The wall of humidity hit us as we stepped off the plane in the capital of Papua New Guinea. We made our way down long corridors and a few ramps to be funneled into the lines for immigration. Getting a visa for my sister Diana took place without a hitch, and our multi-year visas were still good, so we sailed through that part of entering PNG pretty quickly.
It took quite a while for our suitcases to come through on the conveyor belt, since all the luggage from all the international flights were coming to one small carousel. Our bags retrieved, we waited in line for customs. “This is the part where they decide whether or not to let your stuff into the country,” I explained to my sister. Her customs form showed that she had nothing to declare, so she got waved on through while we were pulled aside to have our bags checked.
“Your form says you have items to declare that are new and exceed 1,000 Kina in total value,” the customs official stated. “What are those new items?” We started to list off the things we’d purchased in the US to bring back to PNG. “It’s things for our house, not for resale,” we assured her. When we got to the part of the list that mentioned the laptops we’d picked up to replace our dead and dying computers, her eyes lit up.
“What kind of laptops? Are they Apple?”
“One is made by Dell, the other one is Apple.” We showed them to her, explaining that we use the computers for learning the language of the tribal people we work with.
“How much did you pay for the Apple computer?” She called a fellow customs official over and they began mentally calculating how much to charge us for the laptop we were bringing into the country. Any new items brought into PNG are susceptible to a tax of 10% of the item’s value. While that tax was designed primarily for businesses importing goods, it affects incoming travelers with new items, too. Whether you were charged or not depended on the customs official and their assessment of your situation.
“When did you buy it?” she asked.
“As soon as we went to America. That was four months ago.” I braced myself for hearing the total they’d settled on.
Then, I saw it. And I felt it. Your prayers kicked in. “Just leave it, let them through,” the official she’d called over said. “Yeah, it’s alright. You can just go on through,” our customs lady said.
Stunned, but not wanting to give her a chance to change her mind, we grabbed our suitcases and headed for the door. We swerved to avoid colliding with suitcases that skidded across the floor as they came off the x-ray machine. Then we were around the corner and out in the airport lobby where Diana waited for us.
“Someone was definitely praying for us,” I said to Josiah. “That almost ended totally differently. We almost had to pay.” Thank you, God.
I don’t know who of you to thank for praying at midnight (CDT) on Sunday night, but whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for responding to God’s prompting to pray for us. Thank you for walking with us on this journey, for standing in the gap on our behalf. Ever wonder if your part matters? We don’t. We can feel it when your prayers kick in.