Hearing Aids Held Hostage

I’m hoping Sora will share an uplifting birth story with a cute Filipino baby to cheer your spirits and glorify God. In the meantime, here’s another episode of “First World in the Third World Problems”, with a prayer request.

We thought we would be able to get our kids’ hearing aids repaired here in the Philippines. After striking out at three different audiologists, we found an Oticon dealer a few blocks away from our house, and they shipped the two aids — one Isaiah’s, the other Naomi’s, to their branch in Manila. No dice. The Manila office didn’t have the correct part for Isaiah’s aid, and didn’t get the other working to Naomi’s satisfaction.

So we shipped the aids to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the world’s kindest and most wonderful audiologist, Lori G. of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Audiology Dept., not only persuaded Oticon to honor a warranty that had expired while the aids were in Manila, but also threw in a loaner spare for Naomi just in case. She then sent them back… via FedEx.

They arrived in the Philippines in a speedy enough manner, but not to us. A check on the FedEx website showed, “Clearance Delay“. I went to the Bajada FedEx office to see what the problem was. They gave me a customer service number to call. We tried calling, to no avail. They have called us back a few times now, with no result. We have incredibly frustrating circular conversations in which they tell us, “There is a delay,” and we say, “Yes, we have seen that on the tracking website. We beg you, tell us what to do to get it un-delayed.” And they say, “Let us take your phone number, ma’am/sir.” We explain again and again that the package contains medical equipment that our children need, and that it is not being “imported” — we sent them out of the country for repair and they are being returned. The next time FedEx calls, they ask, “Are these for personal or business use?” We swear up and down that these are our kids’ personal hearing aids. (No, we are not posing as missionaries to hide a blackmarket hearing aid dealership! And if we were, would we be importing them three at a time, and in used condition?)

It has been suggested to us (by other missionaries who have had bad experiences) that we are just dealing with corruption, that the “clearance delay” is an excuse to charge extra processing fees and storage fees and whatever other fees can be invented to take advantage of our necessity. At this point, we would welcome the opportunity to fork over a few thousand pesos and get the aids back in our kids’ ears! But no one we’ve talked to has so much as hinted that money could solve the problem, or indeed that it can be solved at all. On Monday, it will be three weeks since the package reached the Philippines and it seems no closer to delivery now than it was then.

Now, to the prayer request. We know this is a small matter in the grand scheme of things and that our children are very blessed to have hearing aids at all. We see naked children in the streets daily. We see children crippled, blind, and malnourished. Our kids are rich. They, like their dad, are accustomed to walking around with several thousand dollars worth of electronic miracles tucked into their ears to remedy their hearing loss. And while the raison d’essence of properly functioning hearing aids is that the wearer may take them for granted, we are very thankful for our kids’ hearing aids. But we’d be even more thankful if they were out of FedEx’s hands and back in ours.

As Proverbs 21:1 saith, “A petty bureaucrat’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Please pray that He will turn whatever hearts need turning so that our kids can have their hearing aids back.

Below: Isaiah not having a fun time while new earmold impressions are taken last month – a process that needs to happen a couple times a year for young, growing ears.

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