Ministry’s mission held up in Liberian port

Courtesy photo Dub Hays of Clovis, back center, is in Liberia waiting for containers of relief supplies to be released by the government so he can distribute the items to Liberians in need.

Sharna Johnson

It wasn’t raising the money or gathering the donations or even arranging for shipping to the West African country that turned out to be challenging — it was getting the items through the government to the people who need them.

In November, four shipping containers of relief supplies and Christian ministry items from Clovis made it to a port in Liberia but no further after officials unexpectedly imposed additional taxes of more than $5,000 to get the items through customs.

And to top it off, in the next couple days, the containers will begin incurring $400 daily fees for not being moved from the port, according to Jerry Fisher, a volunteer with The Holy Cross Movie Ministries of Clovis.

“We don’t have the money to get it out,” she said. “It was supposed to be duty free shipment but they’ve added a bunch of taxes… At this point the containers are still in the port. We have not been able to get them out.”

The relief supplies — more than 1,600 bags of clothing, 4,000 pairs of shoes, 6,000 stuffed animals and toys and thousands of used Bibles — were donated in Clovis, Portales, Las Cruces and Lubbock, Fisher said.

The organization raised $100,000 to purchase relief supplies and pay for shipping, all of which was spent getting the items to the country, Fisher said.

Since the supply delivery was stalled, Fisher said she has been going to area churches and other entities in an effort to raise money and get the word out in the hopes of raising the cash needed to move the containers out of port.

Fisher said William “Dub” Hays, founder of the organization, left Clovis to travel to Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 12 so he could be there to distribute the items when they arrived.

With this being the third mission trip Hays has done to the poverty stricken country since 2005, Fisher said it has always been challenging to get items there, but this experience has been the worst.

“You have to grease palms (to get things done). It’s a very, very poor nation and that’s the way they (government workers) get the money,” Fisher said. “It has just been unreal trying to get this accomplished.”

Liberian immigrant Phebe Fortt, of Modesto, Calif., runs a relief organization trying to help the people of her native country.

What the Clovis organization is experiencing is typical, Fortt said, describing government corruption and exploitation of relief agencies as common.

Fortt said in 2006, she herself had issues with the government trying to get a container of relief supplies through.

“I am a Liberian, born and raised there… and I had to fight for my rights when I got there to clear my (shipping) container. It’s common,” she said.

“It’s government resistance (to outside help). When we were there it seems like they kind of mold you to be corrupt just going through the process. When the government itself has issues, what do you do?”

Fortt said it often takes bribery or networking to get things through to the people who need them so desperately.

“I felt like if you don’t get in bed with them (financially and politically), then you are just left out in the cold,” She said.

“It is common, but it is very sad that it continues to happen. We are trying. These (government) people do not embrace us and I just don’t understand why because they need us. Maybe in time it will change.”

After her uncle was assassinated and her sister killed in front of her children, Fortt said she left Liberia in 1981, headed to America with her parent’s blessing.

Her parents were later killed in the early 1990s.

Fortt said she has devoted her life in America to helping her people in Liberia and even now continues striving to encourage the Liberian government to accept and encourage the help of outsiders.

A non-denominational mission, Fisher said Hays shows the movie “The Passion of the Christ” to Liberians and distributes clothing, school supplies, Bibles and other items to those in need.

Fisher said she and another volunteer from Clovis will be joining Hays in Liberia Dec. 21 to assist with the mission.

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