Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Police Clearances: part one

Months ago, October 2012 to be exact, I started working on the necessary paperwork for my Mozambican visa. Optimistically, I thought I’d be able to check these off my list fairly quickly.

I was wrong.   

Oh. So. Very. Wrong.

But then again... perhaps my idea of ‘quickly’ needed to be re-defined. Stretched. Qualified. And well... that’s exactly what happened.

Let me explain.

Some might say (and my mother would be first in line to agree) that I’m a bit on the impatient side. I tend to want things done immediately, regardless of possibility and extenuating circumstances.

This is not helpful when you work in places like Africa... or any place where people are involved rather than robots. But I’m getting off topic. Let me circle back..

My point?
    --Police clearances. 

To tell this story well, I’ll need to start from the beginning.

During my vision tour trip to Mozambique last fall, I was informed that I’d need to prove I was never arrested in any of the countries I worked in as a midwife. That required official police clearances from the States, the Philippines, Haiti, and South Sudan.

When I asked why I needed these papers I was casually informed that Mozambique did not appreciate criminals.

However when I assured them I was no criminal but a missionary instead, the official seemed unimpressed and muttered something to the effect of...

“Well...if you’re not a criminal who has been forbidden to practice midwifery in your country... why then would you be coming here?”
    -- Logical. Sadly logical... and wrong. 

So naturally, once God made it clear I was to return to Mozambique, I took note of this and immediately started work on getting these coveted documents proving my love for the Mozambican people. 

I knew it would not be simple --nothing in developing nations are-- but I was confident it’d at least be possible. The real question was... to what lengths would I need to go to get them?

As it turns out... some pretty serious lengths.

The American police clearance required fingerprinting at the local police department, a check, and a two month wait.
    --Pretty painless.

The Filipino one required, driving to LA, standing in line for hours, getting fingerprinted again on official Filipino paperwork, waiting a day to get that paperwork authenticated, driving around downtown LA endlessly trying to find a bank that could issue me a money order for the Philippines, failing to find this money order, picking up the authenticated fingerprints, mailing them to the Philippines with cash, waiting for two months, nothing arrived, calling the Philippines endlessly trying to figure out what was wrong, learned that my first police clearance got lost in the mail, mailed more cash to the Philippines, finally got it five months later.
    --Relatively stressful. Quite expensive. 

The South Sudanese one promised to be the simplest but in the end was the most challenging in terms of patience. Since there are few embassies for South Sudan and even fewer record systems currently in place in the country, I was informed there was NO WAY I could obtain the needed police clearance outside of the country. The only option was going there myself (which would have been very costly), or having someone from my organization in Tonj do the work on my behalf. My colleagues there are busy and my police clearance didn’t fall high on the list of to-dos. So for months, I waited, stressed, prayed, and then stressed some more. Thankfully last month, my director in S. Sudan was able to get this clearance within hours of trying. And I’m told it’s in the mail. Pray it arrives before I leave for Mozambique!
    --Very stressful. Moderately expensive. On its way still.

The Haitian one has proven to be the most challenging and yet somehow the least stressful for me. I’m not sure why. Despite the various Haitian consulates and embassies in the States, I was quickly informed that it’d be impossible for me to get my police clearance without coming to Haiti in person. The optimistic side of me balked at this. “Surely there had to be a way!” I argued.
    --There wasn’t.

Despite incredibly helpful friends in Haiti and months and months of trying, it finally dawned on me that I’d have to return to this tiny-half-island to get it. Every other option was a closed door.

So, last weekend I boarded a plane and here I sit. I’ve been in country for four days and it’s looking hopeful. I don’t have the time to tell you all the hoops I’ve had to jump through just yet... but I promise I will.

Please, please pray for this afternoon. I am told my clearance should be ready for pick-up. But it’s still undetermined how much it’ll cost. Ha!

More to come...