Saturday, August 17, 2013
This is actually "finish up" from the 2012 mission in Ukraine. It was a long trip and I got busy immediately after arriving back home...you know how that is! One of the last things that happened to us, in country, was actually at the airport in Dnepropetrovsk. We were trying to get thru customs with Bennett's "gift" for himself. If you know Bennett, you know what he likes, and you know he likes guns and knives for hunting and fishing...which he also likes to participate in! Well, it would be difficult to get a gun thru customs and security, so he bought a knife for himself, and we tried to get it thru all the bells and whistles at the airport. Needless to say...it didn't happen easily. When they asked Sharon and Bennett to open their suitcase I knew it couldn't be good for us getting thru quickly. When they pulled the knife out of CHECKED luggage (which it is alright to take knives thru checked luggage), they asked them to join them in a different room. Of course I went with them to see what could be done. As we tried to explain, to a VERY official looking man, what we were doing in their country, and why exactly we needed a knife. He didn't quite get the "hunting and fishing" theme from Bennett. (I doubt he had ever seen an episode of Duck Dynasty or we would be home free!) A knife really IS a good thing for a kid like Bennett to want to take home with him. Of the two men who questioned us, one seemed much more friendly and caring. The other was ready to pull out the rubber hose and bright lights for the grand inquisition. They explained that we could take the knife home with us but they would have to perform some tests on it first. We were willing... Then they explained the "tests". They would put the knife thru a stress test...if it broke...we could take it home because it wasn't a "dangerous" weapon. If it did not break, well then we would be in trouble and they would confiscate the knife. We were willing to leave it with Andrew and Rita so that at least someone would get some use out of it. Well...the one official hemmed and hawed around a bit. Then, it hit me. He didn't want us to "test" the knife or give it to one of our friends. He wanted to "confiscate" it and put it in the weapons "locker"...possibly the one in his bedroom closet at home. I get it...but no, we were going to give it to Andrew if it couldn't go thru. That is when the nice guy asked us again, "what are you doing here?". My explanation was very simple...we came to love on the orphan babies. Sharon thought we should add just a little more meat to that explanation...she was right...as usual! This is when God winked! She started to explain our visit...how do you really explain what we do??? Then the bright idea came to one of us (I would love to take credit for it, but it has been a year and I've slept since then) that we should show a picture of our mission to the orphans. Of all the hundreds of pictures of us on her camera, do you care to guess what came up? It could have been one of us on our "fun" day, sans orphans. It could have been one of us eating and acting silly at various and assorted restaurants around Dnepropetrovsk, again, NO. The first picture to pop on the screen was indeed Bennett. It just happened to be the one of Bennett with his giant "Ben" hands touching one of the babies with such gentle tenderness. Yes, indeed, God winked! The expression on that man's face...priceless. He got it. We really were just missionaries taking care of orphans. (Felt almost like Casa Blanca...of all the gin joints...I digress.) That picture was perfect...the one that Bennett fussed so much about taking...was going to make a difference in more than one way. Now the gentleman had a problem. He knew what the "official" man expected, and he knew the truth about our trip. He lightly "suggested" that, perhaps, if some money were offered, the "rules" could be overlooked. American money would be better, he said. So that is what I did. I put some money in an inconspicous place and started to leave. He looked at the money, enough for two to share, and said "this is too much" and handed half of it back. He couldn't help his co-workers part, but he didn't take his share of the bribe. And as a parting gift to us he asked me a question. "Is this going to hurt you?". I told him it would not, he smiled at me. As we were leaving the office, he became aware that Sharon and Bennett were still out there with their suitcase open. He demanded to know why they were not gone. When Sharon indicated that the "official" man was still looking them over...he walked over and motioned "close it" and waved us thru. We didn't have to ask twice. So...did we pay a bribe...yes. Did we touch a heart...yes. Did our Father take care of us...God Winked...I got your back...carry on!