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By George Boyd



Randolph Gonce, Ken Shoop, Lyle Starnes, Stan Hurd, and I arrived, via KLM airlines, in Amsterdam early Monday morning.  The intent was to rest one day before continuing.  Randolph, Ken, and Stan, were going to Ghana, West Africa.  Lyle and I were going to India.  God had something else in mind for me.  While waiting for the tram to take us to the hotel, where we had reservations, a team of thieves stole my carryon bag.  In it were my medication, personal hygiene items, and a change of clothes.  Also, a laptop computer and all my travel checks, passport, visa, and airline tickets.  Lyle and I spent most of Monday at the police station making a report of the theft and at the USA embassy getting my passport replaced.  We spent time at a bank making a report of the loss of my travel checks and learned there was no record of me purchasing the checks.  We also learned that I would have to go to Den Haauge (The Hague) to apply for an India visa.  The team traveling to Ghana had loaned me $390.  I had a credit card but did not have the pin number required for withdrawing money against the card.


When Lyle and I arrived back at the hotel Monday evening I called my wife, Darlene, and gave her the good news that God had other plans for me.  Darlene, along with several of my companions, suggested I go back to Lawton, Oklahoma where I belonged.  Darlene was given the task of retrieving a copy of my KLM airline tickets, finding the problem with the travel checks, and getting me a pin number for the credit card.


I had another suitcase which was checked at Oklahoma City straight through to Mumbai, (Bombay) India.  I called KLM airlines and requested they intercept my luggage and hold it for me.  They agreed to try but nothing definite.  Later I did retrieve the bag and also purchased personal hygiene items.


I sat in the police station completely alone except for my relationship with God.  I had just said good-bye to the last two people, Randolph and Ken, in the Netherlands who knew my name.  Even the desk policewoman had disappeared.  As my situation slowly sank in I felt on the very edge of panic.  I was here because I had been told the day before this was where I would have to come to get a prescription to replace my medication.  I was to learn later that was false information.  The hotel could do the same for me.


My plans were to get the medication replaced and then go to Den Haauge to apply for a new visa from the Indian consulate.  The India consulate here in the USA and in The Netherlands require a one week wait after applying for a visa.  Also the Indian consulate closes at noon each day.


By the time I got a prescription and information on where to pick up my other luggage it was too late to go to Den Haauge in time to make application for a new visa.


I went to the Prescription Shop that had my Rx and found a sign saying closed until 1:00PM.  From there I went to the airport and retrieved my luggage and checked on the status of replacing my KLM airline tickets.  While at the airport I decided it would be best to make reservation at a hotel in Den Haauge and stay there rather than travel back and forth.  I found a travel agency inside the airport and made a reservation at a hotel in Den Haauge.  From there back to the Prescription Shop and the sign was still there.  It was still closed.  By the time I arrived back at the hotel it was late and I was so tired I could hardly walk.


As I literally fell to my knees in prayer to plead for strength and some sense of what I should do.  I believe God was saying:  George can you hear me yet?


You see, I have known from my early years that God can and does accomplish His plans for His people.  I learned the stories during early childhood about how He rules the nations and cares for His people.  I know He is all powerful and able to rule His people and all the nations of the world.  Even though I knew this, up to this point, in my life, I was sure He needed my help.


I had once been appointed to serve as a deacon where my family and I attended.  I was sure God needed me to teach the congregation about the true meaning of serving.  It did not take long for God to remove me and I am sure He was telling me He did need not my help.  I was also appointed to serve as an elder at another congregation.  He tried to tell me I was causing too much trouble but I would not listen.  He removed me.


So on my knees I said, “Yes, Lord! I can hear now.  I want to go to India to serve but if I am going to be too much trouble I won’t go.  Help me go as a servant not with the attitude of the past.”


Please understand there was a lot of gibberish in my praying that He had to sort out, but this was the main thrust of my prayer.  He is able to do that, you know. He is able to understand our heart even when the words do not come properly.


