I rode a bus to Rovinj from Zagreb (3.5 hours) to have lunch with a Croatian leader who has been an advocate for orphans since the war in the early 90s… amazing!
After lunch (out of this world good)…
I took the bus back.
On Monday afternoon I was on my way from Hungary to Croatia for the next leg of this trip. My first meeting was with a leader in orphan justice on the coast on Tuesday.
We had been in route for 4 hours. We were late and should have been at the border by now but were an hour or so away still. The train was crowded as there are literally thousands of young people traveling in Europe right now and this train takes people from Budapest to Lake Balaton and toward the Croatian coast. I was headed to Zagreb and my phone rang.
“Is this Tom Foley? I have found your wallet and passport!”
I heard the words, but they didn’t register. I asked her to text me the information because it was hard to hear on the train. It had not sunk in yet.
I had done something I had never done before, my wallet (including passport) was in my backpack. I began searching my bag, I searched it again and again. Finally, it sunk in. I had been robbed back at the train station and I didn’t even know it!
This would begin several hours where, over and over, I was reminded of the kindness of God in His protection and provision. I enlisted the help of a Hungarian with whom I had been speaking in the compartment on the trip. The text message came in and I called the number and asked him to get details from the caller.
See, this man “happened to be” going to Croatia to pick up a car and drive it back to Budapest that night and we “happened to have” struck up a conversation along the way because I “happened to” sit in the compartment that he had a reservation in.
We learned from the lady that a retired man in Bp periodically picked up trash in his neighborhood and “just happened” to be cleaning the street on which the thief “just happened” to miss the trash can when discarding my wallet after taking the cash. Had that thief’s aim been better and the wallet have gone IN the trash, it is highly probable that none of this story could be told). The kind man who found my wallet had his daughter call me (she used my business card to find my mobile number).
So, with all this information, my seatmate told me I must get off the train at the next stop to try to get back to Budapest tonight. He then offered to pick me up if there were no trains (it was now well past 6). He gave me all the cash he had and an Costa Rican student gave me his Forints (he would not be back to Hungary). With this information and offer of help, I got off the train.
I was at a village station that was also a small cargo rail yard. I went looking for the Station Master (who had quickly disappeared) or anyone official. Other than the empty waiting room, the building was closed up tight, ticket windows and bufe were closed. I kept looking and made my way into the offices of the cargo rail company.
There, with my very limited Hungarian (supplemented by plenty of gestures and motions) I told the clerk on duty my story. She confirmed that there were no more trains returning to Budapest that night. So here I am way out in the far southwest of Hungary, almost to Croatia with no ID and 2200 Forints (about $10).
But I knew I had a really big God who has been working on my behalf all day without my knowing it.
I began making phone calls. First to my new friend back on the train to take him up on his offer for a ride back to Budapest. I handed the lady in the office the phone, they spoke and he explained the situation to her. She tells us they would keep the waiting room open for me until he arrived at about 11.
Then I called two colleagues in Bp to ask them to go and get my passport and wallet from the kind man who found it. That way I could have them when we arrived in the wee hours of the morning. Things were getting sorted!
About this time two young people walked onto the office to speak to my new friend (and they spoke English!). After hearing my story, they all began to have a discussion in Hungarian.
Meanwhile I got on the phone with my hotel in Zagreb and the manager agreed to let me come in a day late with no penalty, even though it was an Internet deal! Another blessing beyond what I could hope! When I hung up they told me I would be coming to their house for dinner and “have a rest” until my ride arrived. This was the daughter and boyfriend of my new friend, they “just happened to be” in town on a break from working on a cruise ship.
So, now everything was sorted! We went to their house and sat around their table. I showed them pictures from South Africa, I told them stories from my travels and how many times God has sorted things out for me without my knowing it, I told them about being a follower of Jesus.
I heard about their family and how the lady of the house (from the train station) told me how she had been healed of a partial facial paralysis. As we talked I realized how very many pieces had to come together for this puzzle to work.
