Gary got home from Croatia on Saturday night and was going to lead the communion time during church service on Sunday morning. Normally, he drives to church, but he asked me to so he could continue to work on it on the way there. One of our team members called Gary’s phone while we were driving and asked if we saw our e-mail (which we hadn’t). Someone from the CCC office sent an e-mail out on Saturday saying that the mayor had declared a smog alert for Budapest starting on Sunday. This meant that cars with red or black environmental stickers cannot enter or drive around Budapest between 6am-10pm daily until the alert is rescinded. Violators can be fined up to $500. Red or black environmental stickers are most commonly found on older cars. Our colleague called us because he knew that we had an old car, that Gary was just getting in Saturday night, and that our internet wasn’t working. Since we were on our way to church it was too late to do anything about it, so we continued.
A few minutes later a police car pulled out in front of me and then got into a turn only lane and sat there while cars passed by. He pulled back out behind the car behind us. As we turned, so did he. Then all of a sudden he was right up on my bumper, so I knew I was getting pulled over. He turned his lights on and I pulled over. The normal procedure with getting pulled over is to give the police your car papers (like you would in the States… except you don’t keep them in your glove compartment because if someone steals the papers, they can “own” your car so to speak). He looked at the papers and said that they had expired a month ago. Basically they have to be renewed about every two years, and it is up to the owner of the car to remember to do it. The policeman continued to go back and forth between our car and his and talking on his radio to someone. I think they didn’t really know what to do with us (us being foreigners and not with all of the needed papers). At some point Gary started calling people at church to tell them what was happening so they could move the communion time later in the service and to be prepared if he didn’t show up at all. As time went on, the policeman told us that we would both be fined for the car papers being expired. Gary would be fined because the car is in his name and the papers are expired, and I would be fined because I was driving the car with the papers expired. He said that we would receive the ticket in the mail from the post office, and that it would probably be at least $150. My mouth just dropped open. I know that this may not seem like much to some of you in the States where tickets are high, but this is a lot for us. During this process they asked each of us if we had a Hungarian driver’s license. Thankfully they did not fine us or do anything since we don’t, but they did tell us that we have to get one. I won’t go into all of the stuff with a Hungarian driver’s license, but it’s difficult to get one and very expensive, so we’ve avoided doing it all of these years (as have many other Americans living here). Originally the policeman told us that we would have to leave from that spot and drive the car somewhere and just leave it until a mechanic could inspect it. We explained that Gary was speaking to a church nearby, and they said that we could drive there and then home. Thankfully we made it to church in a reasonable amount of time. The communion time was moved to right before the message, so Gary did it about 2 minutes after we arrived. Once we got home we looked at the color of the stickers on our license plate, and sure enough, one was red. I was thankful that they didn’t say anything about the smog alert or fine us for that, but then when I saw e-mail, I saw that another one had gone out saying that they lifted the alert on Sunday morning. I’m soooo thankful that they lifted the alert, otherwise, we could have gotten a fine that was much higher.
A couple of days later someone came over to our house and gave us the equivalent of about $100 to go toward paying for the fine. Wow! I was so shocked. It was so thoughtful and encouraging for them to do that. And, such a blessing! I always love to see how God provides in such unexpected ways.