Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying over all the troubles we have been having over our container. We want to give you an update about where we stand today. We have good news and bad news. Let’s do the good news first:
We received our container! We took possession of the car and the stuff inside and we didn’t have to pay any bribes. This was in no small part thanks to our Albanian friend Gjergj Proko, who had a friend at the customs office in Tirana. His friend was able to get a couple approvals that we needed that we might otherwise still be waiting for. We also had a helper at the customs office that was quite a blessing. She helped us navigate through the process and was our helper in getting all of the non-car items received without having to pay the customs taxes (that are supposed to only be applied to resale items). When she found out that we had gotten the two signatures we needed (two of the four steps that had to be completed to get our container cleared) she assumed that we must have paid money on the side to get them and told us that if we were willing to pay more than we would already be done. Welcome to Albania. But we were eventually able to get everything without paying any of the side bribes. Praise God and thank you Gjergji!
Now for the bad news: Our container was broken into and items stolen out of it. They were smart and sneaky about it. It had to have been someone at the port because they put a seal back on it. So here are the items stolen:
First, they stole the license plates off the car. This is a major bummer and it has created quite the adventure for us. Because they stole the plates off the car, instead of having 6 months to register the car and pay the customs fee, we had to register it on the spot (without plates, you can’t drive in Albania, so we had to pay) and, as you can imagine, since we were forced to register it at the port to get our car, I am pretty sure we ended up paying more than if we had gotten to register it later. So, after we were unexpectedly charged $2,000 by the US Customs for their services after they “randomly” selected our container to search, we once again were forced to pay an unexpected $2,000, this time to register the car. But that is only half the problem. We had to pay to clear the customs on the car, but we still weren’t able to register the car, because in Albania you must either be an Albanian citizen or have a long-term visa to stay in Albania in order to register the car. We were supposed to have a full year to get a visa so we don’t have one yet. Praise God that we had already started the process, because it takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months to get it. So, we were forced to pay the two grand, but that only gave us permission to take the car, not to actually get license plates. In a couple months when we get our long-term visa, we can then go get license plates. So we have the car, but we can’t actually drive the car. The police will take it if we drive it without plates. So we won’t be able to drive the car for a few more months.
Second, they stole some of the new sheets, clothes, and baby items we had bought so that we would have them for the winter or the coming year. Like I said earlier though, they were sneaky. The items weren’t listed individually with the insurance or customs- there were too many items of clothing, or beddings, etc. to list one-by-one. They were put into plastic containers and labeled “clothing” or “bedding” or “baby items.” The thieves only took a few items out of a handful of containers so it was impossible to notice until we had our stuff back at home. Meaning it will be almost impossible for us to file a claim or pursue any real action. Smart. Nothing of great importance, but the sheets and kids jeans and baby items will be either difficult or very expensive to replace.
Last, they stole items that we had brought as gifts for people in our church. Which is a bummer. We made the mistake of buying small gifts for people that were easy to steal. Lesson learned but still a bummer.
So that’s the news on the container. Thank you so much for all of your prayers. It is so nice to have the car and the items in the container. We are very thankful to God for His mercy in all of these things and thankful for all of you as so many of you have prayed for us during this process. We love you all and thank God for you often.
Thanks and God bless,