Wednesday morning I decided to go to Den Haauge, before anything else, to apply for an India visa.  The  medication I was taking was for lowering blood pressure and an anti inflammatory pill for arthritis.  I am able to know when my blood pressure starts to climb and it wasn’t.  I knew the arthritis medication would help but considered the visa application more important.  I checked out from the hotel and headed for Den Haauge.


I arrived in Den Haauge, by train, around 10:00AM Wednesday morning and caught a cab to the hotel.  It really is not a hotel but more just a rooming house.  The door was locked so I rang the bell and soon a man appeared.  I explained I had a reservation, showing him the confirmation paper.  He informed me check in time was 1:00PM.  I asked if I could leave my luggage.  He agreed. 


Before leaving I asked if he could direct me to the India consulate.  He looked in what appeared to be a telephone book and said yes.  After telling him I would have to get there before noon, he drew me a map and said I could easily walk the distance in fifteen minutes even at my age.  I had already had one experience with map drawing in Amsterdam.  Not good!  However he went over the map with me and explained it was a very simple route.  I believed him.  Not good!  The “map” showed one street until I came to an intersection in the form of a Y.  The landmark there was the “Peace Palace.”  I did not ask for a description of the Peace Palace because the way he described everything even a five year old would know what the Peace Palace looked like once there.  Not good!


I followed the street until the first Y intersection.  It was a residential section of the city.  There was nothing that could possibly be a “Peace Palace” at or near the intersection so I walked on.  I passed several such intersections and finally came to a Y intersection with a high red brick wall.  I could see the tops of buildings inside the wall.  This intersection matched the “map.”  The instructions said there would be a number of short streets intersecting the wall around the “Peace Palace” like spokes from a wheel.  Everything matched.  The hotel person could not tell which of the “spokes” led to the India consulate but he assured me it would be easy to find.  He said about the second or third “spoke.”  I walked pass all the spokes and did not see anything that could possibly be the consulate.  I learned that the brick wall was U shaped with what appeared to be a park extending past the open end of the U. 


I retraced my steps and as I was nearing the intersection I met a couple coming from an apartment like building.  I pointed toward the buildings inside the wall and asked if that was the “Peace Palace.”  The man said yes.  What I didn’t know was that on the other side of the wall, in the direction I was pointing, was the “Peace Palace.”  It is a huge building made mostly of glass and several stories high.  It has a chain link like fence around most of it.  Had I known this, my trip would have been much easier.


I explained I was trying to find the India consulate.  Could he help me?  He told me to take a trail, that he pointed to, crossing the park.  On the other side, which was not visible because the park was about a half mile wide, I would come to an intersection.  Just keep walking in the direction I was going and I would come to a section of streets like spokes from the center of a wheel.  The consulate would be the third or forth spoke.  He said I couldn’t miss it.  Little did he know!


I crossed the park.  Nothing matched what he had described.  I retraced my steps back across the park and spotted a stretch limousine with a taxi sign on top.  I asked the driver if he could take me to the India consulate.  He looked in a book, grunted, shook his head and made a few other unintelligible sounds, and finally said:  “Get in.”  I did and he found the OTHER spokes from the center of a wheel.  He went up and down each one traveling mostly the wrong way on one way streets.  These streets all dead-ended and at each dead end he would slap the steering wheel and shout something in Dutch, turn back and find another with the same results.

Finally, while traveling upon the sidewalk, because the wrong way traffic and forced him there, he stopped and said “I think this is it.”  He pointed to a large house on the corner of the street.  I was sure it wasn’t but was glad to escape the taxi with my life. 


I could see the next two houses had flags flying.  One was the Stars and Stripes. I was sure I could get the correct information there.  All these houses had high chain link fences around them but the one with our flag had the gate open and as I was going down the driveway I met an American coming from the house.  I asked about the India consulate and he pointed to a house across to the next “spoke.”  I made sure we were both looking at the same house and he described the India flag so I would not go to the wrong house.  Time was running out for getting there today so I ran as fast as my legs could.  As I entered a rather small overcrowded room I spotted the “take number and wait” reel.  It is not too much of a stretch to say one must have a number just to go to the rest room in The Netherlands.  I took a number and immediately a woman removed the reel.  I had just made it.  I made application, paid my money, and was told to return the next Wednesday between ten and twelve o’clock for a visa.


