Saturday, March 6, 2010

Concerns... (aka. "Scare Package!?!")

What does this photo have to do with a scare!?!

When we receive items that the postal service here thinks may be "taxable", they slip a green card into our postal box and we must go to a special office, pay a handling fee, and then open the package in front of them. This is followed by discussion
of what the object is, its' value, and how much we should fork over. If you are patient and good natured and drop the name "l'Hopital de Bongolo" a lot, you may get out of the office paying nothing.

Recently, we received just such a green card and made the trek to the special office- about a 7 minute drive down the raod. Since we pick up a lot of mail for the team, down-country, at the hospital, we are familiar faces in the office. Our first stop was to pay our handling fee, about 5 bucks. After proving our identity and handing over the 2,000 central African francs, the postal worker walked over to the organizational cubby holes lining one wall to find our package.

There is a reference number on each of the green cards that seems to indicate that our package has been carefully tracked and kept in a particular bin at the post office, however, what often follows at the post office is a search starting at one side of the bins and continuing until the package is found. There have been times when the worker has just plain given up and asks us to come join the search. Sometimes we'll find packages of our friends and we're able to fork over the $5 and take them with us. They are very nice to allow us to do this.

On this particular day, the package was addressed to Sam and it turned out that it was from the woman's group from the US that prays specifically for Sam and sends along care packages from time to time. Sam was with me and was excited to find out what was in the care package. We are so
grateful for these expressions of care for our family and how it brightens up our kids lives to have the connection back to the states. However, on this particular occasion, things took a dramatic turn!

So, we paid our $5, the package was
found, and we made our way to the next step- into the adjacent office where we opened the package for evaluation. Sam was delighted to find that the package contained 3 Nintendo DS video game cartridges!

As expected, a discussion followed among the 3 office workers, surrounding what these cartridges were, and what their value was. This was all normal. Then, one of the postal workers said something like, "You know... secret groups use game cartridges like this to communicate to each other." I said, "A
h bon!?!" (Oh really?). He went on to say how these groups were very smart to use kids games- it was very stealth. In fact, he remarked, we should actually leave the package there, go home and retrieve the Nintendo game player, and return to show that these were, indeed, real video games and not secret communiques in disguise.

Not helping matters was a photo included in the package (see 1st photo, top). It was the family of Susan, the woman that coordinates the program with Sam. In the photo is one of her family members with a full head of hair and full beard. Now... let me just say right here that I'm not one to "profile" and make judgments regarding just what a members of secret groups look like, but I was beginning to think that perhaps the people on the other side of the desk were!

So, it was that time again... time to do some "name-dropping". I said, "You know, we work with the Hopital." Then one of them said, "Yeah- you've been in here before. You're the pilot, right?" To which I said, "Yes, that's me." I told them that they had nothing to worry about, this package was for my son, whom I have never seen demonstrate harmful attitudes towards others, indicating that he may belong to a secret group or have associated traits. Also, the photo was of the sponsor of the program in which ladies from a church pray for children of missionary families and send them gifts from time to time. (I could see that they were starting to soften up at this point) Then I said, "Plus, there really aren't that many left at the hospital that still belong to secret groups. Most of them have left." At this, they all laughed, backed away from the counter and started making motions for me to pick up the package and be on my way.

I was only too happy to do so.

We are blessed to have a great relationship with the people here. We sure are glad they are, indeed, doing their job to carefully monitor items coming and going.

Thank you to all those that pray regularly and send us care packages. We are so grateful. These things make such a great "pick-me-up" for our children... and mom and dad too!

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