We left at 6am on Monday, Jan. 11, and had a four hour bus ride to Donet'sk, the nearest international airport. It wasn't too bad, the small bus was better than most of the buses in India. We had a young Ukrainian with us, Sasha, who guided us through the business of buying tickets and getting to the Donet'sk bus stop. When we arrived there we were ready for something to eat since breakfast had been only a piece of toast. A McDonald's was close to the bus stand, so we headed there and had Big Mac combos at 10:30 in the morning! Not exactly breakfast food, but it tasted good at that moment. The Golden Arches are always a friendly, familiar sight in an unknown place. Sasha got us to the airport in a taxi and headed back to Berdyansk. We went inside to an unheated international airport. It was pretty cold, but after we checked in and got into the gate area we noticed a duty-free shop and just ambled in to check it out. We stayed quite a while---it had heat! We then flew to Vienna, Austria, where we had a four-hour layover. While we were waiting for our flight there were announcements that flights into Germany had been cancelled because of the weather. How thankful we were that the Lord had put us on a different itinerary. Everything went as smoothly as it could have. There were no weather delays in any of our flights, and all of them were on time. We arrived in Budapest about 9:15pm after a long day.
We stayed at the home of Katy Beth and Dan Searls. Dan is actually in the U.S. right now for knee surgery, so we didn’t see him. They have four daughters, aged 11 thru 13. The oldest two are twins. Those girls are sweet, pretty and totally unlike the average American girl. They look the same, but have a completely different outlook about life in general. They are an important part of their parents’ ministry and have been raised to love the Lord and family first. I really can’t explain the difference very well, but we were totally impressed by them. The two oldest actually go to a regular Hungarian school, and the two youngest go to an American (?) international school. Katy Beth is enthusiastic, vivacious, joyful and tons of funs to be with. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with her and the girls. She loves company and she has the house to accommodate it. They use their large home for youth ministry, Bible studies, English classes, etc. etc. etc. You’ll feel like she’s known you forever after a few minutes with her.
Frank, Susannah, Abby, Annie, Sadie, and Chris
The girls with Katy Beth in the center.
Katy Beth made sure she had time to go with us through downtown Budapest and drove us to the Ukraine embassy. Budapest was sunny and bright most of the time, although it was cold, and we got our visas without any trouble. We were still thinking in India mode----we kept waiting for the Ukrainian consular officer to raise objections, or seem unfriendly, or just generally give us a hard time----but none of that happened. The lady who served us was somewhat friendly and helpful. We did make one mistake on Tuesday. We didn’t realize that the office closed to visitors at noon. We were there in the morning, but had to go to a particular bank to pay for the visas and get back before noon. We didn’t have enough time to get that done before noon, so we had lunch and then went back at 1pm. The lady let us in, told us our mistake, but was good enough to continue with our work. It was during this time that another problem arose---the cost of the visas had jumped from $100 each to $165 each. If Katy Beth hadn't been with us we would have had to find more money from an ATM or through the bank. But Katy Beth insisted on helping. We were able to repay her later for her expense. We had to return to the embassy on Wednesday morning to actually have the visas put into our passports, and because of a computer glitch we had to wait for an hour and a half, but again the lady was nice and apologized for the delay. We were elated to get the visas so easily and left the tiny embassy feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
We had enough time on Tuesday to do a hour or two of sight-seeing. We had lunch at a big modern mall which was where the bank was located. We insisted that we didn't want American style fast food, so we ate in a small restaurant and had real Hungarian food for lunch. Katy Beth took us to the hill overlooking the Danube (this was on the Buda side of the city, we didn’t get across the river to the Pest side) and showed us the beautiful Parliament building, and an old cathedral dedicated to one of the early kings. The hill itself was the site of an old palace which was destroyed in WWII by the Nazis and the Soviets, and we walked through the elegant streets leading up the hill. It just made us want to return in warm weather for a longer stay.
Do we look cold? We were!
The beautiful Parliament building across the Danube River in Pest.
On Wednesday afternoon she took us shopping in a British chain store called Tesco. I guess you could compare it to a super Walmart, except it’s British with Hungarian products as well as other European products. I picked up a few things that I haven’t found in Ukraine but not much. We travelled with one suitcase and a limit of 20 kilos per bag. So we didn't have much room and weight left. At the airport in Budapest I bought a small ceramic dish with a package of paprika in it, and at the airport in Vienna I bought some wonderful European chocolate :). Nobody does chocolate like Europeans.
We left Budapest on Thursday morning and got to Donet'sk at 2pm that afternoon. We were able to get to the bus stand by ourselves, buy the tickets and get back to Berdyansk by 7pm that evening. I made it a point to stop at the McDonald's in Donet'sk before we got on the bus. I couldn't bear the thought of sitting on a very cold toilet seat in the airport! (Although it could have had squat toilets, since most public places do. But it would be too cold for even that. McDonald's was heated.) The weather was foggy part of the way home, and we did see some snow and ice coming out of Donet'sk, but in Berdyansk it was raining and not too cold. Another long day.
Our biggest adventure on the trip: the taxi ride from the Donet’sk bus stand to the airport on Monday afternoon! Need I say more???
We had put a prayer request on Facebook and Frank had sent another by email to our friends and supporters in the U.S. to pray for us as we made this trip. Many folks wrote back to us that they were praying. We know that everything went so smoothly and the weather cooperated because of those prayers. God really does take care of His people when they trust Him for their needs. Thank you, Lord, for our trip, for the Searl family, and for the visas you provided. This is another confirmation that we are where you want us to be.