For descriptive purposes, Emily wrote up her rendition of our trip to Hungary last weekend.
We sat in silence, shooting each other nervous glances, as gusts of wind and snow whipped around our car. Our eyes strained to peer through the ice-covered windshield, as the wipers, on the verge of complete failure, made futile attempts to break through. Regardless of that “minor” problem, among many on this trip, the storm which surrounded us was so thick and treacherous, the wipers were merely a useless accessory. Wasn’t it mentioned in our last post, that the winter here was over, you may ask? Yes, it was. In fact, spring had already begun to make its glorious appearance, heavy coats were hung up, boots, replaced with lighter shoes, and the sun was radiant. That is, until we decided to attend the Worship Leader’s Conference in Budapest, Hungary. The spiritual wars were raging, and this wild shift in weather appeared to be the climax.
Our adventure began on Thursday morning. We all met up at the church around 9:30, packed the cars with guitars and suitcases, and headed on our way to the Hungarian border. At this point, it had begun to snow in a very unthreatening manner, and wasn’t sticking to the roads. Upon arriving at the border, we discovered a problem with the registration on our car, and were refused entrance into Hungary. By God’s grace, they decided not to charge us the $350 penalty fee for this particular issue, and allowed us to return to get it fixed. Two hours later, we were back on the road with everything in order.
A half hour into the trip, we needed to stop at a gas station, and quickly realized that weather conditions had worsened. The force of the wind strongly hindered our attempts to walk inside, and increased the urgency to get to Budapest as soon as possible. We got back on the road as the tumultuous wind, snow, and fog joined forces in hostile opposition. Our vision was greatly impaired, and after a few minutes of inching along in the thick, surrounding whiteness, traffic came to a stop. We waited and waited, expecting at any moment for things to start going again. But, time wore on, and the day grew dark as it passed into evening. After a grueling eight hours, we had moved a mere mile. Surely, something major must have occurred up ahead. And it had.
This period of waiting was quite the adventure in itself. Ben and our friend Igor made several attempts to walk and see what was holding us up, but it was always too far ahead. At one point, Ben met a Hungarian man a few cars ahead of us who spoke English and was able to obtain some information from him. Apparently, the radio had announced that there was a major accident on our highway, and that entire West side of Hungary (including roads) was closed down due to the dangerous climate. We had no choice but to sit and wait until they cleared the accident ahead. Later, Ben went to check for updates from our new friend, and returned with a gift of one, single, homemade Hungarian dried sausage, and two pieces of bread, which the guys quickly rationed between themselves for dinner. Our friend Tonia and I ate cinnamon rolls. Side note: the Lord completely lead me, by the way, in the area of food on this trip. I normally tend to be an over-packer when it comes to trip snacks, but I really overdid it this time. We were stocked with everything from rolls, to sandwiches, to veggies and dip, fruit, chips, etc, so we didn’t go hungry! Unfortunately, we ate most of it during the first half of our wait…hence the cinnamon roll dinner…but the Lord truly took care of us, did He not? Lastly, as you can imagine, the bathroom situation was quite a catastrophe. I’ll spare you the details that left Tonia and I traumatized, with the exception of this brief summary: the highway to Budapest just happens to be located on a completely flat, far stretching plain. No trees, no ditches, nowhere to hide.
Around 11:00pm, traffic finally began to move. We inched along, at a snail’s pace, eventually passing through the area where the accident had occurred. It was a sight. We later heard that 42 cars were involved, and what we saw, completely validated that number. As I stated before, it was nearly impossible to see through the raging blizzard, especially with the ice on our windshield. At this point, the rubber on our wipers had begun to go, and eventually one of them snapped off, which we managed to temporarily fix. I will do my best to portray the following scene, although words are not sufficient to communicate the preposterousness of our situation. Due to the ice, Igor and Ben were forced to scrape the windshield, in turns…while driving. Tonia and I nervously watched as Ben, his foot on the gas, upper body hanging out of the window, scraped his side of the windshield, while Igor directed the car with the steering wheel. Thankfully, the speed of traffic never escaladed to a rate that would have further jeopardized their safety.
