Tuesday, August 3, 2010

[Guyana-Mission-Report] "We're seizing your bus!!!"

I stared at the officer in disbelief.
"We're seizing your bus!" the officer repeated  "We have orders from the Supreme Court of Guyana to seize this bus and take it down to the courthouse" the officer told me as he hopped in the front seat, and unlocked the sliding door so two other marshals could get in.

At first I didn't believe him.  Surely this was a huge mistake, or even worse still a scam.  Guyana is infamous for both, and I was not going to fall for their ploy.  It was late Wednesday morning.  I had driven down to the Guyoil Gas Station on Sheriff Street to pick up fill up our six gas jugs for the airplane.   David Gates, our director, was only a block and a half away, finishing up a conversation with some missionaries, and in a few minutes we would rendezvous and drive out to the airport together.

"I think you have the wrong people"  I said calmly "Who are you trying to locate?"
The officer pulled out a sheaf of papers and flipped to the back page he asked, "Is the license of this bus PJJ1896?"

"Yes it is."  I replied.  "Then we have strict orders to drive it down to the courthouse immediately"  The officer stated emphatically.  "It is under a levy from the Supreme Court of Guyana."

By this time the cars behind me were impatiently honking their horns for me to pull forward so they could get gas.  My mind was grasping for the right words to say to these men.  Finally I decided to pull forward, buying myself some precious seconds to come up with a viable game plan. 

"Look" I said turning to the police man "I'll need to drive over to the mission house to pick up the director of our program."

"NO!" the man shot back "We are not allowed to let this bus go to another location.  You must drive it immediately down to the Supreme Court, or we will seize control and take it down ourselves"

"Ok"  I said as I shut off the ignition "I'll do what you want me to do, but before I can go anywhere I'll need to make a phone call to the director.  My cell phone is out of credit."  I got out of the van and started toward the station to buy a phone card.

"Stop!!!  I'm warning you!  If you take the keys to the van we'll call a tow truck and have the van towed at your expense"  

Realizing that I was inches from a major explosion, I froze in midstride.

{Oh Lord!  Please give me the right words to say} I breathed as I slowly walked back to the van.

"Look" I said  "Calm down, calm down…  You have the wrong people.  We're not who you think we are.  But… I recognize that you have a job to do today.  You must insure that this bus goes down to the Supreme Court.  I assure you that I will drive it down to the Supreme Court, but you are making things very difficult for me.  I cannot answer all your questions.  So you must first allow me to drive a block and a half to pick up our director, and then we will go to the court house."

When the officer heard that I was willing to comply with their request, he relaxed and off to the mission house we went.

At my request, David and Warren came outside to try to talk with the marshals to solve the misunderstanding.  As they were futilely presenting their case, another light was beginning to dawn in my mind. 

Two years ago I was randomly looking through a little metal filing cabinet at the flight base when I stumbled across the original paperwork documenting the incorporation of Guyana Adventist Medical Aviation Service.  All of a sudden this flashed into my mind.  Maybe, just maybe this would satisfy the powers that be, and they would let us off the hook. 

Unfortunately they wouldn't allow us to drive anywhere else except the courthouse, so reluctantly, David and I drove the bus down to the courthouse and surrendered the key.  By this time is was raining cats and dogs, and the outlook looked pretty bleak.

On the way down town we asked the marshals what we could do to get the van "out of jail".  They informed us that there were only two people authorized to release the van was the court registrar, and the lawyer representing the plaintiff.   By the time we arrived the plaintiff's lawyer was on his lunch hour, so we decided rather than kill time waiting, to catch a taxi back to the hospital to try and find the document showing the incorporation of GAMAS.  Maybe he would see the light and let us off the hook.

We searched carefully through the cabinet, digging fruitlessly through file after file of receipts, letters, manuals, important documents, and the like.  Just before 1pm I found the precious documents.  David and I ran out the door to flag a taxi. 

The plaintiff's lawyer arrived back at his office close to 1:30pm, brushing right past us without a word and into his dilapidated office.   Soon his secretary came out and informed us that, "Mr. Chase can't help you.  You will need to get a lawyer to assist you in this matter."

Since we were less than a block from the courthouse, we decided to try the registrar. We showed our documents, explained our situation and asked for assistance.  This time they did listen sympathetically.  There appeared to be some disagreement amongst them as to what to do.  But in the end, the answer was the same.  "We can't release the bus without an order from the court.  You will need to hire a lawyer."


So to a lawyer we went.  The law offices in Georgetown are all within two blocks of the courthouse and so after placing a few phone calls we decided to go to the law office of Boston and Boston. 

Mr. Boston graciously ushered us into his office and invited us to have a seat.   After David and I explaining the situation to him he said that he would have to file an "interpleeder" document with the court to appeal the seizure of the bus.  He called in one of his secretaries to make some photocopies of our documents.  He then turned to us with a gracious smile, stating he could do it for a small fee of $180,000 Guyana dollars ($900 USD).   We were floored.  David explained the status of our organization as made up of volunteers.  The man didn't miss a beat, "Ok, I'll do it for only $150,000 ($750 USD).   Again David explained what we were doing and asked for consideration of this.  He then decided that he would give us his service for $125,000 ($625 USD).   David paused for a moment of consideration.  Then asking for $100,000 ($500 USD).  The man thought about it and decided that he could do it. 

As we walked out of the office it became clear that this wasn't going to be an easy  or inexpensive process.  We've priced around and the cheapest place wants $250 USD to take the case. 

It appears that we'll have to file an interpleeder, and get a court hearing.  The judge will listen to our case, and then allow the plaintiff to make his case.  The outcome will determine whether we get our van back.   This could take time since everything happens really slowly.

In the mean time we've had to hire multiple taxi's to take us to and from Ogle Airport. 

Please keep us in your prayers.  We feel that this is yet another way the devil is trying to harass us.  But God can work even situations like this to our advantage. 

"All things work together for good, to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His Purpose."  Rom. 8:28

God bless,


James & Joy Ash
121 Durban Backlands
Georgetown, Guyana
874 South McDonald SW
McDonald, TN 37353
1 (423) 473-1841 or 1 (423) 473-1842

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