When the President Calls
Everyone knows that it’s not “what you know”, but “who you know” that makes the real difference.
For over a year now, we’ve been faced with an ominous challenge: Come up with $26,000 for a newly overhauled Continental O470-L32B airplane engine.
The engine in our missionary Cessna 182 had been showing signs of age. It was nearly 23 years since it was factory overhauled. Although the FAA doesn’t regulate when private aircraft owners are to replace their engines, this is about twice the age typically recommended. On the other side of the coin, we’ve also been flying the airplane heavily since it’s arrival in Guyana, and it’s also gone over the allotted hours recommended by the manufacturer. Up until our last flight, the engine was still producing excellent power, but little signs were beginning to show, and we realized that for safety sake, we needed to pull the plug.
The Lord answered many prayers, and through a partial donation, and a partial loan, we were able to order a new, factory-overhauled engine and have it shipped directly to Georgetown.
It was then that we faced our biggest challenge. How do we import an airplane engine into Guyana without paying a huge amount of importation taxes? Big dollar items like this would most certainly incur a 5% -10% duty fee, and a whopping 16% Value Added Tax. Put together the taxes alone would be close to $6000 U.S. Dollars!
I had anticipated this, and my original plan was to request one of the government ministries to request a tax waiver in our behalf. But the first government ministry that I approached didn’t respond to my letters and phone calls, so I contacted another ministry, and started a letter writing campaign.
I also took a trip down to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to get some more answers. After explaining my dilemma, the employees eventually directed me to the top floor, to the office of Mr. Low, who was one of the senior managers. Mr. Low listened carefully to my story, but very nicely explained that the only tax that could be waived was the 5% duty. The VAT was required by the Guyana constitution, and there was no way around it.
I had heard through the grapevine that the president’s office intervenes in certain cases that they consider worthy. So I began praying in earnest, and requesting everyone that I knew who was influential to call and writing letters of petition to the presidential secretariat. I never saw the correspondence, but the result was swift and breathtaking.
Almost exactly a week later I was driving in Georgetown when my cell phone rang. I dug around in my pocket and finally fished it out on the last ring. I noticed that it was a “blocked” number, which didn’t strike me as strange, because our flight base has a blocked phone number.
The gentleman on the other end of the phone said, “Is this James Ash, the pilot with the ‘Seven-days church?’”
“Uh… Yes, this is James”
“This is President Donald Ramotar, and I have received your request, and have approved it. I just got off the phone with Mr. Sattaur the commissioner at the GRA, and if you call him right now, he’ll help you to get through…”
“Thank you!!! Thank you so much!!”
I hung up the phone the phone in utter shock. I remember thinking, “Am I dreaming, or did the president of Guyana just call me on the phone?!” A few seconds later when the full impact hit home, I clenched my fist in victory and fairly shouted out “YESSSS!!!”
Two weeks later I had the privilege of driving to Timehri International Airport with all my paperwork in hand, to get the engine released from customs.
At this very moment the new engine is installed on the airplane, and Todd Anderson (one of our GAMAS mechanics), and I are working feverishly to finish up the annual inspection so we can get back in the air to continue this life saving work.
This experience was humbling for me, because it showed me how utterly helpless I was to solve this problem. The Lord also gently reminded me that it’s not “what we know”, but “who we know” (Jesus) that will ultimately save us in His eternal kingdom.
Wouldn’t you agree?