Growth and Turmoil, 1981

Growth and Turmoil, 1981

 
In 1981 we began to get new recruits for our team. First came two single women. Betty had spent thirteen years in Iran and since she couldn’t go back because of the revolution of 1979, she decided to join us. She proved to be a very helpful person with all the experience she had had. Her roommate Dolly came with no overseas experience and proved to be the opposite of Betty, unfortunately and in the end I had to send her home.
 
These two new teammates began to come to John with requests. Betty suggested that we have a weekly team prayer meeting. Dorothy wanted more help with language. John, however, was too engrossed in his work with the foundation to listen to them. He brushed off their requests by giving his philosophy of leadership, learned as a sergeant in the Air Force: “I make the decisions, you follow.”
 
As a result, Betty and Dorothy began to come to me with their requests, questions and desires, making me the de facto leader of the team. This put me in an awkward position, and stirred up some conflict between John and myself. However, after some discussion, he agreed to having a team prayer meeting and to meet other desires of the team.
 
In April of 1980 a family with two children joined us. Dan and Nancy were self-sufficient pioneer types and fit in well. Little did Dan know that within six weeks of arrival he would become both the field leader and team leader, but he was the type of man who could rise to the challenge.
 
Since the foundation was now fully established, in April John suggested that he and I apply for work and residence permits through it. That way we could put all our time and effort into ministry instead of having to work at teaching English, too. With great hopes we made our applications. The police accepted them willingly and told us they would let us know when to pick up our permits.
 
Several weeks later in May the police sent a notice for us to come. We went with the expectation of receiving the permits we’d applied for, but were shocked to learn that not only were our applications denied, but that we had only twenty-four hours to leave the country! We were to be escorted to the border and deported!
 
After some intense discussion with John, the police granted us two weeks to wrap things up before having to leave. John asked the reason for our deportation, The police said they couldn’t tell us the reason for our expulsion because it was “top secret!”
 
Later we found out that in the report from the Black Sea Coast, the police accused us of collecting money from the villagers instead of giving them help. And what was their version of why we were “collecting” money? To help Jimmy Carter! Amazingly convoluted thinking.
 
This was our introduction to the wide-spread conspiracy-thinking of locals. There actually are a lot of conspiracies at work among locals, so they assume that others also operate with secret agendas.
 
Our expulsion was a grave turn of events: instead of settling in with solid residence permits, it looked like our time in our new country was coming to an early end.
 
The next two weeks were very full. At the time we had visitors from our group: a fellow who came to make a film for us and a prospective new worker. They joined in on our discussions about the future work in the country.
 
John tried to think of how to keep everything going while he was away and of how to anticipate all that could happen and prepare for it. The rest of us felt he should let go and turn things over to those who remained. There was some tension in those meetings, but in the end John wisely gave up trying to do it all and turned his attention to getting ready to leave.
We decided to make our required exit but then try to come back as soon as possible and see what would happen. We weren’t going to give up so easily.
 
There was not only our own household to think of, but also the three children staying with us. Dan and Nancy agreed to take the two girls, and a responsible single German woman moved into our apartment to watch little Solomon. It was good to have such team help to rely on.
 
In the end, the police decided not to send an escort with us to the border, which was not at all a disappointment to us. We set off one fine June day, heading to Bulgaria instead of Greece. This seemed to be a shorter way than the one we’d originally come on and we could return through Greece, where the border guards may not have received news of our expulsion.
 
We were pleasantly surprised at the Bulgarian border to find that no news had been given to them about our exit or about our being expelled. We didn’t volunteer any information either and made a smooth exit.
 
Communist-controlled Bulgaria had the feel of a large prison. We were not allowed to stop anywhere other than for gas. It seemed to be much more oppressive than Yugoslavia.
 
On this trip we established a pattern that we followed on the subsequent nine trips by car to or from Germany. We drove the whole first day and stayed overnight somewhere near the border. Then we drove all the second day, all that night and then arrived on the third day in Southern Germany. We often stopped there for a break at the Word of Life castle on Starnberger Lake.
 
On this trip, the Lord had a wonderful surprise for us at the castle, a lovely God sighting: there was a reunion of students from Barbara’s Bible school taking place. It was a very refreshing time for her after the stress of being expelled and making the long trip.
 
Barbara’s parents were glad to have us back. And they were appalled that we wanted to return to such an uncertain situation, but after one initial attempt, they didn’t try to dissuade us.
 
One of my major tasks was to re-register the car in Germany; losing my residence permit in meant that my foreign car license plate was now invalid.
 
Registering the car went well. The next task was to take the license plates to a Consulate and turn them in. The man there accepted them and gave me a little paper saying that I surrendered them. I looked at the paper, and hesitated.
 
“I think there should be some kind of stamp on this paper,” I said.
“No, I don’t think so,” he replied, “this should be enough.”
“Well, I’ve been in your country long enough to know that a paper without an official stamp is pretty useless,” I said. “Please put a stamp on it.”
The man sighed. “Alright,” he said and taking the paper, he stamped it and signed over the stamp. “There, now you have what you want.”
 
It turned out that having that stamp on the paper was absolutely critical to our reentry. The Lord had guided
 
Picture below: little Solomon with Nat

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