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Battling Budapest


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Well, today was my last day of work. It was sad in a way. I worked with a lot of really great people and I enjoyed the daily professional interaction of working in a high traffic area of a good sized company. I had wonderful supervisors, semi-challenging tasks and decent pay, so it’s only natural that I would miss this job.
Yet, at the same time, there is also an eager anticipation and an excitement hidden away in my heart when I think about our upcoming journey to the mysterious land of Scotland. But, I say that the excitement is “hidden”, because, the first thing that hits me when I think of the upcoming trip is a bit of nervousness. I mean, I’m kind of in a pretty comfortable place right now as far as living arrangements go, and well, what I’m moving into is really quite unknown. I don’t know where I’ll be working, or what the day-to-day is going to look like. Sure that’s exciting, but it’s also a little nerve racking too!
Yet, when I really stop to think about the journey and what actually lies on the other side of the sea, awaiting us, I find myself plowing through any fears that I may have had into the excitement. The reason is that, I know that ultimately, it is going to be ok!
This whole upcoming move reminds me of a spontaneous journey I found myself on to Budapest. I was in Ukraine for a School that was supposed to be three, three-month trimesters. I had only finished one, and I wasn’t sure my finances would be sufficient for the rest of the six months. Besides running short on cash, and needing to pay the rest of the tuition, the leader of my school (whom I really liked and respected) had to leave because of a death in the family, and so I began to have doubts if this was really the right time to finish the school. I decided I would take a couple of days to pray about it and seek God’s voice on the matter.
Well, the next few days didn’t exactly play out the way I imagined them to! My friend called me from Western Ukraine and asked me if I wanted to take the train to spend a few days with him at a cabin in the hills. I told him of my plan to seek out the voice of God on this matter, and he assured me that we would do that together, so I said I’d call him back later with a definite answer. Within hours, I decided that would be awesome so I packed my clothes and made my way to the train station to catch the train that my friend had told me about, figuring that I’d call him from the station. But, when I got there the woman at the counter informed me that my friend had given me the wrong departure time. Instead of being there an hour early, I now only had 10 minutes to make my train. I quickly purchased the ticket and ran across the busy station toward my train, but stopped at a pay phone to quickly call my friend, Oleg.
After several rings, a man picked up the phone. I hurriedly asked if my friend was there in my broken Russian. “Niet” was his reply. “No problem” I spoke back quickly, and proceeded to leave a message for my friend. “Listen, I have very little time. Please tell Oleg that my train is coming in at such and such a time. Its earlier than he thought but that I’ll be there, Ok?
“I don’t understand” was his reply. I was getting a little frustrated. My Russian wasn’t perfect but this wasn’t an incredibly difficult conversation and he should have definitely been able to understand. In my frenzy to make my train (now leaving in about 5 min) I grabbed someone walking by.
“Please, explain to this guy on the phone that my train arrives at this time. Tell him to tell Oleg what time the train arrives.” The helpful guy took the handset from me and passed on the information, but a second later he cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and looked at me with a startling question, “Oleg who?” “Oleg Doob” I replied. As the man spoke this name back into the phone, the revelation struck me with humor and yet gravity. I took the phone back. “You mean you don’t know any Oleg Doob?” Sure enough, the man had never heard of him. Somehow, the only phone number that I had for my friend, was completely wrong.
I had about three minutes to decide what to do. In that time, my logic was something like this: Well, if I go, I can try to find him and make some calls to try and get the right number. And, if I don’tfind him, I’m sure it would prove to be an adventure! Besides that, I remembered that I needed to renew my visa. I knew I’d have to do it sometime, and that I needed to go to Budapest to do that. Why not now? If I couldn’t find Oleg, I’d go to Hungary. I had about $250 on me; I could probably make it to Budapest on that. I had to renew my Ukrainian visa because it was expiring in a matter of weeks anyway, so it seemed that whether I found him or not, the trip could be beneficial. I rushed to the train.
Well, even though my friend’s city, Lvov, was in western Ukraine, it was not on the way to Budapest. I ended up taking busses, to trains, to cars, and back to trains. I ended up going across the border with a gasoline smuggler, in his car. The trip was not quite the hop-skip-and-a-jump that I had figured in my three minute deliberation.
Once I did make it to Lvov, I never did meet up with my friend. However, there were some friendly people on the train who took me to their house, fed me and let me use their phone to try and track him down, but no luck. So, I went to Budapest and once I got there, I got some bad news.
