Daze 3 at the Border

by Jim on 17 April 2010

This is the fourth and final part of the story about our recent time at the US/Mexico border.  You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

So here we are in the morning, still waiting for that important document from Mexico City, and thinking that maybe our van was fixed.

We were a tad bit tired, not sure why.

To get back into Mexico…

We were uncomfortable – not in either of our home countries, anxious to get home.  We had seen very little of each other in the past two days.  We got up, had breakfast, and packed up.  Our document from Mexico City had arrived.  But would it be what they wanted?

We decided to make a few stops before leaving Laredo, to give the van a chance to break down again if it wanted to (as you recall, we hadn’t driven it much since it was repaired).

It was working fine.  We got gas, picked up a few things, and headed for the border.

We had gone through the toll booth and were heading to the bridge.  Too late to turn around.

Before leaving, I had carefully prepared all our paperwork for the border.  I grabbed it now, ready to show the officials.  Four visas, three passports.


No, really, there were four a few minutes ago!!  We both searched and searched.  Finally we had to pull over.  Out popped one of those efficient official people.

"Anything wrong?" he asked.

Of course we had to explain we were looking for a passport.

I was sure it had been there with the others minutes before.  But it had vanished.  Had it fallen in the parking lot back in Laredo?  If so, how would we be able to turn around?  Would we have to cross over and then back?

Finally, we found it.  I have no idea how it got where it was, but I’m just glad it appeared!

The first time through we had "declared", so this time we went through the "nothing-to-declare" line.  But of course, with a trailer, they waved us over to stop.

Three soldiers with guns took it upon themselves to check us out (do we really look that suspicious??).  The one soldier asked Shari (I was already out getting ready to unlock the trailer) about our business.  When he found out we were Canadians living in Mexico City, he asked,"What’s the matter – don’t you like your country?"

"We like both!" Shari answered.

This time, they really wanted to search.  They dug to the bottom of each bin, into each suitcase, asking questions as they went.  I think they only other place we’d been searched so much was last summer as we tried to enter Canada.

I was starting to wonder if he was going to keep searching until he could find something to complain about.  But then God let it loose again – the rain – it started to pour.

The soldiers quickly waved us on.

Can we register our Vehicles?

We arrived back at the vehicle registration place.  Again, when you enter Mexico with a foreign vehicle you generally get a temporary permit.

This time we all went in (no more running down van batteries, thank you!).

Don’t forget our running theme – we had two overtired, bored kids.  Not a lot to do in government offices.  You’d think they’d consider adding a play area.

I brought all my paperwork to the right person.  He carefully checked every document, every number.  he carefully entered everything in the computer.  After this lengthy process, he informed me he needed a copy of the other side of the trailer paper.

So I went and got a copy.

This time, a lady was helping me – and I went through the whole process again.  Checking all the paperwork, carefully entering every number in the computer, double-checking.

I had to pay by credit card.  She handed me the machine, asking me to "sign".

How?  Where?

"Oh, you just enter your PIN."

Now I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but I’ve hardly ever – if ever – used my credit card PIN.  And please, don’t ask me to memorize a number.  I can’t remember my age, never mind a PIN number I never use.

However, I knew I had it on the computer in the van.  I ran through the pouring rain, got the number, and got back in line.

For the third time, we went through the whole process.  I paid.  We were registered!  And we drove on…

The trip back, in brief.

In Mexico, and all paperwork in order, FINALLY!  Two days later than expected, of course – and late enough in the day that any break was now out of the question.

There’s a 20km checkpoint in Mexico – our papers were checked, and it looked like another soldier was waving us over – but for some unknown reason he changed his mind and waved us on.

Later there was a police checkpoint – same thing, he waved us over to the side, then changed his mind and waved us on.

Things were going somewhat more smoothly.  Oh, I won’t mention the two times we were stopped by the police, or the wrong turn that landed us winding around in some little towns for an hour or two – you don’t need to hear about that.

You just need to hear that we made it back (though with a headlight burned out), all together, and ready to kiss Mexican soil.


I mentioned in my first post that I’m not writing this to complain – and I’m really not.  I just think a series of events like this ought to be documented.  And the fact that anyone has read this far amazes me.

We saw the grace and mercy of God in many details, and are thankful to be home.

We do, however, find ourselves needed to trust that grace and mercy more than ever.  We’re heading into the busiest time of our year, without having had the holiday/vacation that we felt we so desperately needed.  We see no time available to take a significant break in the next few weeks.  So we would appreciate your prayers that we would trust God, pace ourselves, and if it’s His will still find some time to maybe rest and spend some time together (ie not one with a mechanic and one at the store, or not all together working on homework – but, like, together).  (We see each other more and have more of a break at home than we did on our "holidays"!)

We’re excited about the next few weeks, but I think it’s our disorganization at this point that is allowing us to maintain sanity – we’re not organized enough yet to really realize how busy we are! 😉

But in the end, all we can do is thank God for taking us through this series of events, and trust that He’ll continue to be trustworthy, as He has been every single day up to the present.  And He never changes.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

June Vannatto April 17, 2010 at 8:17 pm

What an experience! Reading it “after the fact” had us rolling over laughing….but I’m sure you felt like crying many times! And we thought we had the experience of a lifetime with a station wagon
breaking down and starting between Three Hills and Thunder Bay! We replaced most of the electrical system before one wise mechanic discovered it was a belt! But we didn’t have kids, or a dead cat, or two languages, or border officials or a host of other things you dealt with. (Your description of the border officials checking and double checking the numbers and paperwork reminded us SO much of our African border crossings! )

And yes, document it, because 30 years later, we can laugh about our experiences…as you will also do 30 years from now!!

We will pray that you find time to somehow relax and that God will give you those moments of calm in the midst of the busyness of ministry and life.

Christine McDougall April 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Wow! What an experience!
Thank you for taking the time to share with us about your “vacation”. I read all four to the family. We laughed and ewwwed (especially about the dead cat). I know that one day you will be able to look back on this time, think fondly of it and have a good laugh.

We will be praying that God will help you find time to be together just the four of you for some family time and that you will have your “tanks” recharged ready for the next few busy weeks.
Love to all.
In Christ
The McDougall Family
Doug, Christine, Arianna, Carolyn and Caleb

Jim April 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Oh my, that sounds like quite an experience between Three Hills and Thunder Bay (that doesn’t exactly narrow down where you were!) 😉 !

Glad you all found it entertaining. It makes it all worthwhile. 🙂

June Vannatto April 19, 2010 at 5:19 am

Well the problem started somewhere outside of Three Hills….and we did the “breakdown, got it fixed, hit the road again” cycle all the way to Thunder Bay where God sent a kind minister who we had never met and a great mechanic to solve the problem. But we didn’t document the story (too busy with Paul’s sister’s wedding which happened as soon as we got home) to document it…..so 30 years later it goes down as one of those lifetime experiences…but probably we lost a few neat details along the way!!

Grandma C. April 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I’ve finally finished reading the whole saga. (Dad wondered how I had the patience – I guess it’s a “gal thing.”) I laughed out loud too at times, reading through this ordeal, but most often it was, “Oh no!”

I think you could almost write a full-length book about JUST trying to get from the USA to Mexico again. If not, a feature for a magazine. And think of the sermon illustrations! Wow!

Thank YOU for typing all these details out. God doesn’t waste a thing in our lives, so it will be exciting to see what comes of this. (If not in this life, in our heaenly home!)


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