Friday, November 2, 2007

Entry: CHALLENGES

God Can Do Anything
By Debbie Roome

I have glimpsed the passions and frustrations of Moses as time after time he went before Pharaoh. ” Let my people go.” was his cry. In a similar fashion, I spent months begging the South Africa government to “let my son go”.

Our story started in March 2005 with our decision to leave Africa and seek a new life in New Zealand. The problem was obtaining a passport for Timothy, the third born of our five children. Tim was born in Zimbabwe but as he had lived in South Africa from the age of seven months, Zimbabwe would not give him a passport. Unfortunately, neither would South Africa.

All South Africans have an identification number which is issued at birth. Immigrants over sixteen are assigned a number when they apply for an identification book. This number is central to life in South Africa and without it, you cannot get a job, open a bank account or cash a cheque . Nor, as we discovered, could you apply for a passport. Because Tim was only fifteen at the time, local government staff refused to issue him with a number.

So started a nightmare of being referred from one office to another, racial undertones and flat refusals to help. The system is renowned for its slowness and bribery and corruption is rife from top to bottom. Queues of several hundred are common and the premises are dirty and dilapidated. The location in the central city is a hot bed of crime and armed robberies.

After a month, a belligerent woman eventually accepted Tim’s application for an ID number. I suspect it was filed in the trash as soon as we walked out. Regular phone calls bore no results but we weren’t too worried as it was several months before our departure date.

In October 2005, my husband left to start work in New Zealand and prepare a home for us. With him gone and our tickets booked for January, I became more and more worried. In November, I decided to take Tim up to Johannesburg as we had heard the office there was more efficient. They accepted the application but said it could take months to process.

As December loomed, I called in back up. Friends, family and our church prayed for favour with Tim’s application. I approached our local newspaper and they printed the story of our plight. A helpful reporter supplied me with an unlisted number for management and so my quest continued.

The last two weeks of December were the worst I have ever experienced. In the midst of the pain and trauma of packing up our lives. Of farewells to family and friends, winding up my business, the sale of our house, settling accounts, closing bank accounts, dealing with floods and a swimming pool deluged with dirt, I continued to struggle against the government. My efforts included another trip to Johannesburg, the submission of applications three and four and extended visits to government offices. I did things I would not have thought I was capable of including pushing my way into management offices and paying a bribe to try and get a passport through the black market. It was all to no avail.

Six days before we were due to leave, I called the office as I had been doing twice a day for weeks. I was told the manager was busy with the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs who was touring their department. I dropped everything, grabbed Tim and drove into town. Along with hundreds of other people, I stood in a filthy hall in temperatures of over 100 degrees. Everyone was pushing and shoving but I was determined to speak to this man.

God honoured my determination and after half an hour, I got his attention and was able to explain the situation to him. He apologized for the treatment we had received and promised to authorize the issuing of an ID number and a passport. We went upstairs and filled out application number five and again submitted all the documentation, photos and fingerprints.

I continued to call them two or three times a day but still nothing happened. On Friday, 13th January 2006, Tim and I once again pushed our way into management offices. I told them I would not be leaving without his passport. We were booked to fly out at 6am on Monday 16th so this was our literally our last chance. The day passed in a blur of lies, insults, refusals and frustration until finally I threatened to call the deputy minister direct. (A compassionate staff member had slipped me his number.) Finally some action. After 2pm, the long awaited ID number popped up on the computer system. It was rushed through to the passport section and we submitted more forms, more photos and more money. Five minutes before the offices closed for the weekend, we were handed Tim’s temporary passport.

The victory of holding that passport in my hand remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was the culmination of an immense battle that stretched me in more ways than I thought possible. It was also tangible proof that God answers prayer and still performs miracles. Obtaining it was a shocking, terrible experience, yet looking back, I have no bitterness or regrets. God used it to show me that when the battle is the fiercest, the hardest and the most intense, the triumph is the greatest, the victory the sweetest.

That temporary passport has expired now but I’ve kept it as a reminder of what God did for us. As a trophy of the victory that God gave me. As evidence that He truly can do anything.
Submitted by
Debbie Roome

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