Sunday Morning. Well, we never made it to Ohio for our family gathering. We went to the airport a second time on Friday, but found that our schedule had been changed to Sunday, so we lost our seats. Another chance to praise God in trust and accept what He allowed. So here we are at home still. He knows what is best. More now from my autobio.
At the end of the training conference in Belgium, our team piled into an old Volkswagen bus and we headed off to Austria. On our way south, we stopped in Bad Hersfeld to pick up Barbara and Josh.
Barbara’s parents were willing to have the team sleep over, so everyone got out their sleeping bags and spread them out in the living room.
The next day we headed further south, leaving the hot weather of Germany behind as we drove past Salzburg and entered the mountains of Austria, arriving at the little town of Litzen.
Although there were some sunny days during our time in Austria, it rained a lot in the mountains and temperatures were cool, if not cold, most of the time. Our team leader had rented a three-story house which was built into a hillside, meaning it would be even more cold and damp.
There was no evangelical church in this town. Austria is heavily Catholic, although most Austrians are pretty nominal in their faith. At one house when I asked if they had a Bible, they brought me a hymnbook instead. They didn’t even know what a Bible was!
We brought boxes of books with us and were told to sell the books by going door to door, and to use the money earned to buy our food. What a great incentive to pray and trust God, along working hard at selling!
We were the only couple on the team and our main function was to be chaperons. Along with that Barbara did a lot of the cooking and shopping for food, while I joined the team’s booksellers.
We were also the base for two traveling ministry teams that showed films in the towns around. The first time one team came and stayed overnight, one of their members went into our only bathroom in the morning and stayed in there for two hours.
He took a nice long bath, used up all the hot water for the day, and left the other twenty-four of us waiting outside the bathroom door. There were some unhappy campers. When he finally came out, he was amazed to find people angry with him! Such are the lessons of team life.
Josh was the team “pet.” Everyone wanted to hold him. After one young fellow was done playing with him, he set nine-month-old Josh down on the floor and was very surprised that he fell over.
“Can’t he stand yet?” he asked, having no idea that many children don’t walk until they are a year old.
During our time in Austria, Josh cried almost every night from about 1 to 4 am. I walked him back and forth, up and down, but to no avail. As I became more and more worn out over the weeks, I had an urge to throw him out the third story window! Of course it was one that I wholeheartedly rejected. “But,” I said to myself, “now I can understand where some cases of child abuse come from.”
Barbara’s parents came down by train to visit us, and we were allowed to take them out with the team van. We went to a café where they bought us cake and tea, which was a nice treat during a summer of frugal living.
I went out with the other team members each day, going door to door to sell books. This was not something I naturally enjoyed, but as we were called to it, I joined in. Besides we all wanted to eat: no sales, no food.
The Lord supplied help for me in this uncomfortable venture through Josh. Whenever possible, I took him along in a backpack carrier. When I rang the doorbell, I’d put a book into his little hand and after my little speech about selling good Christian books, he’d hold it out to the person that answered the door. For some reason we sold more books than anyone else!
One door I knocked on was opened by a woman in the headscarf and the baggy “shalvar pants” of a Middle Eastern villager. She spoke no German, and of course I couldn’t speak any of her language. I held out the book to her, but she just shook her head, backed into the house and closed the door.
I stood there, struck by my inability to communicate and by the woman’s refusal to even look at the book. “So this is what it’s like for Middle Easterners,” I thought, “no understanding, no desire, no openness. How will they hear? How will they understand?” I turned away with a heart that was becoming more and more burdened for these people.
Later, as I was praying about this encounter, it was as if the Lord said to me, “In three years you will be on the field telling these people about me.” This was an experience similar to when He told me that I would be married when I was twenty-eight and it had come true: we had married one month before my 28th birthday. So this new date and message He gave me needed to be taken seriously. I tucked it all away in my mind.
Throughout the summer we sold thousands of books, hung hundreds of posters advertising the evangelical radio station, and held lots of evening meetings. There were no visible results at the time, but today there is an evangelical church there, born out of those efforts and the people who stayed to follow up on our Summer’s work.