Sunday, June 5, 2011

The New Bus, The Port, and Agent DeMonio

This blog is taken from my newsletter for the month of June.

I am running a little late with this newsletter. We have been full throttle for a while now. We had a team from South Carolina come down. When they left Honduras, they left part of their team here with us. The Botkin family is living with us and will be with us for a few months. They have been such a blessing and with everything going on, we have needed their help.
Haley is back, Natalie is back and Ben is back (albeit temporarily). Ben came back to help us find some girls that decided to go on a jolly little holiday while I was in the US. He was super sleuth and found one of the girls by waiting at a school for the mother to pass by. When he got to the police station the police officer we were dealing with about this case said, "Hey, you are doing my job". We had tried using the police system, but they were too overwhelmed with cases that were more crucial than a couple of run aways. The girls are with back with us now, but we don't know for how long. Paperwork has begun to move them to a different center. Two of the girls have been with us for over 11 years. It seems surreal right now because they are still living here, but it looks like they will be relocated soon.
We have three new girls here at the center. Nelly 15, Maria 9, Paola 9. They have been through some tramatic times recently and we are glad they are here with us. The two younger girls are settling in nicely, but Nelly is struggling. She wants to be with her mom but her mom cannot protect her from her home situation and so she is staying with us. She tells me everyday how she wants to be with her mom and wants to talk to the judge. Pray for her to get peace about being here.
When the team from SC was here, I was informed that the bus that we had been waiting for was at the port and had been for a few days. This was on a Friday, so we took off to avoid any port fees. When we arrived we found out that the bus had been there for 28 days! They give you the first 4 and then after that you pay for the next 10 days 8 dollars a day and then after that the price goes up. We have a tax free dispensa, but we couldn't use it after 20 days of the arrival of the vehicle, so we had to pay the taxes. We contacted a port agent, and he was very animated and said that he could get it out with a few phone calls and he said we will make some adjustments on the original documents and title and it will be fine. We got the paperwork and a new agent.
We went in the port on Monday, and we were thinking about doing it ourselves, but this agent, who we found out later was nicknamed "demonio", or Demon, came to help us. He looked like his skin was gray but spoke English and that was helpful because we had Jimmy Potts a board member and Ben Heath who was trying to help get the bus out of the port. We had taken Lina, Carina and Mary because they were ahead in their studies. They were hanging out in the restuarant, Mr. Baleada, across the street. It had air conditioning and a TV, and food, so the girls were fine while we were talking to the port authorities.
Mr. Demonio's assistant was named "Dog". He told me he had 3 kids and 3 wives. He was a young man about 28. He told me he had been into drugs but he was better now. I asked him if he was a Christian and he said that he was. I told him how Jesus helps us with addictions and lifts us out of pits we have fallen into. He said " Well I know He does, but I got out of pit of drug addiction on my own. I used marijuana until I didn't need the other stuff". All I could think to say was "Interesting".
So now I had Mr. Demonio and Marijuana Man working on our behalf. They were telling us that we were going to pay taxes on the value of the bus which they established was $11,000 US . You pay 10% duty fees and then 15% taxes on top of that. We were looking at some serious money to be paid. I was wondering what we could possilby do when another man came up to me. He asked if I was the wife of Brett because Brett always used this agent when he went to the port. I looked for his old office but they had moved. I told him that I was but Brett had died a year ago. I still react by bursting into tears when I meet people who knew Brett and ask how he is. When I told him that he had died a little over a year ago. He said he recognized me and wanted to help. He took the me and my paperwork and talked to the chief of the port. He told the Chief that he knew us before and asked him to help us. The Chief told him if we could find a lower market value on a vehicle like this he would use that. Randy Cox sent us the value of the bus. They lowered the bus to $3500 US. The agent that knew Brett didn't charge us anything for all his help. He said that he did it for his friendship for Brett and to the glory of God.
That took the entire day just to establish a price. So we had to go spend the night at a place Mr. Demonio knew. We were cautious. He said, "It is right on the beach and I will get you a good price". I was skeptical. Well, the sun was setting and I knew we needed to get in somewhere so we followed Mr. Demonio to the hotel. The pool was green but we brought no clothes with us. The beach had a oil-spill look to it, and so it just worked out that we had no suits. It was so incredibly hot there at the port, we were sweating like malaria victims.
We got all that arranged and now we had to do the paperwork. They said, "You will be out by today". Jimmy felt safe about leaving it with us because he had already delayed his flight by two days.
They came up with an amount for taxes and fees and I had to go to the bank at the port. I had to walk through a scanner, put on a hard had and a vest that a very sweaty assistant had used a few minutes before he loaned it to me. I walked about 20 feet, and took off the hard hat and paid the bill. I walked back the way I came, gave the sweaty hard hat and vest to the assistant and went to get the bus. Then they said I had to pay taxes on the contents of the bus. So we had to do all the paperwork on that too which took hours of review of exactly what was on the bus. Demonio said he went on the bus and they had robbed everything. I was heart sick but I thought, "Well, that lowers the taxes." I put on another hard hat to go see the contents, and though it had been rifled through and things were out of their boxes, everything looked like it was there. So I went back to the agents office donned my borrowed sweaty hardhat and vest, went through the scanner and paid the bill and returned. They said, "Let's get your bus". We got to the port and they said that they forgot that the bus hadn't gone through the scanner for drugs. It was now too late because the port closed in a few minutes, so we had another night at Port of Cortes. Mr. DeMonio and Marijuana Man, said they needed money to put gas in the bus to drive it first thing in the morning through the scanner. I only had 40 dollars US at the time and I gave that to them. They drove off happy as clams.
We found another hotel on the other side of the port. We used to go there when the kids were little when Brett had to get a container out of port. I remembered how to get there thankfully. They had made a lot of changes and we were the only people in this huge hotel. We walked out to the beach, and just enjoyed sitting there letting the breeze hit us and cool us off. The girls were collecting shells and wading on the beach. We were at peace.
They had made a lot of changes at the hotel. They said they had a new kiddie pool. I thought the girls could walk around in it. The 20 little colorful plastic chairs for small children sat around the pool and a giant green and blue mushroom was in the center of the pool that acted like a fountain. It was really pretty. When we got the edge of the pool we realized that the kiddie pool was 5 ft deep all the way around! I wondered about the unsuspecting parents telling their children to go to the kiddie pool, not knowing they could be sending them there to drown.

