John, our team leader was an artist in drawing, carving and in life. He looked at things differently than others around him and many times this was an advantage.
Although he was involved in the little local fellowship, he longed for a greater outreach and a bigger harvest. Before we arrived, he had come up with the idea of having a foundation that could give an official structure to offer social help as a means of making contacts to share the gospel.
John had linked up with an organization in the States with similar goals. This group agreed to help support the foundation, so John had begun the paper work of setting it up. His main need was to find four local believers who were willing to stick their necks out and join a foreigner in this venture. In the end he did find the four, but only one of them proved reliable.
When the paperwork was completed, we rented an office and hired Charles’ nephew, Henry, to be the watchman, helper and go-fer. In the beginning, Henry lived with us and became a member of the family. He was diligent, helpful and orderly.
However, he had a lingering cough that seemed to get worse. When John took him to a doctor, it turned out that Henry had open TB, an actual hole in his lung. Since he had been coughing on the boys for weeks, we were advised to get tested and, if necessary, inoculated. We went to the TB center in the city and got our tests done.
When we came back for the results, Barbara’s was fine, the result of her having been ino
culated as a child, but the rest of us needed to be inoculated. We were ushered into a room with three chairs and a desk. On the desk were a big glass syringe and a candle. The nurse came in, lit the candle, filled the syringe and passed the needle through the flame. She inoculated me, passed the needle through the flame again, used it on Josh and after another cursory “sterilization,” inoculated Nat–who knows how many others had been inoculated with that same needle!
This was our introduction to the fact that many did not yet really believe in germs, (that has certainly changed over the last 40 years, with the medical care there in private hospitals being on par with the US) including many in the medical profession. They said they believed in them, but in practice did not act as if germs existed. Nat’s inoculation point got infected and took six months to heal. But thankfully, none of us got TB.
Contrary to the doctor’s recommendation that we just put Henry out on the street and forget about him, John arranged to get him into a state sanatorium for treatment. Henry recovered and is still alive today, married and a father.
Summer came and with it an increase in the fighting. Every night we heard several bombs explode, often followed by the firing of machine guns. Then the dogs would bark. We had trouble getting enough sleep.
There was still nothing in the newspapers to tell us what was happening, but there were often soldiers in full battle dress with loaded rifles on street corners. The situation was clearly becoming more and more dangerous.
One time when I went to Tom’s house for a language lesson, there was a bullet hole through his front door, through the kitchen door and out the door beyond that.
“It was from a firefight soldiers had with terrorists,” he said. “We lay on the floor and the bullets went over our heads, so we were safe.”
Another time when I came to visit, Tom was so shaken that we couldn’t do our lesson. He had been at a teahouse that morning when someone drove by and opened fire on the place with a machine gun. A number of people had been killed.
This was not an isolated incident; another acquaintance of ours told how his little grocery store was machine-gunned while he ducked behind the counter for protection.
An American soldier in our city was killed when he tried to start his booby-trapped car. I started looking under my car for bombs each time I got in. Things were going from bad to worse.
It never occurred to us, however, that we should leave. We had been called and would not leave until He called us away, as He did some 30 years later.
Picture: Henry and his wife with their first child.