See, I was not just taken care of, I was incredibly blessed. God was using people I had never met (some of whom I may never meet), to turn a situation that could have been VERY bad indeed, into an event in which we could give Him glory.
As it ended, I lost some cash and a day. But my passport, credit card, atm card, drivers license, keys, everything else were returned. I have made new friends.
Did all of this “just happen”?
I leave that for you to work out.
For me, this was a case of God causing “all things (even the act of a thief) to work for the good.” Mark me down as thankful.
Oh, and you can be sure that I will not let my guard down again!
My neighbor in Bp is a retired fellow in his sixties. As I returned to the flat a while ago, he was out on his balcony and saw me coming up the street.
Nearing the top of the four floors of stairs, I heard his door unlatch.
We greeted one another, told him where I’d been and complained about the heat here in the Jewel on the Danube (its 94!) …thankfully I had little to complain about regarding weather on this trip to the bottom of Africa. I asked how he and his wife are and that was about it. I hauled my shrinkwrapped backpack inside.
Then, while I was checking this and that in the flat and there was a knock on my door, there stood my neighbor, with a bottle of bubbly mineral water. That’s a good neighbor. That’s a blessing.
Ships in Mossel Bay wait to have their cargo unloaded. I thought about how long the crews on these ships have been at sea. As they wait, I wonder how patient or impatient the souls abroad these tankers are.
Then I thought of a discussion Sweet Anna and I had about the difference between waiting and waiting patiently on the Lord. What are we waiting for in our lives, and how patiently are we waiting for it?
If you have followed the posts of the last week, you have seen some landscapes of great beauty. But why am I here in Mossel Bay, South Africa?
I arrived last Thursday in a jet-lagged and beleaguered state after three crazy travel days from the US via the Heartland (included 18 hours in Budapest). The next day we were out to see a bit of the work that is going on to serve the poor by teaching them to help themselves.
This journey began at a prison where my colleague Josh works with local leaders of the facility that houses young men from 15-24 years old. This facility teaches some of the young men gardening skills and provides for a community garden.
In partnership with Josh, they grow seed into seedlings that then help the poor he works with in the townships.
Josh and Abby brought me along as they picked up seedlings to deliver to the gardeners.
A few days later, Josh and I headed out to the townships to visit his many, many gardening friends…
Josh has been building relationships and has developed a reputation as a man who wishes to bring real help to the people. He distributed seedlings for immediate planting and taught about spraying for insects that are damaging plants in the gardens.
The activity around the back of his pickup caused would-be gardeners to ask for help. He then set up a time to teach some new gardeners his system and provide them with seedlings after they have prepared their soil. They left with appointment slips for this Saturday morning!
Learn more about Growing Hope at www.ceokids.org
This morning I joined my colleague Josh for his weekly visit to the local HIV clinic. He has been serving there for quite a while now and he goes there weekly to offer spiritual counsel and Bible study to the people there. He has a huge heart for these people and they know it.
As soon as we arrived a member of the staff grabbed him and asked him into an office to offer comfort to a woman who was in tears. She was being treated badly by her employer and the nurse handed this task right to Josh. He spoke with her to comfort her, assuring her of God’s love for her, her value as a person and that she did not have to suffer abuse from anyone. He then talked to her about forgiveness. As, I think about this, it was so important.
Way too many people are hauling around bitterness in their lives (which affects SO MUCH of their life) because of unforgiveness they have for someone else. I was really glad Josh had the understanding to remind her of God’s love, her value to Him and her need (for her own sake) to forgive.
Make us wonder who we need to forgive, huh?
FYI: HIV is a huge problem in this country. But there is now readily available treatment for all the people. The staff in the clinic that I observed were professional and courteous, the facility was in good shape. I was glad to observe these things. I am glad my colleague is serving there on a weekly basis to bring the Gospel to life in this corner of this city.