I’ve been waiting all week to write this. The lessons and stories I write for children have priority but on this day my English blog is Number One! Forty six years ago I said the big “Yes!” to the man I figured was the last one on earth that I wanted to marry. Life sure has its twist and turns!
Let me tell a short version of what happened after the night I found someone who understood me.
As I said in my previous blog I invited Bengt to come with me to the family that was hosting me in Växjö. I showed the short 8 mm films that I had of the children I worked with in Peru. Bengt fell in love with them! And as he was falling in love with those kids, I was falling in love with him.
Bengt invited me to come with him the next day to speak about Peru in a service for children he held on Tuesday nights. He would pick me up in his car. Sure enough, that’s what he did. After the service he invited me to the town’s water tower where there was a café. It was beautiful, with a view of the city. But that view didn’t interest me very much. I was “viewing” the features of the young man I was falling in love with.
We talked and we talked. How we got into the subject so quickly I don’t remember, but believe it or not, we ended up talking about how many kids we’d like to have. And the man had not even asked me if I wanted to marry him!
Time passed quickly, as it does when love is in the mix. About 9:00 pm Bengt remembered something! He had song practice at church, a very important one. He had told the choir members no one was allowed to miss it, because they needed to practice for the Christmas performance (this was the end of November). And here he was, the choir director, not showing up!
What’s up with blocking cars?
At the house, my host Margit was very upset with me. I had parked my car in the driveway, blocking their car, so she could not go to the choir practice. Talk about “blocking” cars! Remember, the day before the pastor had blocked my car! Margit was gracious and forgave me, and the choir members were gracious and forgave Bengt.
I was on a tour of mission services so I had to move on and continue as planned. God has a sense of humor. Of course, we are made in His image and some of us have a sense of humor (I hope I do!), so He must have the perfect one! On my tour, that weekend the services were in Karlskrona, Bengt’s hometown. Only God could have inspired me to set up the services as I did. I got to Karlskrona and met the pastor, Berno Sjöberg, whom I immediately told I had fallen in love and needed some advice. I had my father in South America and we didn’t have a phone there, so I couldn’t talk to him. I asked Berno to step in and give me fatherly advice.
Brother Berno at once asked me if the man of my dreams was Bengt. How could he know? He did! “Take it easy,” he said. “These things take time. Take your time!” But there was not much time to take. I already had my ticket purchased to go back to Peru in mid-January. If something was going to happen, it had to be quickly.
“Strike while the iron is hot”
On Bengt’s end, the pastor and his wife, Annie and Owe Fredin, told him to move quickly. “You have to strike while the iron is hot,” Annie said. Owe told him that they had some mission funds that were going to be allocated. “If you decide to marry Kerstin, I’ll suggest to the board members that we take you on as our missionary.”
Bengt was not the type to hurry, but he was going to have to move quickly. For a long time he had felt in his heart that God wanted him to go into missions. He had been thinking about Portugal, but then he fell in love with the children of Peru, and he was falling in love with a missionary from Peru, so he figured that he needed to focus on South America instead of Southern Europe.
Keep in mind that all this was happening in less than a week’s time! When he called home and told his mother and brother about meeting me, they wondered if this was going to be just another fleeting courtship, like he had had in the past. Bengt was 29 years old, and he had met a few girls over the years, but nothing came out of it.
“Beware of your future mother-in-law!”
While he was pondering what to do, a well-known evangelist warned him, “What a mother-in-law you’re going to get. Be careful!” That was our dear friend Åke Wallin that sounded a bell. Poor Bengt! What was he to do? Strike while the iron was hot and marry me, or heed the warning and run before he had and encounter with his mother-in-law?!
Love is blind, they say. Love makes you blind! When you’re in love all you can think about is the “object” of your love. I must have been crazy in love. I even lost my appetite. We have an expression in Swedish about “living on air and love.” That’s what I did those early days of my love saga. When I wasn’t having services or traveling, I was talking on the phone with Bengt or writing love letters. He had such a “cute” way of answering the phone: “14188 Lundquist.” I loved it. Mischievous as I was, I had to let my sister hear it.
I even lost my appetite!
My sister Ingrid was studying in Malmö and we had rented an apartment together. The days I wasn’t having services I spent with her. After I had met Bengt and arrived at “our” place, she had prepared a special dinner, which I left mostly untouched. No appetite! She must have gotten fed up with me because there was only one subject on my mind and lips: Bengt!
Well, I needed to let her in on some of the fun so we decided to call Bengt and let her pretend she was me so she could hear the “cute” way he answered. It went well for a while, but then Bengt started talking about things she had no clue about, so finally Ingrid had to confess. All this happened not even two weeks after our love story started. Bengt had been warned about the mother-in-law he was to have. This should have sounded warning bells about the young girl he was planning on marrying. But as I said, love is blind. I guess it’s a good thing, so we don’t see all the flaws and run for our life! In time we discover them, and then it’s too late to retreat. Praise God for that!
