MARKET RWANDA OFFICIALLY OPENS

Last day! We're Legal! We have a TIN (tax ID number) and a certificate of legally registered exports! What a wild and wacky day! As Sandrali (our Rwandan architect, told us earlier in the day, "Persistence overcomes resistance.” We are OVERCOMERS!

First step--the TIN#. Without it, you can’t do business in Rwanda! The
building reserved for that procedure was modern, clean and constructed from stone. A huge lobby featured a technological information center at the door. Expensive-looking seats and counters manned by only a few filled the rest of the room. Everyone treated us with extreme favor except that first woman in this fine room! She had the sluggish and bored manner of a typical government worker found in any country showed no ability or desire to communicate. She did, however, offer correct information that sent us on a wild ride to get a passportsize photo of a harassed and exhausted Kelli, who, like me, was wearing an electricityfree hairdo…not the favorite look for a picture that will adorn the PERMANENT certification of business. The shop we patronized was owned by an Asia woman of indefinable age who sat behind a mammoth desk where a cat slept motionless in a box that it filled to exact proportions. She busied herself watching “her” Africans as they efficiently and quickly accomplished the whole process. We were grateful that, whether from her eye or a more noble motive, they were very good at what they did. Out the door and back in the car, we were on our way to run by the Iris (the guest house where we stayed) to get Kelli's phone so she could contact Scott for needed information to complete the forms. We returned with picture and forms ready for that first lady. She obviously was impressed with the speed of our execution. Now she showed us more favor, even interrupting her conversation with another client to serve us. Yes! Overcomers!

Next, it was time to go deep into the "real" Africa
We headed into the “industrial area” – an area found in many African cities where expatriates are often without the necessary cultural clues to accomplish business in a smooth and efficient manner. (Just go ahead and LOL right here.) It was a place for which we had only the most meager instructions telling us how to operate. Trucks,

buses and throngs of colorfully dressed people crowded and bumped along. Babies nursed. Horns blew. Motorcycles wove in and out of the chaos. Eugene, our driver, became Eugene, our protector. He methodically maneuvered us in and out of throngs of people and vehicles that were loosely woven together in a somewhat unstable flow— sometimes moved by signals I couldn’t discern—to a parking lot. There he parked, checked locks and motioned us toward the correct building. He became the first link in a vital chain of those God would use to make our miracle happen. Eugene directed us to office after office with the kindest demeanor.

We were definitely on The God Train!
“The God Train” just means that NOTHING is will stop us. God is the engineer; the train is moving on the right track…and we just need to hang on!

More people in the chain…
Alissa, who owns Heaven (really—it’s a beautiful local restaurant) introduced us to Sarah, who manages Nziza, a shop where co-ops sell their goods. She offered her shipping specialist, Jedot, who happily agreed to be on call and smooth the way with his custom’s contact, Stephen. When we reached Stephen, he spoke in his blunt African way, "Why did you not do this before? Now there is no time!" Kelli responded, "I am new at this. I didn't know. I came here to learn; now I know." His eyes softened even though he clearly spit out, "This is impossible!" At the same time, he rose out of his seat and declared, “This will take some money; do you have any?” "Yes." "It must be Rwandan francs." "How many?" We could not believe what he said next. The amount needed was only 5 USD! Relieved by the price, we handed over the money. The office that received fees was already closed for the day. Stephen took our francs and the four of us began to run through the complex. He turned to Kelli and me and said, “Go back. We want to hurry; you are slowing us down.” Eugene and Stephen made their way forward while Kelli and I turned back just in time to give comedic relief to some young boys hovering near a gate as a SUV in reverse almost ran over us. Escaping the mishap, and enjoying their laughter, we returned to the office Stephen shared with three others to wait.

We could not turn back now; we had come too far. However, the time for departure was closing in at a worrying rate.

Already the clock had passed our projected arrival time at the airport. We were miles from the guest house and had not even finished packing. The phone we had borrowed from Kedress rang regularly. “How long? Are you coming? Where are you?” Time both crept and sped as we waited. We continued to thank God that He was directing our steps. Sarah (at Nziza) had called earlier to tell us to give up. She said that there was no way we could get the documents before the plane took off. She offered to ship them later. According to her, three hours were needed to get the needed certificate. We had only 30 minutes, but we couldn’t give up. Those thirty minutes passed. Eugene and Stephen were still gone. We now had no control—no option, but to wait and pray they came back soon. Finally, Stephen reappeared. The official had opened the office and individually walked us through the process himself! The 3-hour, 3-line wait we had been warned of had been superseded by favor from one official. Stephen signed and stamped that allimportant certificate and wished us well.