A few miles ahead of the accident, officials completely closed down the highway, and directed us to back roads. The clock struck midnight and there we were in the middle of nowhere, still surrounded by snow, attempting to decode the unfamiliar road signs with the map we happened to have in our car, hoping and praying we were somehow on the right track. The final wild event that took place before we arrived at our destination (yes, we made it eventually), and probably the most exciting, was being stuck in the snow, in the wrong lane, with on-coming traffic. A fire truck was parked in our lane at the base of a small hill. Ben attempted to go around, but due to his speed and the incline, the car wouldn’t budge. Our wheels spun helplessly on the ice beneath, as a lineup of descending cars developed before us. Igor was able to get behind and push, while Ben revved the engine, and we were soon on our way…and in the correct lane!
After about 17 hours of travel (a trip which normally takes two and a half hours), we were driving over the beautiful Danube River, and arrived at Calvary Chapel Budapest at 3:00am. Thankfully, the secretary for the conference had waited for us, and accompanied us to our host homes. We dropped Igor off at his place, and headed straight to ours. Someone had donated a large apartment to Ben, myself, and three of our Croatian friends who had arrived in Budapest earlier. In light of our trip thus far, we shouldn’t have been surprised when no one came to the door. They were sleeping so soundly, that the doorbell failed to wake them. “Well, that was a good try!” our new Hungarian friend declared, optimistically, “You will come to my place, tonight!” Exhausted, we followed our new hostess, grateful to have somewhere to lay our heads, and for her unplanned generosity and hospitality. By 4:30am, we were in bed and sleep came very quickly. After a mere three or four hours, we were up again, and on our way to attend the conference. However, the Lord’s grace abounded toward us that day, as it had the entire trip, and we were able to enjoy it, without being too sleepy! Someone bought us new windshield wipers, which we were able to install, and the rest of the weekend, including the trip back to Croatia was stress-free. The winter blast left as quickly as it had come, and by Sunday evening, there was not a flake in sight.
In conclusion, the conference was a great blessing to our worship team, and we learned many things through the Bible studies and the various worship workshops in which we participated. We were also blessed by the worship, fellowship, and coffee offered at Calvary Chapel Budapest. And in many ways, we were drawn closer together as a team, and closer to the Lord. In retrospect, the Lord truly revealed His faithfulness and sovereignty this weekend, and through the trials we endured to get there. We know that the Bible says that He will never leave us, nor forsake us, but when we actually experience that for ourselves, and realize that down to the tiniest detail, He is in control, it puts everything into perspective. Thank you so much to those of you who were praying for us during our trip. Isn’t that amazing how God sets people up to pray all over the world, even when we aren’t aware? Your prayers truly carried us through.
Thanks for reading through to the end of our adventure! I just want to give you a brief update of everything else that’s been happening lately in Croatia.
This past Sunday, we had the opportunity to sing worship songs at an assisted living home. It was such a sweet and blessed time! The people really enjoyed it, and showed in whichever way they could; some clapped their hands, a few got up and danced, and then there were those who’s smiles spoke volumes of what their mouths or bodies could not.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), our worship team is going to be playing for the local radio. We will share a few worship songs, and then have the opportunity to share our testimonies of how we accepted Christ, what it means to us to follow Him, etc. Ben and I are pretty nervous, as we’ll be speaking in Croatian…sharing our hearts, and answering interview questions. This will be a real test for our language skills! Pray that the Lord would use this time and that it would be a witness of the saving power of God in Christ.
Our two-year anniversary is on Wednesday! The Lord has faithfully sustained our marriage these past two years, even through the various trials we experienced, moving three times, living in a different culture, etc. He has truly blessed us above all we can ask or think! And, it only gets better and better!
We hope to get some pictures up in the next few days, as well as a few more updates!