The Summer of 1980 came and with it an increase in the fighting on the streets. 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 my language tutor 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 tea house 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.
During that summer Nat woke up every morning with the call to prayer, which came before 5 am, so I was up with him. It did help me get some more time in with the Lord, and I tried to look at it as an opportunity. However, the combination of lack of sleep from all the bombs, the ongoing adjustment to culture, the surrounding violence and the pressures of language study made us more weary by the day.
I saw how tired I was when one night Barbara asked me to fill the diaper-laden washing machine with water. This wringer washer came with the apartment and was much better than having none, but had its interesting points.
We had to put water in it with a hose, and to complete a load required running all the clothes through the wringer twice, once after washing and again after rinsing. I would tape my local language word lists on the wall and work on them while running the many diapers through the wringer.
That evening I put the water hose into the washer, turned it on and watched carefully until it reached the proper level. Then I went to bed and fell asleep immediately.
After a while Barbara nudged me. “Hmph?” I mumbled groggily. “Do you hear water running?” she asked.
“I’ll go check,” I said. I swung my feet out of bed and stepped into an inch of water! Then it hit me that I’d brought the water level in the washing machine to the right point, but failed to shut the faucet off! Now this whole end of our apartment was flooded and the rug in the bedroom was soaked.
We leaped out of bed and began to clean things up. I wanted to hang the soaking wet rug over the railing on our balcony, but fortunately Barbara first looked over the edge and saw the glow of our landlord’s cigarette as he sat in the dark on his balcony below us. We spread the rug out elsewhere to dry.
The next day Barbara found Nat lying on his stomach on the balcony, trying to swim in a puddle that was left from our night’s adventures.
One scary and seemingly significant event occurred while we lived in that apartment. While we were studying, we heard a yelp from the boys’ room and ran to find Josh lying flat on his back with a safety pin in each hand. He had stuck the pins into the 220 outlet to see what would happen.
Providentially God protected him; he didn’t even get any burns. But from then on Josh was actively interested in and amazingly competent with electronic devices. We wondered if maybe the shock had crystalized the chips in his blood stream!
Picture of little Nat with Barbara in the background