More from my autobio
In October of 1979 we got approval to buy our tickets and we opted for the least expensive. This meant that the airlines would pick the date for us within a certain time period.
When we got the news that we would fly the first week of November, we went to the church and spent most of the day in prayer and praise, wanting to begin this new phase of our lives by seeking His face and putting it all in His hands.
Our church family and home family gathered around us to help with the packing and preparing. We were blessed in being able to keep a lot of personal things in the attic of the old house where we were living. Other things we wanted to get rid of were put aside for friends to sell for us in a yard sale the next spring.
Mom and Dad drove us to JFK Airport in the business van. As we walked down the ramp onto the plane, Mom cried, knowing this was an end of an era for our family. Barbara also cried, not just for the separation, but also for leaving the farm and her life in Connecticut. She said it was harder for her than when she’d left her parents in Germany.
I led the way down the walkway, but I was not thinking about the past, but about the future. I did not cry.
We flew initially to Germany to spend some days with Barbara’s parents. My first task there was to buy a car. I found an old VW variant, a small station wagon with the engine in the rear. When I told the salesman that I planned to drive it to the Middle East, he laughed.
“It may make it there, if you’re lucky, but don’t expect much more from it.” he said. However this faithful little car not only got us safely to the Middle East, but made the same 1800 mile (3000 kilometer) trip another four times as well.
While in Germany we attended a conference for people working with Ts in Europe and were warned that the main road through Yugoslavia to our new country was really dangerous. Everyone said that it was better to take back roads instead.
We also heard about the shortage of basic supplies in the country, so we stocked up with toilet paper, light bulbs, cooking oil and a tank for extra gasoline.
We packed what we could inside the car and tied the rest to the roof rack, including a plastic tricycle for Nat who was now eighteen months old.
We set off at the beginning of December making our way slowly down through Germany, stopping to visit several of Barbara’s friends. We also visited Litzen, the town in Austria where we’d worked three years before.
Climbing the switchbacks over the Alps, we left Western Europe behind and descended into Yugoslavia. We were following the main route between Europe and the Middle East, so the two-lane road was filled with many trucks traveling in both directions.
It was a constant game of catching up to a line of trucks, looking for an opportunity to pass them, then dropping back to pick up speed and zoom by. In some places the road was so straight that it was hard to tell how far away the oncoming traffic was, or how fast it was approaching. “Should I pass or shouldn’t I?” was my constant question to myself.
Along the sides of the road were the wrecks of cars and trucks whose drivers had misjudged the traffic and not made it. Grim warnings of the dangers we faced.
We decided to get off the main road, so Barbara, being an excellent map-reader, took out our map and began to navigate for us.
The side roads had fewer trucks, but lots more tractors and wagons, most of which came out of the muddy fields and spread a thick layer of mud over the road, making it slick and dangerous.
We stopped to get gas and I was pleased to find that the attendants spoke a little German, enough to communicate about gas and bathrooms.
Shortly after leaving the gas station we were pulled over by a policeman. He came to the window and said something totally unintelligible to me.
“He wants the car papers,” said Barbara.
“How do you know that?” I asked in amazement.
“He used some words similar to German,” she replied.
The policeman took the papers, looked them over. Then leaned back and said something else, pointing off to our right.
“He said we should go back to the main road,” said Barbara.
“How do you know that? He wasn’t speaking German!” I asked, amazed again.
“I just understood it,” she said.
I thought to myself, “It is really great having an intelligent German wife!”
So we returned to the main highway. That evening we stopped in the small city of Osijeck and stayed in a hotel, which was another adventure.
Pictures: just before we left, and leaving with Mom and Dad