At the Venice train station we were able to communicate with people, using Romanian, for Romanian and Italian are closely related languages. We hurried into the streets, wide-eyed as children. What wonders! Shops and stores over-flowing everywhere with food and luxury goods, the like of which we never saw in our homeland, and vehicles crowdng the streets, not the bicycles and everyone else on foot! Best of all, we breathed a perfume in the air that was freedom. Freedom! Our bodies tingled with a vibrant sensation that newly freed men must all feel. Colors were so bright and smiles so warming in this free country, the very pavement made our feet want to dance!
Though lacking money, we still had on us the two, expensive salamis God told me to take. These sold without difficulty, gaining us enough currency for haircuts, stamps, and postcards. We wrote our wives and families that we had just arrived safely in Venice, Italy. I also wrote Aurica that we would surely be together soon, as God had promised.
It was sheer bliss to have a shave and haircut and freshen up for the journey to the refugee camp. After our postcards were mailed we went to a policeman and told him we were Romanian refugees seeking asylum. The friendly officer took us to the nearest police station. There we were fingerrinted and questioned, for they had to determine if we were truly refugees and not communist spies or KGB agents. The police were amazed by our story. "That's a miracle!" they exclaimed. They told us that groups of people tried to escape from Romania and were always caught in Yugoslavia and sent back. This was the first time they had received three refugees in one group who had escaped from Romania via Yugoslavia.
After giving us some things for our stay in Italy, they transported us by train to the refugee center outside Trieste. Before I even reached the camp, God spoke to me about leaving Italy for neighboring Austria. I went to the refugee center, however, expecting God to work out my itinerary. A car was waiting at the train station and took us to the big refugee camp. It was one of the camps for people who have fled communist lands. Austria, Germany, Italy, and now Yugoslavia operate refugee camps for thousands of people seeking freedom in the West.
On October 26 we arrived in Venice and were taken to a camp outside Trieste. We were expected to remain a minimum of three days, and could depart only if we had passports and visas for travel to other countries
The Lord again spoke to me about leaving the camp. I was to leave on the third day. Meanwhile, Stefan, Josef and I shared with others at the camp our escape story showing God's miraculous deliverance. They all listened attentively, though most had not gained their freedom like us by trekking out of a communist country on foot. Highly privileged, card-carrying communists traveling abroad as tourists, they had thrown their precious cards away the moment they arrived in a free country.
One of them was George, a well-paid engineer of Romania. He believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior when he heard our story. George immediately attached himself to me, and he was not put off when I told him God was sending me to Austria in a couple days. "I want to go with you!" he insisted, though he knew I had no money and passport for the trip. "I don't want to go alone, Elijah," George kept saying to me. "If you go, I want to go with you." George had a passport. He also had money for his travel expenses. I had no passport and no money. "I have to go," I replied, and so we set out from the camp in the evening of the third day.
I had to explain to Stefan and Josef that the Lord had decided to send me to Austria without them. But I told them that I would return for them or send help in some way (though, later, they chose to accept another man's help instead).
At the train station George bought both our tickets, one-way fares to Vienna. After buying the tickets, he turned to me. "Elijah, I have bought the tickets, but what will you do? You have no passport." I could see that he was a little afraid and was having second thoughts about our journey. "God will take care of that," I replied.
We walked to our compartment on the train and took seats with three other people. They knew each other. Two were stylish young men. The third was a lady doctor. They all spoke Romanian.
"Oh, are you Romanian too?" cried George in happy surprise.
George was so delighted that he quickly told them the details of my story, the miracle of the border crossing and escape...and the fact that I had no passport. "Just look at this man here!" he exclaimed, pointing to me. "He and two friends escaped a few days ago from Romania in a wonderful way, delivered by God. He is truly trusting God! He doesn't even have a passport, but God protects him!"
The lady was a doctor of psychology. She balked immediately and could not believe such a tale. "Oh, that's hard to believe," she shrugged, "since he doesn't have a passport." Then the seriousness of my situation struck her. She looked closely at me. Her sophisticated expression turned to anxiety for my safety. "How can you be here on this train without a passport?" she demanded.
I did not respond at once. She grew all the more anxious. "What are you doing here?" she insisted. The lady doctor and I were seated on opposite sides by the window, so I gazed directly at her. "Praise God," I said with a smile. "I spoke with God, and God told me to be here."
