What Do You Want a Map So Badly For?

by | Jun 1, 1999 | Provision

(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)

My final night in Yugoslavia, the night for which I had been sent back across the border, I had met a man whose closest friend lived in Sofia.

“Petroff is one of the saints of the church,” he had told me. “Will you go to see him?”

And of course I was delighted. I had memorized Petroff’s address so as not to have it written down on my person in case I got into trouble with the authorities. Now as I sat on a hillside looking down over Sofia, I marveled at how God used the very last person I spoke to in one country to give me the first contact I needed in another.

Sofia was a beautiful sight, stretched out below me, the moun­tains rising beyond, the round domes of her Orthodox churches sparkling in the late-afternoon sun. But how in that vast metropolis was I to find the street where Petroff lived? My Yugoslav friend had warned me that it could be dangerous for him if a foreigner were to go around asking for it. So when I checked into my hotel, the first thing I did was to ask for a plan of the city.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we’re all out. You might try the bookstore on the corner.”

But the bookstore was out too. I went back to the hotel and asked the clerk if he was quite sure he had no maps at all. He looked at me suspiciously.

“What do you want a map so badly for?” He asked. “Foreigners shouldn’t go wandering just anywhere.”

“Oh,” I said, “just to get my bearings. I don’t want to get lost, not speaking Bulgarian.”

The clerk seemed satisfied. “All we have,” he said, “is this little one here.” He pointed to a small hand-painted street plan under the glass on his desk. It would never be of any help to me: only the names of the biggest boulevards were shown. But I bent over the map to please him, and as I did I saw an amazing thing. The cartographer had indeed penned in the names only of major avenues, with one terribly important exception. There was a sin­gle, tiny street just a few blocks from the hotel that had a name on it. And it was the street name I was looking for! Not one other street of similar size on the entire map bore a name. I felt again the most amazing sense that this trip had been prepared long before.

Early the next morning I left the hotel and headed immediately for the street where Petroff lived. I found it with no difficulty, just where the map had indicated. Now it was only a matter of find­ing the number.

As I walked along the sidewalk, a man came down the street from the opposite direction. We drew abreast just as I came to the number I was looking for. It was a large double-duplex apartment house. I turned up the walkway, and so did the stranger!

As we neared the front door, I glanced for a fraction of a sec­ond into the face of the man who had arrived at the precise moment I did. And at that instant I experienced one of the com­mon miracles of the Christian life: our spirits recognized each other.

Without a word we marched side by side up the stairs. Other families lived in the house too: if I were making a mistake, it would be very embarrassing. The stranger reached his apartment, took out his key, and threw open the door. Without invitation I walked into his house. Just as quickly, he closed the door behind him. We stood facing each other in the darkness of the single room that was his home.

“I am Andrew from Holland,” I said in English. “And I,” said Petroff, “am Petroff.”

Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 214-215.


What Do You Want a Map So Badly For?