After returning the money to the bank we continued on with the difficult drive to the Eastern end of Greece over more narrow and winding roads, arriving at the last city by nightfall.
We had hoped to make it all the way to the first city in our goal country that day, but the Lord had other plans. It turned out that our mistake of forgetting our passports and the subsequent delay were actually His protection.
We found out that several American servicemen had been shot by terrorists at the airport in that city the afternoon we arrived at the border, and the main roads into the city had all been closed. If we had gotten there on our timetable, we’d have been stuck for hours in that traffic. Another three star Jesus sighting!
The next morning, after a reasonable night’s sleep, we set off for the border. This crossing was a formidable one in our minds—what would happen if they refused us entry? We prayed for the Lord’s help. And He answered; it turned out to be pretty routine, and we pressed on toward the next big city.
The plan was to stay there with a worker from Word of Life, Howie Williams. He’d sent us instructions of how to get to his place, but we did not understand some points, like, “turn left at the bufe.” I had no idea what a bufe was. Now after living in this new country I know that it’s a little kiosk that sells newspapers and snacks. It did not surprise me that we quickly got lost after we left the freeway.
I stopped and asked directions several times, showing the locals the address Howie had given us. We seemed to be going in the right direction, as the people always pointed us further on. Later, however, we learned that this is what the locals do when they don’t know where the place is—they say “Go further on!”
Finally we were directed down a narrow, cobble stoned street that got steeper and steeper. It finally came out into an area filled with little car repair shops. I saw one with a sign for Volkswagen repairs, so I stopped there to ask for directions, thinking that someone might speak German.
The owner didn’t speak any German, but knew a little English. He looked at the address and began to give me directions: “This way, turn left at third street, then go five blocks, turn right at….” My head was not absorbing these directions.
A customer came by at that moment and looked over the mechanic’s shoulder at the address, then made a comment in Turkish.
The mechanic smiled and said, “This man’s car is done. He is going to this place, follow him.”
Now think about the elements of this event: to find the one repair place where someone spoke some English—a rare thing we found out–to arrive at just the right time when a customer was getting ready to leave and would be going from there right to our destination, then to have the customer take the initiative to come over and see what was happening and then offer to lead us to our friend’s home. This was definitely God’s direction and protection! A four star God sighting! God set us free from our ignorance and helplessness.
We never would have found Howie’s place by following anyone’s directions. The route was very complicated, but our “angel” knew the way and we stuck to him like glue. When we arrived at the right spot—in front of the factory Howie had mentioned–there was no sign of Howie’s apartment building.
A woman threw open the window of an apartment and called out something in French. Our “angel” replied and the woman pointed to a building a bit further on, our destination. We thanked everyone profusely, being so glad to be “found” again!
Howie helped us carry all of our stuff up to his small apartment, and then said, “Let’s go out to the bakkal and get some food for supper.” He was speaking what we came to call “half-Eng:” inserting local words into English sentences. We learned that a “bakkal” was a small corner grocery store.
Howie and I went down the three flights of stairs and out onto the street where I was startled to hear gunshots. I looked to the left and saw two men with pistols shooting at each other. Fortunately both seemed to be bad shots, but Howie didn’t seem interested in waiting around to see the outcome.
“Let’s go around this way,” he said calmly, like this was something normal. And it turned out that it was normal. The country was in the midst of a civil war and thirty or more people were shot on the streets every day in fights like the one we witnessed.
It was the leftists against the rightists, Ms against Communists, conservatives against liberals. We learned that in the university classrooms there were usually soldiers with loaded rifles sitting in the middle row from front to back. The leftist students then sat on the left and the rightists on the right of the soldiers. That was the only way to keep them from literally killing each other in the classrooms.
It was a brutal, dangerous time. We had stepped out of beautiful and peaceful Connecticut into a war zone. And anarchy, we found, was not limited to politics. Traffic rules were ignored by most drivers and pedestrians. Traffic lights were considered decorations, sidewalks were for parking, not walking and the pedestrians walked in the streets.
When we came to one intersection where the traffic did stop for a red light, the cars were lined up six abreast. When the light turned green, the car on the far right turned left, cutting across everyone else’s path. But the locals seemed used to this, letting the car pass in front of them and then going on their way. We quickly learned that one had to be always on alert for the unexpected.
Picture: the big, crowded city in 1980