And now, welcome to the newest multi-part series as we move to Ecuador!
As we were getting our visas from the Vice-Consul, we were chatting with him about going and taking a container and Ecuadorian customs, and he looked at us and said “I don’t think you can take a container duty-free with that visa, you’ll have to pay duty on all your stuff and it is really really expensive”…
The kids are still laughing at me. They said all the colour drained out of my face as my mouth dropped open, and they tell me that my mouth stayed hanging open as my face turned totally red.
You see, we’d been working on the whole idea of taking a container because we’d thought (probably assumed), that we’d be able to take it in duty free. Ecuador grants one duty free import to people who are taking up residency there. Otherwise the duty rate is only about oh….Forty-Three Percent! Yes…43% not only on the item, but on the item plus the cost of transport plus the insurance. That. is. a. lot. of. money.
I think while my mouth was hanging open, I was running through every possible scenario…down to the thought that we might actually have to sell everything we’ve been gathering for the last year and take only what we could pack into 14-20 boxes. Not the scenario we’d hoped for.
By the way, this is what we keep talking about when we say container:
It will get dropped off at our house on the back of a truck, we pack it up, it gets taken by truck to the port, put on a ship down to Ecuador, loaded off the ship into customs, passes through customs, and finally goes back onto a truck that will ship it to wherever we are waiting for it.
Oh, how I pray it will all go just as quick and easily as that sounds. But, we’ve read the horror stories.
And yet, what a wonderful gift to be able to send all our things and not have to put all the effort into buying an entire household of furniture and goods when we get there! Not only that, but we’d been collecting craft supplies for ministry, homeschool materials, books in English for our readers, carseats for another ministry, bicycles for the kids…things to make settling in easier on everyone! We’ve moved to several different countries with just our baggage allowance, and it’s been fine. But, while the memories of trying to set up a house from scratch in Guatemala were fun, it was also an exhausting time and we were looking forward to just “moving in” once we got to Ecuador. (here’s an old blog from Guatemala about some of the challenges of finding furniture,,, http://alittleelbowgrease.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/can-you-spot-whats-missing/)
Ok, so back to my mouth hanging open as we hear that our visa doesn’t allow a duty-free import. What to do about that??
We set it aside while we were in Washington…there really wasn’t much we could do from there, but once we got home we spent Thursday and Friday of last week doing some serious thinking, talking, praying and researching.
Ecuadorian customs is notoriously TOUGH. It wasn’t a good sign as we called different shipping companies to see if they had information, and the only information they unanimously offered was that it is an exceptionally tough country to import things into. Great.
But, finally after googling random missionary blogs until I found someone who had brought in a container, we called the people up in Quito, and began to find some answers that seemed a little more promising. Then we got in touch with other people we’ve sort of met in Loja and picked their brains as well…
Seems that YES, we can import a menaje de casa (household goods) with our visa, but YES it was probably going to be absolutely as big a headache as we feared it might be.
More praying and talking and thinking. Do we even go ahead with this?
Thought for the moment (and hopefully final thought). We’re going to send a container. And, we’re going to ask for people to bathe the whole process in prayer.
We’ve been working on the manifesto (list of contents) for a few weeks already. One thing we’ve read is that the biggest problems come from paperwork errors. We’ll be spending lots of time trying to make sure our paperwork is in order before we go, but in the meantime we’ve been inventorying EVERYTHING that goes into each box. Like, everything! 6 pairs boys socks, 4 mugs, 17 cd’s…to the point we’ve entered books in by title. And, for each item, there is a price attached to it as well. Lots and lots of work, and we have been so thankful for several friends who have spent hours at our house inventorying and listing out all the clothing that we’ve packed!! Some moments it feels like overkill, but there’s been a thread of consistency in the few stories we’ve come across of “easy” customs experiences…people who have said they’ve had very detailed lists have seemed to have an easier time passing their container through customs. We’d like to join their team!
We’ve found a customs agent who helped another missionary family (with the same visa) get their things into the country a few weeks ago and are going to pray that he is able to do the same with ours.
We’d hoped to call for a container right away after getting our visas, but we are so thankful we have taken a few days to really look into the process a bit better. Our goal is to get a few shipping quotes this week, and have a container secured by the end of the week.
Please pray! This is a big piece, and has the potential to be unbelievably stressful if we forget to hang on to His peace (which happens a lot quicker the more tired we get!). We know that God is bigger than customs, and we are excited to see how He will work through the whole process, but we’re also steeling ourselves up for some nailbiters. Thanks for joining us!