Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, TouchGlobal swiftly responded and has continued to send crisis responders to serve in Haiti ever since. We have established a presence and plan on staying here for a long time, so we thought it wise to set up a blog that family, friends, supporters, and teams can check to find first-hand information about life and ministry at the Haitian Queen (the TouchGlobal Crisis Response headquarters in Gressier, Haiti).

This blog will be updated regularly by various team members and staff.

Friday, April 2, 2010

God's Timing

GOD’S TIMING and PLANNING April 1, 2010

I had the trip planned in my head for a week or so, just waiting to hear when the vehicles were released from customs so I could pull the trigger. As soon as Caleb called me last Friday, and told me that 3 of the vehicles were processed, I started making phone calls. The plan was to get a chartered flight into Haiti with any number of the guys we used to fly in during the early days after the earthquake. We could carry some time-sensitive large packages that were waiting to go in, and stuff that the airlines won’t carry- like termite control chemicals. After a few phone calls and waiting for confirmation from another pilot, it was obvious that things were not going to go as smoothly as I had planned them in my head.

I had several “sorry- not available” and a “let me see what we can do”. After pestering the pilots most of the weekend, and knowing that we had limited time to get into and out of Haiti, and still get the vehicles, I started alternative plans. I was able to book flights for Arnold and me into Fort Lauderdale for Monday, and we would have to go from there. This was going to be a one step at a time trip.

On my way to the airport Monday morning, I called a couple of people in Florida to see about availability for picking us up at the airport. One call produced a voicemail message, the other, the happy voice of Ken Friea, a member of the 1st Baptist Church of Deerfield Fl. He “just happened” to have the day off and would be willing to cart us around.

After a fairly turbulent flight into Fort Lauderdale, Arnold and I found each other at the airport, and were met there by Ken. We checked a small commercial carrier that we have used before for flights into Cap Haitien, and were told nothing was flying that day due to weather. We asked them and a couple of other small carriers if they had seats for Tuesday, but no dice. We still had some slight hope that the private pilots would come through, but after a phone call to them, nothing there either.

I fielded a call from Caleb, our contact in Haiti working to get the vehicles out of customs, which delivered bad news. Our 4th truck had arrived in Haiti, but no one could find the title for it. I called our shipper who assured us it was sent and was on the boat that was due to arrive that day in Cap. We had some business to attend to in Fort Lauderdale, in the meantime, and checked in with our warehouse and inspected our latest arrivals of tools and office supplies. We will do 1 more shipment from Florida, and then channel everything else through Rockford.

Ken willingly carted us around for the rest of the day, and we stayed the night with him and his family. We were able to find seats on small commercial airline for a very reasonable price to leave early the next morning from Miami to get into Port au Prince.

We awoke early the next morning for the hour trip to Miami, breezed through check in and security, and boarded the 3rd world airline bound for Port au Prince. But how were we going to get to Cap Haitien? I had not heard back from the booking agent for MAF, a missionary flight service that flies all around Haiti. Both of us being the adaptable flexible types said” Let’s just get in the country and we can figure it out from there.”

Our flight in to Haiti was actually quite enjoyable…. once we were able to get to our seats. Apparently many of the Haitians that were on board thought they were on Southwest, and chose to use the open seating policy. The stewardess’ on this particular carrier were not at all pleased, because once the people found out they were being moved, they insisted that their carry on bags move too.

We had exit row seats and were able to stretch out a bit as there were many empty seats, and for breakfast, we got a fresh croissant and a honey bun. Unexpected service! It’s not a dead concept as some airlines would lead you to believe.

Blue tarps, and a tent city visible on the way into Port Au Prince

We landed and breezed through customs, since we only had carry ons. As we exited customs, there waiting for us in passenger waiting area was a green shirt worn by Charles! No surprise there now that I think about it. He, with his police credentials, is able to access areas not normally accessible by the general public, so he was able to meet us inside the gate rather than in the crazy pushing and shoving of the clamoring crowd outside the gate, all ready to provide portage of your baggage, sell you yet another ugly wooden trinket or just flat out ask you for a dollar.

After exchanging bear hugs- (it seems we always try to see just who can squeeze the hardest) we walked the mile or so to the MAF hanger to see what we could wrangle up for seats to Cap Haitien. We were told that no seats were available, but that the “local” airline would be able to accommodate us with 4 flights per day, and one was soon to leave. I decided to call Caleb and see if he was near the airport, since he said he would be in Port au Prince all day. My thought was to get a ride with him depending on his departure time ( although I must admit the long, winding, extremely bumpy drive at the end of the day was not sounding very appealing).