They told me at the Ukrainian Embassy there, that it was going to cost me about $150 for my visa. Now, keep in mind, I entered Ukraine the first time on a single entry visa. That means that once you leave, you can not re enter until you get a new visa. Now that I had left, there was no turning back, I had to get that visa. But, what made the situation tough, was that the earliest I could get the visa was in 10 days.
When I counted all of my money and figured the cost of the visa and travel back… I had $4.00 a day to live off of. Four bucks a day?!? I started calling hostels and found that the cheapest one I could find was $7 bucks a day. So, I could get a bed for a few days and then sleep on the street for a few days, but that would mean that I couldn’t eat anything. And, I knew no one there!
Man, that was quite a predicament. But, you know what? Despite the obvious dangers involved in being stranded in one of the world’s major cities as a foreigner, I had a strong sense that it would be fine! Yeah, you could say that to go there like that, and then assume that God would take care of me is reckless or even presumptuous, and in some cases, you may be right, but, I didn’t put my self in this position to test God. I ended up there mostly because of… bad planning more than anything else. But it was bad planning with the attitude that, no matter what, it is going to be ok! Faith. And, it was more than ok.
I ended up hooking up with some Christians thanks to a phone book with an international church in it. And, I ended up having one of the best weeks of my life. I toured the whole city. I made some wonderful friends and even hooked up with some students doing their internship at a school called Bethany College of Missions. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s where I heard about Bethany. It was a great time of really experiencing God’s faithfulness in the midst of a situation that was completely out of my control. And, in the midst of it, He even led me to what would be the next step of my life.
When reflecting on that story, I liken the experience to rock-climbing with a full harness and ropes. I had faith that God would take care of me and that if I fell, I would not be dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Rather, I would be caught in the safety line of my Creator. It doesn’t mean I won’t get banged up a bit now and again, but, ultimately, I am safe with Him. And, that kind of faith results in peace regardless of how tumultuous the situation.
And the faith that I’m talking about is really a natural thing. It’s a result of what the eyes of the heart have seen. Like when I look upon the sheer power of a snow-capped mountain range, the eyes of my heart fall upon the strength of its Creator. And, when I see a beautiful sunset, the eyes of my heart are enlightened to see the beauty of the Sovereign Artist. And, what’s more, is when I dwell on the cross and how Jesus gave His life for the redemption of His fellow man, and how the Father gave what was most precious to Him to bring many children to glory, the eyes of my heart fall upon the ultimate, undying love of the All-Mighty God…. for me. The action of faith that I’m referring to is a passive ascent to realities that have been revealed to me. I have seen God is good, therefore, I believe He is good to me.
And, I need that knowledge and faith now. I am about to embark on a pretty serious climb, and so it’s awesome to remember this time in Budapest, when God really met me in my need. He put divine appointments in my path and paved a way for me and Him to have an incredible time together. It was one of the defining times of my life and I’m so thankful for it. It helps me now to step through any fear that I may have of the unknown, and embrace the great adventure that lies ahead in Scotland.
You know what I mean? Its going to be alright! God isn’t going to let us fall and be dashed. He promises this in His word. He doesn’t promise that everything is going to be a piece of cake but who cares. Just knowing that He promises us an ultimate security, and a real victory in life, means that whatever comes our way, we can handle it. What’s more is that He also promises that whatever manner of suffering that we have to endure, the level of comfort that He will provide in Jesus will be greater! And, this isn’t just some flowery speech by a politician who can forget his promises once elected. This is the infinitely true and all mighty God who promises these things. He has no reason to lie, or to flatter because He is already all powerful and all sufficient. He needs no man’s vote, nor does He need men to like Him at all!
He promises what He promises, because it is good, and He keeps His promise because He is good! And, no one can stop Him. So, I can trust that! I can trust Him. And, by the grace He provides, I’m determined to do just that… to trust Him… It’s good, isn’t it?

2 Responses to “Battling Budapest”

  1. Jessica
    January 4th, 2007 03:53

    john, that is so wonderful and encouraging to read. i love hearing the various ways that God leads and guides his children. we look forward to seeing you very soon here in scotland.

  2. Yve Abbott
    February 1st, 2007 09:33

    Hi John

    That story is really cool. How great to be involved in the greatest expedition ever, life with the Lord Jesus.
    As the words of Nimmo say “just kep swiming” and God will bring the clarity.
    Refuse to take the easy route and miss another story of great adventure with which you can witness the awesomeness of God and how he cares for his own.
    Bless you brother.

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