George, forgotten in the turn of conversation, stared at us and was speechless. Perhaps he was waiting to see what dreadful thing was going to happen to me now, due to my lack of a passport. The lady psychologist was still exasperated. She looked with pity on me. "How can you claim to speak with God?" she asked cynically. She shifted uncomfortably on the seat. "I believe in God. I pray. But how can you say that you speak with God? I believe you have a mental problem." She glanced around the compartment, but the two young men seemed to believe my story and were not offering her support in her diagnosis.
But I knew her concerns, at face value, were valid As a believer in God, maybe once a year at Easter she went to church. But I also knew that there is a big difference between those who merely believe in God's existence and those who "believe God" for the sustaining of their very lives...those who wholeheartedly follow Him.
The lady turned to me with a common question. "What kind of church, what denomination are you affiliated with? For you say you speak with God." For a moment it seemed she had forgotten her concern for my mental conditon The mention of speaking with God had obviously upset her, so I turned to her again wth the truth. "Yes, we can speak with God," I answered. "We can do it because we are God's children."
I left her to think about this and prayed silently. As I was prayng the Lord spoke to my heart. "Fear not, my son. I am with you, and I intend to show these people my power." Immediately I saw fleecy white clouds cover me with invisibility. The vision was a great encouragement at that moment, for we all knew the border police were coming to check our passports.
I spoke to the lady doctor. "God has said that He will protect me. The police will not be able to see me. By that miracle you will see God's mighty power, for God intends to touch your hearts." The lady stared, her mouth open, but she quickly recovered her dignity. "You are crazy!" she huffed. "I don't see how you can speak with God. I never heard of people who could do that!"
Yes, when we pray we speak with Him," I explained. "He is our Father, and in Him I trust. He is my protector. He is everything to me."
The lady turned aside to the others, remembering my passport problem. Could I not hide under the seats? they wondered. But they looked beneath and saw that a heating system took up all the space under the two seats. The train was already moving. The conductor entered the compartment and took our tickets. The air grew thick with tension. Everyone around me was afraid to speak. No one said a word as the conductor went out and two policemen entered. As they methodically checked passports, I just kept praying silently, my head bowed. The policemen never asked me for a passport, though they checked everyone else in the compartment. They asked if we had anything to declare for Customs charges. No one offered to declare items, so they shut the door and left us.
The moment they were gone the lady threw up her hands. "My goodness, what happened?" she cried out. She turned to me. "I don't understand! What kind of faith, what kind of religion, what denomination are you anyway?" George and the two young men were all rejoicing, but I had to answer the lady's burning questions."
"I love Jesus, He is my Redeemer," I explained, for I always try to avoid denominational fence-building. "That's exactly what God wanted to do, to show you His great power and grace. I do believe God is planning to save your soul as well." The lady was so struck by such a thought that she became quiet.
The express train sped rapidly toward the Austrian border. We all knew there would be another confrontation with the police who checked passports on the Austrian side. We waited, as the atmosphere in the compartment grew charged with suspense and deathly quiet. Austrian police entered. "Pass Kontrol, bitte," one said briskly in German. Everyone else held up passports, while I sat as before praying silently, my head bowed.
Again I was totally ignored by the police. They closed the door. The moment they were gone the woman jumped up from her seat. "Praise the Lord!" she cried. "Praise the Lord!" One of the young men sprang up to stop her shuting. "Please be quiet!" he pleaded. "The police could hear you and come back and ask what is happening here." But the lady doctor was not to be deterred by his fears or common sense. Great joy showed on her face. "That's God!" she declared authoritatively. "Please tell us about your faith."
I could see her heart had indeed been touched to the depths. The two young men were also affected. They now revealed their own secret: neither had a visa to enter Germany where they were going to immigrate. "Please pray for us," they implored."
First, I saw their greater need. I explained a portion of scripture, Romans 10: 9-10, and led them in prayer, so that they might receive forgiveness of their sins and confess Jesus as their newfound Lord and Savior. They all, the two young men and the lady doctor, became believers before the train reached our destination. As we drew near to Vienna, I received a vision concerning their lack of visas (for they were terribly afraid they would be turned back at the border). I told them God had revealed that the police would merely glance at their unopened passports at the border but would not check them for the necessary visas. Later they wrote to me to report that it happened exactly as God had shown in the vision.
The train slowed to a stop at the station in Vienna with our compartment full of rejoicing Romanians.