It was the spring of 1991. We were new missionaries in Hungary where communism had just fallen. Our European supervisors, John and Edna Parker were making a visit and we wanted to make a good impression. Well, we made an impression! So much so that we warranted a section in Edna's 1997 book: JUST ME: Vignettes of a Missionary Wife on pages 218-220. We thought that we would endure the embarrassment and share the story with you. Here is goes....
Rose is kidnapped
John and I left the retreat for Budapest where we joined Rose and Dan Smith to continue on to the Eastern European Resource Center in Debrecen, Hungary. They had arrived two hours earlier and had already found taxi drivers who wanted to overcharge foreigners. There were four of us with nine pieces of luggage so they told us we would have to take two taxis and pay the tourist rate of $10 per taxi instead of the regular price of $1.50. We refused and ran to take a bus to the train station. In Hungary you must buy your bus ticket at the bus station which was miles away. We jumped on the bus dragging and pushing boxes and bags just clearing the door before it closed.
The driver sat in a screened-in box and did not take any bus fare. What were we to do but ride free and we did! At the train station we jumped off, loaded down with baggage, and ran to the platform hoping our train had been delayed. There were no signs and no one to ask so we went up an escalator, through a bridge, over the tracks, and down the stairs on the far side huffing and puffing all the way. Dan used what little Hungarian he knew and learned that the train had not arrived and that we should be at the far end of the platform. The train arrived, stopping for only three minutes so we pulled ourselves and our cargo up into two cars just in time.
We were on car #24 and we had reservations in #18. Dan suggested Rose stay with most of the bags while we found the correct coach. What a chore! I led the way dragging along a heavy box of tracts. On one car the door opened on the right while the next one opened on the left. The next car had a sliding door which opened in the middle. The train was going at full speed and between the cars you could see the rails and feel the breeze. When we felt we had gone through at least ten cars, the conductor informed us we were in #21 and had three more cars plus the dining car to pass through. At number 19 we went into an empty compartment just hoping we wouldn't be asked to move. I stayed with the first load while John and Dan went back for Rose and the remaining bags. When they made it back, John was nearly exhausted. He admitted later that he was tempted to toss the bags out the window.
When we arrived in Debrecen it had begun to rain and we had to exit at the far end of the long train. Half-way to the station Dan suggested that Rose stay with three of the heaviest bags. We took the other six and then promised to return to help her. We took off down a flight of steps, went through the underpass, and up the steps on the other side. Dan ran back to get Rose but in a matter of minutes was back looking pale, “Have you seen Rose? She is not there. She has been kidnapped.” “Dan, are you sure you went to the second exit? She is far down the track,” I said. He took off again in a huff and a puff only to return minutes later looking as if he stared death in the face.
In the meantime Hank, an associate who had arrived to take us to the center, joined Dan to look for Rose. “Dan, are you sure you went to the right track?” I asked again and then I remembered seeing some young men hanging out the train window making remarks while looking at Rose. Perhaps they pulled her back on the train as it was leaving. “Oh yes, that train always comes in on track #4 and that is where I have been. She is not there. She has been kidnapped and put back on the train.” “Is kidnapping common here?” I wanted to know. “Anything is possible in Hungary,” was his reply. He told us to run to the van; we would drive to the next train stop to look for her. I knew as fast as that train traveled we would never be able to overtake it. When we suggested reporting it to the police, Dan informed us he could not speak enough Hungarian to make them understand.
John turned to me and said, “She has our bag with all the money we own, our passports, and plane tickets.” Our concern mounted! Dan telephoned the center in case she called there. Someone suggested we pray. “You pray, I am not able,” was all Dan said. Things were serious by now so I began to call down all the guardian angels in heaven to protect Rose and help us find her. The others joined in rebuking all the workings of Satan. We were having a real camp meeting while leaving the station to overtake the train. Why anyone thought we could outrun that fast train was beyond me! We had already lost 30 minutes running around looking for her.
As we drove past the door there was Rose emerging with the three heavy bags - wet and angry. Dan ran to help her while the three of us had a rejoicing time in the van. She was so upset that no one had gone to look for her and now we were driving off without her. To add insult to injury she cracked her head hard enough for it to sound as she was getting into the van. It took Dan the entire five miles to the center to convince her that all of us had tried to find her. When we arrived there, all 14 of the students from Romania were praying for Rose's safety.
That was my introduction to Debrecen, Hungary!
(Story written by Edna Parker)