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 the local folks. There actually are a lot of conspiracies at work among them, 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 there was coming to an early end.
The next two weeks were very full. At the time we had visitors from group: a fellow who came to make a film for us and a prospective new worker arrived. They joined in on our discussions about the future of work here.
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 authorities decided decided not to send an escort with us to the border, which was not at all a disappointment to us. So 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 border guards may not have received news of our happenings.
We were pleasantly surprised at the Bulgarian border to find that no news had been given to them about our exit. 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 the other country meant that my foreign car license plate was now invalid.
Registering the car went well. The next task was to take the license plates from the other country 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 the stamp on the paper was absolutely critical to our reentry into the countgryt. The Lord had guided.
Picture: A castle on Lake Starnberger