I left the consulate and immediately realized I had no idea where I was or where I had come from.  I walked on for a little way but nothing looked familiar.  During that wild taxi ride I had completely lost any sense of direction.  My first thought was to just find another taxi, show my reservation, and say take me there.  When I reached into my pocket for the reservation, I didn’t find it, and realized the hotel clerk had kept it.  I walked up a street that looked like the one I took when leaving the hotel.  After about a half mile I realized it was not the street because there were no Y intersections as was true of the street I wanted.  I retraced my steps back toward the intersection I came from.  About half way back I came to a tram stop with a woman carrying a baby on her back waiting for a tram.  I told her I was lost. 


She said, “I figured that.  Where do you want to go?”


“I don’t know,” I replied. 


“What is the name of the place you want to go to?” she asked.


“I don’t know.”


“Sir,” she said, “if you do not know where you want to go I cannot help you.”


I explained my problem and she listened patiently.  “I don’t know any way to help,” she said. 


“There is a high red brick wall shaped like a U around here somewhere and if I could find that I can find my way,” I pleaded. 


“Oh sure.  Just go back to the intersection where you came from and look to your right.  You will see a section of the wall.”


I was sure she was mistaken because I had looked for the “wall” from all parts of the intersection while there.  I returned to the intersection while examining my options.  I had one ace in the hole.  Catch a taxi.  Go to the train station.  Return to the Amsterdam airport.  Go to the travel agency where I had made the reservation and start all over again.


When I reached the intersection I went to the place the woman and instructed me to and looked right.  Sure enough I could see a very small section of the “Red Brick Wall.”  From there it was easy to find my way back to the hotel. 


It was long past one o’clock so I checked into my room.  It was cold and before morning it got much colder.  The room had no heat.  I kept warm by putting on several layers of clothing and covering with what few blankets the bed had.  I decided by morning to return to the hotel in Amsterdam where it was warm.  Also they served breakfast from six to eleven each morning.  I could get up early enough to eat each morning at six then return at just before eleven and have all the food I needed without leaving the hotel.


The next Wednesday I returned to Den Haauge and received my India visa.  I left the consulate, went to the tram stop, and waited.  When the first tram arrived I asked the driver if it went to Central Train Station. 


He said, “No, catch the tram right behind me.” 


It is number seventy is what I thought he said.  The next tram was number seventeen so to be sure I asked the driver: “Will this tram take me to Central Train Station?”


“Yes,” he assured me.


I got aboard and after paying took a seat next to the exit.  As the tram slowed for the train station stop the woman across from me said:  “Sir, this is Central Train Station.” 


I thanked her and exited after her.  As we started waking toward the train station she asked me where I was going.  I told her Harlem.  She said that was where she was going.  I asked if she minded me following her so as not to get lost.  Sure, she said.  As we walked she said she had just came from the India consulate where she purchased a visa.  I said I had too.  She said she was here last Wednesday to apply for the visa.  I said I was too.  She said she was going to Bombay tomorrow morning.  I said I was too.  About that time we came to a sign that said Harlem and the departure time, which was just a few minutes away. 


As I stopped she said, “No, no! I’ll show you a different train to catch.”


We came to another schedule and the train to Harlem would be leaving in about twenty minutes.  She instructed me to stay right there and board the train when it arrived.  I had not eaten anything and could see a Burger King sign a little distance away.  I told her I was going there to get something to eat.  She cautioned me to be sure to return to this same spot and take that train to Harlem. 


I got my Burger King eats and boarded the train to Harlem.  After some time had passed I realized the train was stopping at every station.  It was going to take much longer to get to Harlem than the earlier trains I had ridden.  About then it sank in what the woman had done.  She had gone back to the first train, which must have been the express train, and took me to a much slower train.  I think she was beginning to wonder about my intentions.  I was amused.  I was in no hurry to get to Harlem so didn’t mind at all.  I did see the woman on the plane the next morning but thought it best not to say anything. She did not speak to me, either.