We enjoyed getting together regulalry with our friends, Dan and Nancy, and Betty and Dolly. They were still in full time language study while Barbara and I were very involved in the work of the foundation with Charles and Henry.
One big positive in this situation was that I was not teaching English anymore. When we had gone to Germany, I’d had to leave my job, so we now stayed on tourist visas.
I talked with the foundation’s lawyer about getting another job but he told me that it would be impossible. However, he did not know the Sovereign Lord we served.
For the time being we just made an exit every three months to renew our visas. This was the boys’ favorite time of our stay in the country, as we often made our exits to an island in the Med. Sea and had to “suffer for Jesus” on the beach for a few days!
At the end of December in 1981 we decided to make our next visa renewal exit to an Arab country to the East. We got our visas from the embassy in Ankara and set off in our faithful car down toward the coast. There we turned towards the East and followed the sea towards the place to exit.
It took us two days to reach the border, the last part being through a mountainous area where we were stopped several times by soldiers who searched the car, counted our money and asked lots of questions. We found out later that this was an area known for smuggling as well as for other nefarious activities.
We reached the border in the evening and passed through the our country’s formalities without any problem. However, on the other side the policeman looked at our passports and shook his head. “There is a problem,” he said. “You have a tourist visit, but your wife has a transit visa.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“You can re-enter the country you just exited, but your wife must go to another country first.”
I took the passports and looked at the visas. “They both look the same to me,” I said.
The policeman pointed to the Arabic script on the page, “Look here, see this little mark on yours; it is not on your wife’s. That’s the difference.”
We could not go back to home without getting entry and exit stamps to this Arab country, and if we went into it, how would Barbara get back?
I went out and told Barbara about it. We took it to the Lord and began by praising Him for the situation, thanking Him for what He would do and asking for guidance. As we were praying, a man came and told me to come back inside.
The policeman asked for our passports again, “I will help you,” he said. “But you must go to the police in the city where you will stay and have this transit visa changed. Ok?”
“OK!” I said, and praised God for His quick answer.
We passed through the border and drove to the nearest city. This country had earlier been under French control, so many people spoke French. I was looking forward to having Barbara make use of her considerable French studies to be our interpreter here.
However, when we came to a hotel, Barbara could not remember one word of French! Her newly learned language had covered it over! So I had to make arrangements for a room using pantomime.
The next day we went to the police and were not surprised to find several other foreigners there, also having their transit visas changed to tourist visas. It seems it was part of an agreement between the embassy and the border in an attempt to get bribes. But the Lord had used that merciful policeman to protect us from having to give any.
One interesting thing about this trip was the great difference we saw between the culture of our host country and Arab culture. Our people are curious, ask lots of questions and are quick to offer help and hospitality to strangers. The Arabs simply ignored us. It was like we were invisible!
We were approached by only one local, an Armenian nominal Christian. He took us under his wing and dragged us to a number of places. One was to a farm where the owner gave us a nice meal and in the evening we drank tea around a big, roaring fire. It was wild and romantic.
On the way home our headlights picked up a man standing beside the road. He had a beard and long hair, was dressed in shabby jeans and held a machine gun. He waved for us to stop. I stepped on the gas and kept going.
Our local “friend” said, “You should have stopped, that was a policeman.” Could have fooled me! I was not going to take a chance on a lonely dark road in the middle of nowhere with someone holding a big machine gun!
On our trip back into home we went through a police check and all of the men had beards, long hair, and shabby blue jeans, both pants and jackets. Our guide had probably been right.
It was a real pleasure to come to the border and pull up to the customs man, to hear him say, “Welcome! We found your coming pleasant!” Back to the land of hospitality and visibility!
Picture: the boys in the crystal clear water of Med. Sea