After ministering just a few days in Romania in 1985 when the Iron Curtain was still up, I received a call that my mother was dying in a hospital room in Oklahoma City. “We think she is holding on until you get here,” my brother said.
It took two days to leave. It was hard enough to get into Romania at Oradea a few days earlier. At the checkpoint, the border guards asked if we had “any guns, drugs, pornography or Bibles.” They took all the Bibles we had within the group and stacked them up, after emptying the vans, removing panels, and searching everything thoroughly. Because of Geneva conventions, we were able to have our personal Bibles back—thankfully. Yet the experience took valuable hours. In those days, leaving a Communist country off schedule was often as difficult as coming in, requiring considerable red tape and plenty of American money.
As my wife and I made our way out of Romania and on to Vienna by train, we were aware of God’s hand in all that we were doing. We planned to stay the night in Vienna and then to fly out the next day, through London, straight to my dying mother’s bedside. I was familiar with the train station in Vienna, having come through there at other times—and I knew of a small hotel within walking distance. Yet, there would be no time for a hotel. We had a very early plane to catch and the airport was many miles away outside the city. We had hoped to catch the train to the airport, but, to our surprise, the train station closed up just after we arrived! How were we going to be at the airport at 5 a.m. when there was no transportation there?
Outside the station, several people were stretched out to spend the night, ready for early morning trips. But I wasn’t going to sleep on the pavement with my wife. It wouldn’t have done any good anyway, since the station would likely not have opened in time to make it by train to the airport. No taxis were anywhere to be found. The hotel was of no use since we had only a handful of hours before take-off and we knew we had to do all that we could to make sure of being there. We were stuck!
About this time, we spotted a row of telephones. There was a booth or two also. Like Superman in the comics I read as a child, we went into the telephone booth. Instead of changing into a Superman costume, we prayed and begged God to get us out of this mess. When we walked out of the booth and by the other telephones, we overheard a man speaking in Spanish. He talked about Chile in South America. I had been to Chile myself, so took it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the man. Perhaps God wanted us to share Christ with him.
The man was quite happy to talk to us so early in the morning. We talked of Chile and many other things, including the gospel. When he asked about why we were there, we told him our story. Immediately he said, “I’ll take you there!” So, much relieved, we climbed into his little car to be transported across town and miles out of town to the new airport. How can I explain our relief? Was this an angel? If so, he was a fallen one, because he needed Christ. But surely He was directed there by God. All along in the car we talked about the gospel. When we arrived at the airport, he went in to the airport for more talk about Him, until finally, he had to leave.
How do I explain that night’s experiences? I can only attribute our deliverance to God.
We were home soon enough, after a short flight to England, a quick helicopter jaunt between airports in London, and the final long trip overseas and, as I remember, a drive into Oklahoma City where we were able to spend precious time with my mother prior to her death. God had led us all the way.
Not every day is like this in the Elliff home. Or is it? Can we say that God is superintending all of life each and every day? I believe so. Not every experience is dramatic, and most are not perceptible, but God is there for His children—all the way home.
And in your book were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139:16
Photo courtesy of Paul Artus