Following the Light of Deliverance into Yugoslavia, we felt exhilarated by the sense of new freedom; yet hundreds of kilometers of hostile and unknown terrain still lay between us and true liberty in Italy and Austria. How we ached to stop and rejoice after the crossed the border! But the Light kept moving on ahead in the pouring rain. And so did we.
Finally, it stopped! We could contain our joy no longer. "Hallelujah!" "Praise the Lord!" Jesus, thank you!" "Glory to God!" We coudn't stop crying out praises such as these for some time. In the midst of a field of sunflowers, we hugged each other and danced about like King David before the Ark of God. It was ten minues before midnight when we halted with the column of Light. In a few minutes it would be October 10. Now we knew exactly how the ancient Israelites felt as they watched the thundering waves churn up broken spears, dead bodies, and smashed chariots from Pharaoh's demolished, drowned army where Hebrew feet had just trod. Jumbled together with such debris were no doubt all the iron foot shackles, neck collars, and work-gang chains Pharaoh intended to put back on the Israelites (those who survived the slaughter, that is)--but the God of Israel had other plans for His people!
The joy in our hearts was beyond full expression! But Jesus our Commander-in-Chief cautioned us with a word: "Already you have crossed the border. But you must be careful. You are still in a dangerous place." Realizing we needed to keep or voices low, we set off after the again moving Light. Without knowledge or any map of the country, we had only to pray as previously instructed and God always told us what to do. Whenever we approached danger, God faithfully warned us.
We walked all that night and into the morning, stopping only when the Light, always in front of us, paused. Later we would learn that we had passed straight through the most dangerous part of Yugoslavia, Serbia, containing the capital Belgrade, the central government, and the greatest concentration of Yugoslavia's police and soldiers. We did not stop walking until the night of October 10, being led through open countryside away from roads. After a time we were led along country lanes, and later a highway. Keeping away from people, we gleaned potatoes, apples, and corn from the fields, which we cooked over campfires. The weather turned mild, without rain or wind.
In the two weeks it took for us to reach Zagreb, a large city and rail center, we found God's guidance at every point. Yet we sometimes missed His perfect direction temporarily by complaining or stubbornly going our own way. Once we came to a big river at night. We had to cross, but how? Stefan took a tree branch and went along the riverbank, testing the waters. "We'll never make it across!" he cried. He found the river far too deep and turbulent. "But, my friend," I objected, "the Light stopped over here. We have to cross right here."
Stefan keep insisting though the river was too deep to ford. We would all be drowned. Yet when we went into the water where the column of Light stopped we found we could walk across without any difficulty. Where Stefan tested the waters it was impossible. But the Light led us to the exact place where the water proved to be only a foot or so deep all the way across to the opposite bank.
Again in the mountains a similar problem developed. We spent days vainly circling the same mountain peak, unable to cross a precipitous gorge. Cold, hungry and tired, we finally gave up and prayed for guidance. It was early in the morning, close to daybreak. In the dawning light we finished our prayers and looked up. It was then we saw God's answer had been within easy reach the whole time we spent circling the mountain. A short distance away was a manually operated cable car!
We walked into Zagreb at night and found ourselves in the railyards. Around us stretched long lines of boxcars. Some boxcars held sheep, and we naturally felt that it would be nice and warm inside with the sheep, but God told us not to get in any boxcar with sheep, and to walk farther on.
We found a boxcar loaded with lumber. God told us to take it, which meant that no longer could we depend on the Light of Deliverance for safety and guidance. At the same time He said we, like Jonah, would be in that boxcar for three days and three nights. We climbed up into the boxcar, which was roofless and filled with boards, of the type used for fences. Under the lumber, we hollowed out a little den and settled down to wait for God's deliverance. Presently the train started down the tracks. All through the night it moved, stopped, and moved again, adding new cars and letting others off. Back and forth our boxcar was shunted, and we never could tell where we were being taken.
"Where will the train take us?" Stefan kept asking above the clacking roar of the moving cars. "Maybe it's taking us back into Romania, or Hungary!" Well, Romania was certain death, and Hungary was communist too, and certainly no refuge for us, but I said, "Praise God! Jesus is the Engineer of this train. He knows where we are going!" Boom boom! Our boxcar crashed back and forth against its couplings. We had no food or water left. And without water the highly spiced and salted salami was inedible. Huddling together under a load of lumber was extremely uncomfortable. We did not dare look out and so had to ride in the dark, hour after hour.
The Lord had told me to bring Vitamin C. This vitamin, we now discovered, helped us to bear our terrible thirst. We each took a tablet every hour.
The second day we heard voices outside the boxcar. The voice sounded suspiciously Yugoslavian--but we could not be sure. Stefan whispered he wanted to climb out and see, but we would not let him because of the danger. Without a single look at the country, we rode the boxcar farther and farther into the unknown countryside.
The train finally halted. We heard police coming to check the boxcars for stowaway refugees, so we knew it was some border crossing. The border guard walked across the roofless, loaded boxcars, stepping right over our heads. He had a trained dog, for we heard him give his dog a command. Yet the dog failed to scent us, and they went on to inspect the other boxcars.
The train moved on into a different country that we could only hope was free and non-communist. We stopped eventually and heard someone speaking a language that sounded like--Italian? We could not be sure, since we heard only a few words, so we remained in our hiding place. At 5 o'clock the next morning the train stopped. It was the end of the allotted time, the three days and three nights. Our Jonah-like ordeal had passed. We were free to climb out of the boxcar, though we still did not know where on earth we had landed!
Dazed by the experience of hiding so long in the dark, we pulled the boards away from overhead and climbed out into the light where living people lived. Like men who had lain in a grave for three days, we could barely move our cramped muscles and somehow got down to the ground. We had to support one another, we were so weak and floppy. All we could see were trains, so we started walking as best we could. Then we came to a water pump. No one was around to prevent us, so we drank great gulps and washed our hands and faces Walking a little father, we saw the sign: "VENICE TRAIN STATION."
Hallelujah! This was the complete and full deliverance promised us! God had brought us through every hazard and snare and trial by His amazing grace and power! Now, glorious Lord, may your Name be praised in all the earth for the great things you did for us! Amen