I called Caleb and he “just happened “to be at the service station across the street from the airport getting tires put on his truck. (How many pairs a month???) Before he came to meet us, the MAF guy came and said, ”Hey-we have a plane coming in and could give you a ride up in an hour!”-Go God!

Caleb and I were able to discuss some details for getting the vehicles off the dock, and I was able to reimburse him the $5400 he paid for getting them out of customs. THAT was a real blessing! We had heard horror stories of other ministries with donated vehicles that had all the supplies and packages inside the vehicles stolen, and the charges for releasing 4 vehicles set at $28000. We consider ourselves blessed, and thank you to all of you who were praying for protection of and the release of those vehicles.

We boarded the 7 seat Kodiak with 3 of us in seats, and several packages along for the ride. Before we took off, Arnold and I noticed Charles fidgeting and rubbing his hands together. Arnold asked him about it, and he said his hands were sweating. I asked him which he was more afraid of, earthquakes or airplane flights, he smiled coyly and said, airplanes.
Don't sweat it Charles!

We had a short, uneventful ½ hour flight to Cap, dodging mountains and big puffy clouds. I still can’t comprehend how a ½ hour flight translates into a 7 hour drive. Henoc met us at the airport and we threaded our way through town to the receiving agent’s office. We sat for a few minutes talking with the husband and wife team, Rico and Parolla. He had worked in both Canada and the states, while she stayed in Haiti building the shipping and receiving company. Rico told me that as a Christian husband, he knew his wife wouldn’t leave Haiti, and he needed to sacrifice the job and money abroad to return to be with her. So now they work together in the business, and have a focus on helping pastors and Christian organizations to get things shipped in at reasonable prices to help their country and at the same time help spread the Gospel.

He also talked of how difficult it is to deal with the government employees at the dock and in customs, because they “don’t really do anything if they don’t feel like it”. He also talked about trying to deliver good customer service, knowing that if the customer is treated right, they will return.” I want repeat business” he said, “not to gouge you one time.” It was very refreshing to hear a business person say that, because that attitude is so different from the majority of the retailers and vendors.

Charles, Arnold and I went to the dock with Rico and he started to walk us through the system. We found out that there was a small “hitch” with one of the vehicles’ VIN numbers that needed to be verified, and that the truck would need to stay one more day, but we could retrieve it about 11AM the next morning.

We went to the customs receiving office and sat in dilapidated metal folding chairs sweating even though the oscillating fan on the ceiling was on high speed. The security guard seated across the small room watched a tv show on his tv/.cell phone. Rico leaned over to me and whispered, “See, that’s what I’m talking about”.

We waited and continued to talk for about an hour before I spotted our parked vehicles still sitting in the fenced area. We were able to pick out the 3 we came to pick up, but saw no sign of the 4th truck with all of our really expensive items loaded on it ; the one that was still waiting on the paperwork to come. I questioned Rico as to where they keep the vehicles when they are shipped in. he said that they are all kept in that same lot. I told him that I didn’t see the other truck. Sensing my concern, he asked if we would like to go and look for it. “Of course!” I said. After trading our IDs for “parking lot” passes, we set off to search for the orange truck with the blue tarp.

Our first stop was at the “on site” police department situated directly in front of the gated entrance to the parking lot, where we exchanged pleasantries with the woman behind the desk who took our names and wrote them on her clipboard. As we walked toward the fenced lot, Arnold spotted the blue tarp, tattered, but still covering most of the cargo. With a strong sense of relief, and an additional spring in our step, we approached the truck to inspect it for any missing items. Everything was just as we packed it. Praise God!

An answered prayer with" blue angels"

Still waiting for the other 2 vehicles to be released, we had nothing but time, so we meandered around the lot looking at the various vehicles, some obviously having been there for extended periods of time. Flat tires, layers of dirt and grime, and flakes of rust surrounded some of the vehicles. Rico pointed out to us that these were the result of customs prices too high to pay and a system that was obviously broken. When the lot gets too full to accommodate any more parked vehicles, the broken down, rusty heaps are auctioned off, so the process can repeat itself.

Finally we saw our vehicles parked in front of the police outpost, and after getting final stamps placed on the documents, and shooting pictures, we FINALLY took possession of our long awaited, much prayed for vehicles!...well, at least 2 of them.

Arnold and Rico in front of the police station at the dock, with Charles "guarding" the vehicles

Praise God for answering our prayers, and thank-you for praying. Please continue to pray for the release of our last truck, that the missing paperwork would be found. Look for the next installment of the continuing saga of the vehicles soon… Truck #3 and the Gressier Delivery.

Kevin Watterson

1 comment:

  1. Kevin I am so excited that they are finally there! I am praying for you and your team as you drive them back! Glad Charles is there with you!