Amazing Guatemalan Container Update

by Belinda McCloud

UPDATE March 3, 2001
President Flores signed the paperwork for the exemption for excise duties
yesterday afternoon! He had been in Washington D.C. negotiating a free trade agreement, and that's why it took so long. I don't know if the Director of Health still needs to sign something, but it will be easy because the president has already signed. 

Barbara Nickel

After many months of hard work and getting all the detailed paperwork in order, the container finally left Texas on February 5th and arrived in Guatemala on Tuesday, February 13th. But even with the best-laid plan, international shipping can be uncertain. After the container arrived, the customs officials immediately contacted Saul Langarica asking for the paperwork to get the container through customs, but there was no paperwork! The shipping company had sent it to the wrong place. After some phone calls to our shipping company, the paperwork was tracked down and sent to Guatemala, arriving on Thursday the 15th.  Mr. Langarica then went to customs with everything in order, however, dealing with customs proved to be very frustrating and disappointing.  Despite the assurances of the shipping company in the US and in Guatemala that there would be no fees for a charity shipment, the customs officials insisted on charging taxes, regardless that the container was to help their poor citizens. There was no bargaining with them and they even threatened to set a value at $40,000 and charge $7,000 in taxes. They wanted a value placed on every item, and since there were 490 boxes and 7 pallets of medical equipment and supplies.  We tediously placed a value on everything, but then that wasn't good enough!  They threatened to open every box to make sure the value was truly what we had stated.  

After negotiating with them, changing the paperwork, and a lot of other fancy footwork, nothing was working.  Then Saul Langarica talked to the shippers about sending the container on to El Salvador who told him that he could forward it on for only a few hundred dollars. Because of the earthquake, El Salvador had lifted all restrictions and taxes to expedite help to the quake victims.  

After some discussion, the decision was made to donate it to the United Church of God,  El Salvador. Saul Langarica states "I commented to the Guatemala brethren about the inconvenience of sending the container to El Salvador, and all of them agreed that our brethren there need the help much more that we in Guatemala.  Therefore, please do not worry about us here."  So the Guatemalan brethren unselfishly donated the entire container to El Salvador. What a wonderful example for all of us, to see our brethren give to others out of their own need.  This was so kind of them, yet at the same time, it had to be very disappointing.  To realize much needed help was within their grasp, only to have it taken away because of a corrupt government! 

So the container left for El Salvador Thursday morning February 22nd.  Meanwhile, in El Salvador, a member who works for the El Salvadorian government, talked to the President of El Salvador, explaining that the UCG in Guatemala wanted to donate a container to the UCG El Salvador.  So the PRESIDENT of El Salvador became directly involved in this process, making sure the container made it over the border with no difficulties, and was escorted safely to the El Salvador customs warehouse, under the watch of a 24-hour guard. The container arrived safely in El Salvador at 6:00 p.m. Thursday night.  Not one penny in taxes or bribes was charged!! 

Then, another amazing twist!  We found that it is fairly easy to take things across the border of El Salvador and Guatemala, so the brethren in Guatemala will be able to receive some of the shipment after all!  Saul Langarica is going over to El Salvador as soon as all the paperwork is cleared, to help Mr. Cisneros unload things. Mr. Langarica will take some things back to Guatemala, such as the dental and medical equipment, and they will share the rest of the contents among themselves, according to need.   

Interestingly, many of the tents that were sent for the youth camp, may end up being housing for some of our brethren!   What a beautiful and inspiring example of love, care and concern the South American brethren have set for us all!  They are truly living as Christians and their attitude of giving and sharing towards others is something to be greatly admired and respected.   And even more inspiring is the interesting way that our great God intervened for us, and made a seemingly impossible situation work out for the good of His people!!  If God if for us, who can be against us?