“Are you using a container?”
“How are you shipping your things?”
Apparently this is one of the first things on missionary women’s minds.
If we had come over with our family right from the beginning, we might have shipped a “container.” But every time we have shipped, we have done it in a smaller way, using a crate. I recently heard of a possible way to take it all on the plane with you; but up until now, because of airline restrictions, we have shipped a crate.
The first time Seth shipped (#1), there was confusion, adventure, and eventually clarification. He didn’t know that you need a company not just to ship your items, but also to receive them and get them through customs. The next time we shipped after we got married (#2), the shipment was several weeks late, and some of our things were damaged or stolen. They blamed it on Hurricane Katrina. It was nerve-wracking. The last time (#3), I can’t remember any big problems. And this final time (#4), we were so relieved to get our shipment only a couple of weeks late, with everything in tact.
We don’t have a TV, and we really want our children to love reading and learning. Probably most missionaries wouldn’t ship as many books as we did this past shipment, but that was an area that we had decided was important to us.
Seth and I also love books! So probably more than half of our shipment was books. The rest of the shipment was clothing and shoes for the kids, church materials, some kitchen equipment (I got a Kitchen Aid! :)), and home décor.
It was a very weighty shipment! Thankfully, when you ship a crate, it is the size that matters for the bill, not the weight. So we sent most of the weighty books in the crate, and clothing on the plane. But that also presented a problem for Seth when he needed to pick up the shipment and bring it back here. Shipment #2, they drove a truck right to our door. Shipment #3, Seth went to Johannesburg to pick up the things, but they fit in our truck. This shipment exceeded our truck. Seth borrowed a trailer from a friend, but we were concerned about our old truck having trouble pulling the load.
When Seth contacted the clearing agent to discuss the form, the agent advised him to lie. “Just don’t read the forms, sign the papers, and send it back.” If we admitted that we had those items in our shipment, it might hold up our getting the items for weeks as the customs officials would probably search our entire shipment (a scary thought as far as keeping the items in tact! :(), and they might confiscate the oil and beeswax, as well as anything else they might want! Can you tell I struggle with trusting government officials over here? There is so much corruption.
Now those three items sitting in obvious view on the top of our pallet of materials were compromising our shipment! And we had bought and added them to our shipment on the very last day we actually shipped it. It was a last minute decision, and I felt terrible about it on this end. “We shouldn’t have done it!” I worried. I had had no idea that those wouldn’t be accepted in the country.
No matter your philosophy on lying and whether it is acceptable in war or to save life or whatever, I don’t think this situation fits. We couldn’t justify lying in this situation. I am so thankful that Seth didn’t lie, tempting as it was. He checked the two boxes, signed his name, and sent the form back. Later that day, the agent informed us that our shipment had been cleared, with no further problems! Oh we were so thankful that we had done the right thing! God blessed Seth for his truthfulness. And even if we had experienced problems, it still would have been right to tell the truth. God hates lying—much more than we would have hated losing our things!
Seth took a day and a half to visit church members in Johannesburg and returned with our things Thursday evening. (He also managed to make a plan to repair our piano!) He took a young man from our church with him to help keep him awake and to visit the other church members. They had so many valuable discussions together! Maybe I’ll share some of those lessons later…
- The truck had no breakdowns.
- The shipment wasn’t too heavy for the trailer.
- Seth didn’t fall asleep while driving. (This was a definite concern!)
- Visits with church members went wonderfully.
- Our things got through customs and arrived to us in good condition.
- And we even got the piano down there to be repaired!