Our plane was scheduled for take off in just over one hour.
We still had to get our nine bags. (Before you make bad jokes, remember we were carrying several thousand dollars worth of products and two worthless hair-dryers.) We had to pay the guest house, say good-bye and hug the friends we’ve made there through repeated visits …and then, fight rush hour traffic to the airport. Thankfully, Kirsten and Anna (our traveling companions) had packed all the products as well as our personal belongings. Simon called to say that he had an appointment and must take the girls to the airport immediately. (I’m saying “girls” because they ARE young.) Fortunately, both were troupers with great attitudes and strong work ethics. Kelli and I ran on foot trusted a skillful, but perhaps over-confident driver as he snaked his way at high speed. We arrived at the airport after the plane had boarded. We wondered how stressed Kirsten and Anna would be because we were not on board with them.

We prayed for God to hold the plane.

When we crossed the finish line at the airport entrance, Eugene zipped the car into an empty parking spot right at the front door. (This ride was movie material!) A man arriving in Kigali pushed the cart he had just unloaded toward our car. Eugene grabbed it. We tossed our bags on and strapped our carry-ons across our shoulders, running all the while as Eugene struggled up the airport entry ramp with the unwieldy cart loaded with over-weight baggage. We still had to clear customs. Surprisingly, Simon, along with two men in business suits whom we’d never met, were standing at the security gate for departing passengers. Thumbs up, they encouraged us forward. The security people caught the excitement and passed us through quickly. We waved and cheered back to Simon, “We got it! We got it!” – meaning the “impossible” TIN# and a clearance certificate for the goods. The other two men stared in a sort of amused disbelief. Suddenly, I heard almost a shriek, “Eugene! Eugene!” Kelli ran back, calling his name. He returned to her. She hugged him and thanked him again—right in front of the other men. In that moment, Eugene, the driver, was acknowledged publicly as the SUPERMAN he had been. He had done his assignment well! If he hadn’t, we could not have done ours at all.

“One more barrier to cross, Lord; one more miracle—please!”
Our bags were scanned and reloaded. We pushed the heavy cart to an almost empty counter. We were now minutes from departure. The passengers were already on board. THE SYSTEM WAS DOWN! That very fact was the answer to our prayers! The plane had been delayed because everything had needed to be processed manually. CUSTOMS STILL HAD TO BE CLEARED. The man behind the desk didn’t know how. He had to leave the counter to find help. He returned with an employee of KENYA AIR – cute and pregnant—who said, “I’m so sorry; these things must be cleared at the customs office, not here.” Kelli whipped out an envelope and said, “I have been there; here are all my documents.” The KA official looked at the government stamps and with no questions said, “If you’re happy, I’m happy. It’s on the other end you’ll have problems if what you need is not here.” She smiled, returned them and said to the man, “Hurry, the plane is about to take off!” He was extremely slow; she began to help him. We checked five super-heavy bags – NO CHARGE! …and there was even time for a quick blessing on the happy agent and her coming baby. The one family still boarding when we arrived was gone; Kelli started her exit. I was the very last passenger through the gate.

Still to go—final immigration and security.
For some reason Rwanda Air’s last immigration post had no pens. Though I had started the trip with many, at this point they were all hiding…and I had a form to fill out. As I stood there alone with two officials, I tried to say a few words in Kinyarwanda. Both of the agents returned my attempt in Swahili and loved it that I could answer. I thought that very odd since it was RWANDAN immigration, but they got very cheerful and my officer even filled out the card for me. As I scooted to the security machines and final portal, I set off the alarm which caused me to have to suffer a significant pat-down. I didn’t care. WE HAD MADE IT! We literally ran out the door and down the steps to a waiting bus to take us the short distance to the plane. It was the VIP bus! Not only had God moved us moment-by-moment down the miracle track to accomplish the impossible, He was now ferrying us to the plane in VIP style. And why not? We were “ambassadors for Christ” and definitely on a mission. I’m happy to report that Kirsten and Anna were seated in some of the very first seats and showed great “travel cool” as we triumphantly boarded the plane—probably without the same cool factor since we were, after-all, elated, dirty from all the dust and sun…and more than a little hungry. Maybe that’s why the airplane food was so good! The rest of our trip was lovely. US Customs treated us with great favor—like old friends—and thanked us because “we had done our homework so well” and labeled every product for content, origin, etc. Riding the God Train is quite a ride!

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