Car Crash and Passport Confiscation

8/24/2012 08:14:00 PM sendtheroths 4 Comments

These past few days have been extremely stressful for Amethyst and I. Monday, our vehicle was rear-ended by a mini-bus overloaded with cement. Tuesday, Amethyst was stopped at the Congo border and her passport was confiscated and accused of entering Congo illegally for three months!

A car crash
Monday afternoon we were on our way to get our vehicle inspected (by the Congolese equivalent of the US DMV) as two of our documents expire at the end of the week. As irony would have it, half a mile from the office a mini-bus stopped ahead of us. This is normal, they do it all the time and I respected my distance. Then… CRASH!!! followed by another…. CRASH!! A mini-bus behind me loaded with cement rear-ended our vehicle. But the force of the vehicle pushed us from a dead stand still into the mini-bus four meters ahead of us.

The force of the hit shattered our rear windshield glass and dented the back door! 

A friend of ours who is a lawyer, happened to be in the vicinity during the crash. Another friend of ours who lives near the area of the crash was walking by at the time. Furthermore, Paul a UN translator (dealing specifically with crashes) who is one of the GOF-Congo Board of Directors arrived shortly after too!

Going to the Police Office
After a brief discussion on the scene, we were off to the police office. Now it was starting to become dark. Once there, a police officer started taking the testimony of everyone, starting with who he assessed was the guilty party. This was a two hour discourse to get all of the police reports filled out.

Half way through Amethyst became upset with how things were going as she thought it would be impossible to get any course of damages or reparations to be compensated by the guilty party. She stormed out of the office while I stayed to figure out what should be done. As she walked out into the street she was clearly distraught and frustrated. Then a small little girl came up to her and said in Swahili, “As a muzungu what are you doing in the street at an hour like this?”

Amethyst responded in Swahili, “Someone hit our car and we are at the police office.”

The girl responded, “You shouldn’t be out here, do you want to come into my house?” Then the girl took Amethyst inside of her parent’s shop adjacent to the police office. There Amethyst shared about Jesus with everyone.

Police office – Round 2
No resolve could be made in the evening, so we would have to meet the next morning. I arrived 10 minutes early. The lawyer arrived five minutes late. The driver of the mini-bus in front of me arrived 15 minutes late. The police officer arrived 25 minutes late. The guilty driver arrived an hour late. Big surprise, right? Another two hours took place and then the owner of the guilty vehicle arrived. He accepted the responsibility and agreed to take care of the damages. This is a huge blessing as this rarely happens in Congo that the owner will show up and then be willing to pay for all damages. 

Then of course there is dealing with the administrative fee the police officer wants for conducting the accident assessment. He wants $30 from all parties involved so that is $90 in total. This is a lot of money considering the average person in Congo lives on less than a dollar a day. We’ll take care of this issue later…

You’re Illegally Entering Congo!
Well when one problem was seemingly resolved another one occurred. Amethyst was passing in to Rwanda yesterday (Tuesday) and the border officer was reading the visa fine print. Apparently, all visas from the DRC Embassy in USA must be used the first time within three months of approval. We clearly indicated to the Congolese Embassy that our days of entry into Congo would be after three months and they granted our visa back in February anyways.

Since we did not use our visa within three months (as we were doing language studies in Tanzania) it was considered invalid. Meanwhile we’ve been entering and exiting Congo for these past three months!

Interesting enough, as Amethyst was crossing into Rwanda, a friend of ours, Phillipe (who has helped us with translation in the past) was coincidentally crossing the border into Rwanda too! The border agents saw that Phillipe knew Amethyst told him to read the visa. After he read it, they confiscated her passport, took it to the head office and nothing could be done by her. Meanwhile at this time I was still discussing payment terms and when the vehicle would be repaired.

Amethyst called me to tell the situation. I rushed to the border. I called everyone I knew while on the way to try and help with the situation. Paul even rushed to the border. Nothing could be done at the border. Amethyst's passport was confiscated. But, Paul knew of a UN human resources contact that knows the national Congolese immigration officer. We met with the UN HR personnel and they made contact with the officer. He made a phone call to the Goma office to tell them to resolve the matter (but didn’t give them a specific directive.)

Discussion at DGM (immigration office)
Upon arrival at the Goma office, the local director said that we were entering illegally in and out of Congo but because of the phone call from the national director, he decided that we shouldn’t be charged with illegally staying in Congo for three months. But rather the best solution would be for us to each pay for a three-month multiple entry visa at $250 each, a total of $500.

We plead our case but this got us no where other than the response, “Sorry for the mistake but it is your responsibility to read the fine print and to ask questions about the visa.”

Two propositions
Were were left with two options: we have two days to come up with the $500 or we get deported. They were unwilling to cooperate, even though we are trying to help the Congolese people as missionaries/humanitarian workers. No exception could be made, we committed an offense and justice must be done. Ironic statement considering the Congolese government is amongst one of the most corrupt and unjust governments in the world.

Well, what could be done? I knew that there is some sort of US consulate member living in Goma. So by this time it was 4:45PM (getting dark again). We visited his compound and he gave us an audience. We told him our problem and asked if he might be able to help. Nothing could be done that night but maybe the next day. We agreed to meet at 10:30AM the next day.

Today's Negotiations
Arriving in his bullet-proof Suburban, the US ambassador and I were seen right away by the immigration director and we pleaded our case. The director heard our case and saw that we were acting in good faith. But, we would still have to pay! So we negotiated that I should have to pay for one visa and that my wife can be free of charge. Well that saved $250, but this doesn’t change the fact that I am low on cash given our upcoming travel program with two visitors from America.

It was 11:30AM before we were done. I would have to come back at 2:00PM to get my passport, go to Rwanda to get money from the bank and then return before 4:00PM to pay and get Amethyst’s passport. Not an easy task given that sometimes in Africa things takes longer than it should.

Never a dull moment: How do I get money?
I passed through to Gisenyi, Rwanda and went to the bank. There is only one bank in Rwanda that accepts my GOF check card. Upon arrival, the ATM machine at that bank was out of service. After visiting the other seven banks, I returned to the initial one to see if I could talk to someone about getting the machine operational again. Well by this time, to my delight the machine was operational. But this left me with only 30 minutes to get back to the immigration office!

The issues that remain…
Well tomorrow I find out if my vehicle can be fixed. I will be very happy if they finish tomorrow. Next order of business is to get my two documents from the vehicle office. So given the light of how everything has happened in the last couple of days, I think there are some big things ahead and Satan isn’t so happy about it. Please continue to pray for these issues and that everything gets resolved. 

Throughout all of this only God could make away for us to be surrounded by Congolese who are like family at the exact time a major problem was occurring. God has been seeing us through these situations. Also, we can’t diminish nor neglect the power of prayer. We have felt your prayers and truly, we don’t know what might have happened without them. Please stay vigilant in prayer as this is our lifeline!

But as they say, this is Africa. God gives grace for the moment. From every test comes a testimony. Thank you everyone for your prayers and support!


  1. Woah intense! i am glad it worked out, you guys are anointed for this work!

  2. I have seen God's hand of anointing and blessing on you both. You are in our prayers and are not alone...

  3. We continue to hold you up in prayer.
    Steve and Lorna

  4. I am NOT alone
    I am NOT undone
    I am waiting
    For You...(Tree63)