Excerpt from my memoir
A rotary phone was attached to the wall near a bedroom. The long cord came in handy when anyone needed privacy and quiet, so we pulled the cord into the bedroom and closed the door as much as possible, hoping that no one would press the lever to cut the conversation. It became a problem when more than one person wanted to use the phone. Patience wasn’t a virtue of mine. I would try to get someone’s attention with a quick click on the lever to show I needed the phone. I personally might have taken advantage of my position as the firstborn to get my way too many times.
One day, I pulled the receiver with the long cord into the bedroom and chatted with a girlfriend about my future plans. At nineteen, we had talked about boyfriends and what kind of qualities each of us looked for in a future husband. I don’t remember what she shared, but I know one important aspect I wanted in a husband. He would have to be a Christian. Of course, I had a few other requests. I also listed what I didn’t like in a guy, but God has a sense of humor. Would He listen to my ramblings and grant my requests, especially as a teen girl who seemed clueless as to what would be best for her in a life partner?
On a Saturday evening in June, I walked with Sofia on our way to church for a prayer meeting, an event I enjoyed and attended often. Suddenly, she said, “I’ve been thinking for two weeks about this guy back in Finland.”
Before she could continue, I laughed and interrupted. “Did you meet someone over there?” Excitement filled me as I glanced at her and continued, without letting her finish her thoughts. “That’s so great.” Since she had attended Bible college in Finland, it wouldn’t surprise me if she found someone. After all, she neared thirty. She laughed with me, not at me, and didn’t even get upset when I blurted out, “Do you think you’ll go back to Finland someday?” I had a habit of speaking before thinking.
Almost at the church, she continued, “No. I met a young seminary student, but that’s not it.” She smirked.
I paused and turned to face her and placed my hands on my hips. “Then what is it? Say it.”
She flashed a mischievous grin. “He wrote and asked me if I knew anyone in Canada who could write to him as a pen pal to teach him English.”
As a teenager, I divided my time between school, work, and activities with the church youth group. I also taught Sunday school. Was she insinuating I should? Did I need another responsibility to add to my already busy agenda? If I agreed, I would keep it as a duty. Loyalty was one of my character traits.
Although she hadn’t asked me directly, I answered, “I don’t know. Can’t you get some guy to write him?”
“We don’t have anyone else in the church who can write in Finnish and English. Markus is the only one, but though he speaks Finnish, he can’t write it. And I certainly cannot write in English,” Sofia said.
She reached into her purse and pulled out a black and white grainy photo of a group of students from the school she had attended—Santala, the one I planned to attend but didn’t. I studied the photo, trying to make out a small face. The guy had glasses and light brown hair that receded a bit. After a few minutes, I answered, “Okay, I guess there’s no harm in writing.
He’s across the ocean, anyway. I’ll never see him.”
“Think about it,” Sofia said.
We arrived at the church when I realized something strange. Why now? Would he receive my letter in time for me to receive a reply, even if he answered right away? Back in January, I had booked a charter flight to Finland that left the following week to visit my relatives with my sister and Mom. Maybe I’d write after I returned home or while in Finland.
At home, I told my mom, and she said little, so I left it at that. A few days later, I wrote and told him about my visit to Finland. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we met?
Why I wrote my love story?
Today there are many online dating apps that provide a place to meet. Our meeting was unique–a divine appointment–in that over fifty years ago, there was no internet, only mail delivered to a mailbox. And letters took a week or two to reach their destination. As much as I liked corresponding with pen pals all over the world, one stole my heart.
If you’re looking for a lifelong partner, it’s best to pray and ask God for direction and confirmation. A three-strand cord is not easily broken. So adding God to the mix of a relationship helps though not foolproof. All relationships require work. May this true story be a blessing and spark a longing for something more, either in relationships. Or longing to know the unconditional love of God.
To read more about how this story came to be, here’s a post I wrote in more detail.
Between Us: A True Story of Longing for Love and Letters is available on Amazon as ebook and paperback. Also, you can get a signed copy from me by mail if you live in Canada.
Here’s Paul’s prayer for you about God’s unconditional love.
I pray that you and all God’s people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. I want you to know all about Christ’s love, though it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. Ephesians 3:18-19 CEV
Photo taken by my husband at Saalem Church in the Finnish service in Thunder Bay.