Thursday, July 5, 2007

Return (BBB Part Fifteen)

We flew into Sarajevo in January of 1999, with our seven-year-old and our four-month-old in tow. From the airport, we took a van to our mission’s Sarajevo headquarters, where half of our things (17 bags and trunks in all) were loaded into another van, and then we and our guides immediately began the drive to Banja Luka. It was evening, and a fairly heavy snow was falling. Between the darkness, the snow, the many curves in the road, and our unfamiliarity with the road, it was a slow and grueling trip. Thankfully, we were following someone who knew the way. After several hours, we reached our temporary apartment in Banja Luka, where we unloaded our things and collapsed, exhausted.

Our temporary apartment was a truly depressing place. It was on the top floor of a very large house, each floor of which had been made a separate apartment. All the rooms of our apartment except the central one had ceilings that sloped down, making it impossible for an adult (especially one that is 6’ 2” like me) to stand in half the room. To enter the kitchen, you actually had to leave the apartment! The lack of lighting and insulation made it constantly cold and dark. Some colleagues of ours who had lived in it before also said that it was unbearably hot in the summer. We resolved to get out of there as soon as we could!

After a couple of weeks’ searching, we found a three-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a much newer and nicer house. It was several miles from the center of town, but since we had a car, this was not much of a problem. On a side note, every time we traveled to or from the center of town, we passed right by the Bosnian headquarters of the International Orthodox Christian Charities. We had no idea that this fine organization would eventually be one of the main charities that we would support.

We soon found a school for Audrey and language tutors for ourselves, and we made friends with the other members of our missionary team and with the nationals with whom we would be working. Still, life was hard for the first couple of months. There was always a foot of snow on the ground, and plenty of ice thrown in as a bonus, so that driving around and even walking was a challenge. For the third time in the last two and a half years, we had to get used to a new city, new people, a new culture, and so on. By the first of March, we felt that we had turned a corner—we were going to make it!

But just as we had begun to feel comfortable in Banja Luka, the uprising in Kosovo broke out. When the government of Yugoslavia sent troops into Kosovo to suppress the rebellion, NATO decided to bomb Yugoslavia to try and bring its military activities to an end. When the advance warning of the bombing was given, our supervisors decided to evacuate all of our missionaries that were living in Serb lands—two families in Belgrade plus the three families and two singles in Banja Luka. Although Banja Luka was not bombed, our bosses felt that there might be reprisals against westerners, and they wanted to take no chances. We had only a few hours to pack. With great sadness, we gathered as many things as we could fit in our car, and left the home that we had grown to love in only just over two months to go…who knew where?

1 comment:

Clint said...

We are on vacation, so my checking is sporadic, but I am looking anxiously for each update.