I wrote yesterday about an April Fools’ joke I played on him. That was not the only one. There is a little bit of mischievous in me.
My mischievous side
I met Bengt in Sweden, at the end of November. In January, I had to go back to Peru. He came in April. We lived in Huancayo, a day’s drive away from the airport in Lima. My missionary friends Lennart and Boyan Lindgren offered to go with me to meet him. That’s when the mischievous side of me kicked in. I pretended they were my parents! He didn’t buy into it, because they looked too young. So, that joke didn’t work.
The more I think about him coming to Peru to marry someone very “unknown” to him, the braver I consider him. Bengt was born and raised in one city, his very beloved Karlskrona. He had no “adventurous” life before launching out on his missionary journey to Peru. There were so many new things for him to learn. To his family, he was a “fool.”
The language barrier
The language was a big barrier to overcome. But he had me to translate for him. And we got him a teacher. He had this old book from around 1920 with pictures for every word in all kinds of different areas. We would have big discussions because Bengt didn’t believe me when I sounded out and pronounced the words. “That doesn’t sound right!” he would say. To that I would always comment, “Who knows the language? You or I?” And he had to agree with me and pronounce the words like they should be, even if it didn’t make sense to him. But eventually he learned, not only to speak the language but also to write it.
The food was an issue
The food was another issue. He was used to his mother’s very plain diet. Meat and potatoes, with canned peas and carrots. Fish, since they lived by the sea. And yellow pea soup every Thursday, which was warmed up and served also on Friday. Then he comes to South America and our very diverse diet, inspired by Peruvian cuisine. By the way, Peru has been voted the World’s Leading Culinary Destination. For Bengt, it was too much to take in, but he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so he would always say that the food was very “interesting.” It wasn’t until a year after his arrival that I discovered the meaning of “interesting!” He didn’t like it!
What he most definitely didn’t like were salads. Our entire life together I tried to entice him in different ways to have some greens. He would put some on his plate but at the end of the meal they were still on the plate! That was a lost cause!
The walks with the dog
We were both born in Sweden, but that was about it for compatibility. Mom said I complained to her that I had married a foreigner, because we were so different. How different I should have understood by all the walks with our little dog Bengt took. He told me that instead of venting his frustration on me he would take a walk with the dog. He took so many walks I decided to play a trick on him. I would hide so the house was empty when he got home, and then he would have to worry a little about me. Sure enough, I hid! But he was gone for such a long time I didn’t want to hide anymore. I never told him about it!
The devastating break-in
The day we had a break-in was no joke! To find that someone had rummaged through all our things was devastating. I felt especially vulnerable because they had violated our “sanctuary,” the bedroom. I don’t remember all the things they stole from us, but I still remember the awful feeling of wondering about every person I met, if that was the one that had broken into our house.
The invasion threat
We lived in a house provided by a Chinese friend—really two houses. A big one where my parents lived and a smaller one for Bengt and me. The houses lay by a big open space where there once had been a linen factory. The houses were on either side of the road leading to the now abandoned factory. I observed lots of people walking by and heard their arguments. They were going to do an invasion and take over the entire area. My parents were in Sweden at that time. I guess I communicated this to the owner. I also prayed about it. The answer from the Lord was Exodus 14:14, the verse that is the theme for my Royal Palm World Mission ministry.
“The Lord will fight for you;
you need only to be still.”
The “fight” had some devastating consequences, but not as bad as if we would have had the invasion. The owner went to the Police and offered them to keep their horses on the vacant property. We had gates going into the property of the houses and there were gates to the big open factory area. When the Police brought their horses, we had to make sure to keep the gates closed. We were not the only people living on the big property, and someone was careless. One morning we woke up to all the vegetation on our side of the property gone! Grass and flowers had all been feasted upon, but not only that. The people of the church had sown corn on a big open space we had, in hopes of raising money for the church-building we hoped to construct. All the corn was gone!
The Lord fought for us so we could stay in our place of living, but I guess it was up to us to make sure the horses were not given free access to our area.
Bengt and “Sí, sí”
Talking about free access, here is a story that makes no sense. Bengt was learning the language and did not want to show that he didn’t understand. “Sí” was a word he knew well (YES), and he used it for everything. Whatever someone said to him, he would answer “Sí, sí.”
The church members not only voted on the pastor sowing corn, they also voted that we should raise chickens to sell for restaurants who served grilled chicken, something that was very popular. We had a young man who lived on the property and took care of this chicken business. In a couple of rooms, built for that purpose, we were raising the little chicks. It was a complicated matter. What happened next was that one day I found the chicks running all over the place—on the road, in the garden, among the corn (the horses had not yet done their thing!). I immediately called on the young man and asked him why the chickens were running free. “I asked brother Bengt if I should let them out,” he said. Bengt had answered he usual, “Sí, sí.”
I told Bengt to NEVER answer “Sí, sí” without knowing what he was agreeing to. Now, imagine the job we had to round up all the chickens and get them back in the rooms designated for them. This chicken business did not last. Pastor Bengt was not called to raise chickens! He was raised in a coastal city, as a mommy’s boy, and had no clue about chickens, and less about corn and horses.
Everybody loved Bengt
Some other time I’ll have to tell you more about Bengt’s adventures. He did a good job as a missionary in the Andes of Peru. God made Bengt perfect for the job he had in mind for him. His personality fitted perfectly with the people. He was friendly and had no enemies. They loved him!
About his language studies… He relied on me to translate for him. He preached in Swedish with me at his side to give the Spanish translation, until… one day Dad said, “Enough!” There was to be no more translation!
Bengt, the sweet mommy’s boy who won everybody’s heart, got mad. He was not happy with Dad! But later, he was thankful. Now, Bengt had to sit down and write a sermon, translate it, read it for practice, understand the Spanish, and then deliver it.
About writing sermons, he knew that part. When he first started out as a preacher he would write a sermon and then memorize it. I can still hear in my mind the first lines of a sermon he repeated to me. (Säg mig, frågade den unga damen ivrigt predikanten, “Vad handlar egentligen Bibeln om?” Bibeln handlar helt om Jesus!) Tell me, the young lady eagerly asked the preacher, “What is the Bible really about?” The Bible is all about Jesus!
Ever since Bengt became a Christian in his early twenties, his life was all about Jesus. I’m honored to say that he left his “comfortable” life in Karlskrona to pursue the call of God on his life. He was brave to come to Peru and marry me.
Another day I’ll share some more memories.