Saturday, March 30, 2013

Police Clearances: Part Two

(If you have not read the first part to this entry, please click here to catch up.)

Let’s see. Where was I?
    -- Oh, yeah! Haiti.

A month or so back when God told me to come to Haiti, I argued. Apparently, that is my go-to response with God these days.

Argue. Complain. Do it anyway.

I kept hearing Him say, “You need this police clearance, and you’ll have to go there in person to get it, my child.”
-- “But I don’t want to go... I hated it there,” I whined.
-- “Go back anyway. Trust me.”
-- “But what of the finances? It’ll cost so much.”
-- “I am the God of provision. Remember? I own it all.”
-- “But I don’t have the time... I leave for Mozambique in just a few weeks.”
-- “I am the God of time. Remember? I created it.”
-- “But, Loorrdd. I don’t wanna go...” I persisted.
-- “Why, my child?” He queried.
-- “I don’t know why,” I confessed, “I just don’t.”
-- “Then go. Obedience is not dependent on feelings. Just know that I have much for you there,” He promised.
-- “Yes. Lord.”

Once I stepped out to arrange this trip, God moved on my behalf.
    --As always. As promised.

He provided frequent flyer points to get my tickets. (Thank you BH!)
He made a place for me to stay at no cost. (Thank You B&JM!)
He went before me in every way.

Getting here: The red-eye Saturday night was brutal but happily forgettable. The lay-over in JFK was long but strong coffee and the chirping of wild swallows and grey-breasted song birds in the airport lobby fed my soul, making the hours feel like minutes.

Wrinkled and weary, I landed to find PAP’s airport transformed. Gone were the dusty tarmacs and cramped halls filled with frowning, suspicious faces. Instead live musicians played as stiff-legged travelers wound their way through brightly lit air-conditioned rooms to baggage pick-up. There were well groomed custom officials, duty-free gift shops, and even an escalator!
    --Had I landed in the right country?

My wonder-bubble didn’t last long, however. It popped by the time my bag arrived. The long wait compounded by the frantic press of luggage porters and impatient travelers crowded in close.
    --Yes. I was most assuredly in Haiti.  

I first came to Haiti in 2009 to work with Heartline ministries for three months. Heartline was started 27 years ago by John and Beth McHoul. They have done a number of ministries over the years (orphans, church plant, work projects, etc.) but when I first met them they had just started the birthing clinic.

I love and admire the McHouls so much, not only for their dedication but also for their immense love. Months ago when I told them I needed help with my Haitian police clearance, they immediately started working on it. But they kept hitting the same brick wall as I did; It wouldn’t be possible without coming in person.

So, when I arrived this week John pulled out all the stops and called Rosemine --a Haitian friend and neighbor who works for the national police-- for help.

On Monday morning, Rosemine gathered information on what it would take while John helped me get all the paperwork in order. But we couldn’t do anything else that day... but wait. On Tuesday, Rosemine dressed in her police uniform then met John and I at the Heartline office. It was time to hit the sidewalks and stand in the lines... or so I thought.

Rosemine explained that we needed to first get a paper signed and stamped by the local administrative office. When we arrived, I’m not sure if I drew more interested glances or if she did. She certainly looked the part in her neatly pressed uniform and holstered fire arm. But more than anything, she played the part --jumping the line, talking on my behalf, greeting everyone with a swift hand salute.

Before I knew it we were done. We were in and out of there in less (and I mean less than) 5 minutes.
    --Unheard of!

Smiling in disbelief, we climbed back into John’s truck and bounced our way over to our next destination --the main police department. 

While we rode, I laughed at how quickly we were able to get my paper, but Rosemine just smiled. John laughed with me, explaining that Rosemine had a nickname --Le Cle.
-- “Le Cle?” I asked repeating the word out loud to myself. “Why ‘Le Cle’?”
Despite my French skills, its meaning did not immediately appear to me. Only then did John translate for my benefit.
-- “It means ‘The Key’ in French,” he explained. “She’s our key. She unlocks doors. She’s amazing.”
I couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly.

Rosemine just smiled wider, enjoying the praise.

The traffic was heavy, so we didn’t get to the main police department until well after noon. I thought for sure we’d have to wait for lunch breaks and such.
    --But I was wrong.

With Rosemine by my side, we had to stop every few feet to greet other well groomed Haitians in uniform. Some also took the time to shake my hand and greet me, but no one asked my name. I felt like I was walking with a superstar.
    -- I now think that I was.

Surprisingly, the line for the police clearance was long. Dozens waited their turn to be fingerprinted in a rickety outdoors “office” comprised of long benches, two lopsided tables, and a weigh scale.

Behind the front table, sat a man with papers --piles and piles of papers. He assured that my papers were in order, had me fill out others, then sent us to the front of the line. It did not occur to me that I was cutting the line until I was casually informed to take off my shoes and stand on a scale.

Another man in a dark uniform then proceeded to weigh me (Yikes! I thought I could fudge that number!), then measure me (I couldn’t remember how many centimeters I was anyway!), then send me to the front of the line. Again.

The fingerprinting was old school --meaning still done with ink and paper-- but the officer doing it was expert. He had me in and out of there quickly. The thing was... there was nothing to clean the ink off my hands.

Afterward, I stood there awkwardly trying not to touch my dress while Rosemine conversed with a bright eyed officer with pristine teeth. He indicated where I could wash up and then we were done --at least for that day.

All in all, we’d been there no more than 20 minutes.

Rosemine took me back to where John waited for us then rushed back inside. She had more officials to talk to, apparently.

The problem was it would take a week for me to get my police clearance. She wanted to see if it could be expedited and was going to ask on my behalf.

It’s hard to say how long she was gone, but when she came back she was smiling.
-- “What happened?” I asked, eager to learn if I could get my paperwork by Friday (when I was scheduled to leave).
-- “Oh... I had to talk to my chiefs. They say you’ll get your police clearance tomorrow,” she explained with a smile.
-- “Tomorrow? Really!? Wow... You really are “Le Cle’”, I teased.
-- Smiling past my excitement, she added “I had to talk to four chiefs. Four of them! Had you been a Haitian, I would have had to only talk to one chief. But since you’re a Blan (White/Foreigner) I had to talk to FOUR of them!”

We all laughed at the complexity of skin color, then headed home. There was nothing left to do that day but wait.

The next morning, we headed back to pick it up. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering what all this expediting would cost. Would I have to pay all these chiefs for their signatures and stamps? No one seemed capable to telling me.

But when we got there, they had the papers ready as promised. We just had to sign for them! It was as simple as that!

Can you believe it? After months and months of waiting, praying, and organizing I can happily announce that I’m on my way to Mozambique!

Thank you all for your prayers. I couldn’t have done it without you, the help of the McHouls, and my new favorite Haitian Key --Rosemine!

Le Cle (aka: Rosemine) and me