened, this was a part of God’s providence. There have been a number of times since that event that I have said, “Apparently God thought my pride was a problem that needed to be addressed.” And this, His chosen path was effective. This event was a pride buster. God’s providential hand is also seen in the blessings in the story including: blessing the team in my absence, getting me the first appointment Monday morning, the sweet time with Celia, getting on the first flight, getting us to Greece and blessing our trip. I am thankful for a God that is in control of the details, not a hair falls from our head without God willing it to happen. Not a molecule moves without God being in charge. This is a comforting truth in trial and in blessing.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Although I love that verse, I normally just love it in theory, because when it comes time to come to grips with my weakness I hate it. May the Lord help us to boast in our weakness, and show what it means to walk in His strength.
When I was saying goodbye to the team in the airport Adam Dyer said, “One day we will look back on this and laugh.” I responded saying, “Yes we will, but now is not that time.” I wasn’t ready, but I am now. Yes, I am imperfect, but I am a child of a perfect God, and the good news of the gospel helps us to not take ourselves as seriously. I am thankful for a gospel loving church that allows their leaders to be imperfect. So, yes, let’s laugh, together…but not too much…and just laugh in love 🙂 Stay tuned for Part 2-An actual review of the Greece trip.
These are the texts with Mary after I shared what happened, I am thankful for a wife and friends that speak truth and wisdom in love.
What does one do with hours to kill in Atlanta? I don’t know what you would do, but I toured the Atlanta Falcon’s Football Stadium and got an oil change.
Author: Rev. Dave Kulp