The room was very nice but we were on day three of hot days and no change of clothes. I would have gotten some clothes but they said we were leaving. We showered and put on the same clothes. When I went into the bathroom I noticed a bee on the bright white towel and so I killed it in case the girls didn't see it, I didn't want them stung. I woke early in the AM and went into the bathroom. When I opened the door there was over 50 bees. Not just honey bees but killer bees and they were mad. I immediately thought about the bee I had murdered the night before. I wondered if they sent out the hit squad. I went downstairs and left everyone sleeping.
I found a watchman that was about 4 ft 2 in tall and told him my problem. I asked for another room. He wasn't authorized to do that. I asked to just be able to used another bathroom, again he was not authorized. I asked for an insect spray. He said they had some but it was in the bodega and he didn't have the key. I eyed the small fan and I asked if I could borrow it run the bees out and return it, he said it wasn't his to loan. The phone rang and I sat down to wait, trying to think of any other petitions he might could authorize, when I noticed a movement out of the dry fountain that was in the lobby. It was a huge crab and it walk right under the opposite sofa. I got up off of my sofa. Thankfully the phone call was from the owner asking if any customers had come in. The watchman told him about my problem and the boss gave the go ahead to give us another room. I could tell he wasn't happy about the bees or the lack of response on the part of the night watchman.
We got to the port early and they ask me for gas money. I told them I gave them money for that. They said, "Oh that was for my car". "Sweet," I thought, but I must of had a look on my face at this point and Mr. Demonio said, "I will take it off my fee". They went and put deisel in the engine, however, it was a gas engine, so then they had to pay a mechanic to drain the tank and lines and put in gas. Ben was in his hard hat trying to help push all this through, but they finally got everything done and it was time for the port to close for lunch! We waited an hour more under the shelter with our hard hats. When they finally gave us the out, we were first in line, and we bolted through the gate. Ben, the girls and I were euphoric.
The bus is wonderful and we can get all the girls in there, not to mention we don't need a CDL license which none of us have. We went back to our forsaken, abandoned, patiently waiting South Carolina team. They were great and had been so busy while we were away. God had taken care of everything. All I had left to do is get the tags for the bus, but that story will have to wait for another day. :)
Blessings to all who have been so helpful to our ministry. Thanks to Randy, Rich, The South Carolina team, The Botkin family, our wonderful interns, the board, and everyone of you who pray for us. We are blessed and I pray He bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you can think or ask. Blessings, Pam and the girls from Talita Cumi.