Bengt asked for my hand, but too late!
I told Bengt about the custom in South America to ask the father for the hand of the girl. So that’s what Bengt did. But he took his good, old time and we didn’t get an answer in time before our engagement. Dad gave him permission to marry me on one condition, the same as the agreement between Jacob and Laban regarding Rebekah. Bengt was asked to “tend the sheep” for seven years, which meant helping Dad with the church ministry in Huancayo. It turned out to be much more than seven years!
God had lots of miracles in store for us the short time that our courtship lasted, a courtship that was mostly by letters and phone calls. A lady in one of the islands off the coast of Karlskrona, Aspö, invited Ingrid and me to spend Christmas with them. Anna-Greta Andersen was her name. That gave me an opportunity to see Bengt around Christmas-time and to meet my future mother-in-law. Nobody warned me about her, but there was nothing to be warned about! She was a very kind and sweet lady, very much in love with her big boy Bengt, her “baby.”
I broke Magda’s heart
I think it was very hard for Magda to accept that I would take her boy away from her, to go all the way to South America. Magda had always dreamt of Bengt being a Lutheran priest. Now he was going to be a Pentecostal missionary! From one end of the spectrum to another! I’ll fast forward some twelve years, when we went back to Peru after spending some time in Sweden. Shortly thereafter Magda passed away. Bengt was accused by his relatives, saying it was his fault that Magda died. They claimed she died of a broken heart. She missed him and her granddaughters so much when we went back to Peru that her heart gave way. She might have missed me too. But in her mind I’m sure she always felt it was my fault that she had to live with her “baby” so far away.
The perfect timing to introduce us
New Year’s Eve would be a good time to get engaged. I could come to Växjö between my tour of services and at the same time get the boxes packed that I was sending to Peru by boat. The pastor figured it would be the perfect timing to introduce me to the church. They had decided to take on Bengt as their missionary.
We needed rings. Traditions are different from country to country. I didn’t have the romantic proposal that I see happening in the United States, when the guy buys a beautiful ring and plans a romantic situation to give it to the girl and ask her to marry him. What happened to me was that Bengt never proposed. He just started talking about how many kids he wanted to have and took it for granted that I would marry him. When we talked about the rings I told him he hadn’t even asked me if I wanted to marry him, so then he did. And I said, “Yes!”
Everything was happening in “fast-motion” for us. We went to the jewelry store after Christmas in hopes they would have some rings that fitted us. There they were! Just plain gold bands; no diamonds! The sizes fit us perfect. “I want a Bible verse in our rings,” I said. “Matthew 6:33,” said Bengt. Exactly my verse! That was another one of all the miracles that were happening in our fast-moving courtship.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
That verse became our guiding star. God first in our life, God first in our marriage, God first in our ministry, God first in everything!
Engaged to be a couple for life!
Annie and Owe invited us for a New Year’s Eve dinner. After dinner we exchanged rings and got engaged. In the rings we had engraved January 1, 1969 as the date; but we cheated and started out early. After dinner there was a business meeting at the church. I stayed in Bengt’s room, adjacent to the sanctuary. The pastor had a surprise planned. Close to midnight there was a regular service. Bengt and I sang a duet. Some of the people were saying, “They look so cute together; they should be a couple!”
Then came the surprise! The pastor walked up to us and gave me a big bouquet of flowers. “I would like to present to you the future missionary couple to Peru!” he said. Jaws dropped! Eyes opened wide! Some tears were shed! Disappointment was written all over some faces! Girls who had hoped to win Bengt’s heart… But then there were cheers. On the most part there was happiness. What a great way to welcome the New Year!
Margit, the host that had her car blocked 35 days earlier, had forgiven me. She welcomed us for a celebration dinner on January 1. I have to add here that her husband, my dear friend Erik, was very disappointed. He had picked out somebody else for me. In his eyes Bengt was not good enough. But as I’ve said, love is blind. For me there was nobody else!
Erik got over it. Whenever we came to Växjö we were welcome in his home. When we returned as a family to visit after our first tour of duty in Peru, he and Margit welcomed us to sleep in their bedroom. That is a proof of love and forgiveness. You see, Erik had to forgive me for not marrying the guy he had picked for me! And he loved us all until the day God called him home.
Sixteen days later I was in Göteborg (Gothenburg), Torslanda really, to bid farewell of my love and travel to Peru. He would join me three months later, so that on May 1, 1969 we would join hands and hearts, until death did us part, on October 19, 2007. God gave us 38 years of joy and tears, because that’s how life is. We all have our share of joy and sadness, mostly joy!
Bengt Göran Emanuel Lundquist is one of the greatest miracles
that has happened in my life. To God be the glory!