On our way to the Middle East in November of 1979, we flew first to Germany, to spend some days with Barbara’s parents. There I bought 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 Turkey, 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 our new country, but made the same 1800 mile (3000 kilometer) trip another four times as well.
We heard about the shortage of basic supplies in the country we were going to, so we stocked up with toilet paper, light bulbs, cooking oil and a tank for extra gasoline.
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, a two lane road that 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.
In Greece we stayed over night in the city of Kavala.
The next morning we left early and drove two hours on curvy mountainous roads to the next big town, Komotini. We stopped so I could go to a bank and exchange some traveler’s checks.
When I got to the front of the line, the teller wanted to see my passport, but I didn’t have it with me. I talked him into cashing the check anyway and went back to the car.
I asked Barbara if she had my passport; she checked and didn’t find it; hers was also gone! Then we realized that we’d left them at the hotel in Kavala.
When you check into a hotel in Europe, they take your passport, both to report to the police about who is staying there and to make sure you pay; we’d forgotten to reclaim ours before departing.
So, we had to drive back over those turning, twisting roads again. Two hours later we were back Kavala. The desk clerk said he’d run down the street after us as we left, calling to us that we forgotten our passports, but we hadn’t heard him.
We went to get gas and as I paid, I found that the teller in the bank had given me way too much money. It seems he had cashed the checks as English Pounds rather than dollars because the traveler’s checks were from a bank in England.
As we drove back over those hilly, curvy roads for the third time, we talked about the situation and decided to go to the bank and return the money.
When we arrived, it was after hours and the bank was closed. But I banged on the window and someone came to the door. When I explained what I wanted, the man took me in.
All the employees were standing around the teller who had waited on me, commiserating with him because he had to pay out of his own pocket the extra cash he’d given me.
I was ushered into this group and I presented the man with the extra money. He looked up at me in awe and asked, “Are you an ambassador?”
I was taken aback by his question and missed the opportunity of a lifetime to say “Yes, I am an ambassador of the Most High King, Jesus!” I had been warned so often about being careful in witnessing in the Middle East, that I’d become too cautious. Instead I muttered, “No, I just want to be honest.” The man was very thankful.
We drove on, but were too late to enter our new country. The Lord had a reason for this, which I tell you about next Sunday.