Piachaud Gardens, Kandy, Ceylon

THE RETREAT

By my seventh birthday, we had moved again. Since our arrival from Hong Kong to Ceylon just over two years earlier this was our third home. I couldn’t count the temporary homes in three different countries on three continents we had lived in the past six years, but this house felt different. Each step I took towards the house felt like I was walking in a dream. The house became a nurturer of my dreams. Mother sent our address to friends and relatives in Finland.

“THE RETREAT” Piachaud Gardens, Kandy, Ceylon.

I did not know the history of the house at the time, or why it got its name. I just knew it was home. It was my home only for thirteen months, but its impact has lasted a lifetime.

The Retreat

A book- A Key to the Future

The former occupants of The Retreat were Swedish missionaries Einar and Anna Johansson. They had fled with their five children from China to Ceylon just a few months before us in 1949. They shared a Swedish teacher, Marta Persson, with the Bjorkenfors family who had four children. The fact that they had a teacher was one reason why Mother chose to take us to Ceylon. She did not know when she made that decision about the school in Kandy that would form my identity for years to come.

The Swedes had left a behind a book by Elsa Beskow “VILL DU LÄSA” – Do You Want to Read. It had beautiful pictures. I found in it a story which led to important choices later in life. I wanted to learn to read that book. Mother’s native language was Swedish. She taught me. I had read several books in English before I started school. Our home language was Finnish.

Elsa Beskow’s book

Parcels from America

Sometimes we received packages from churches we had visited in America. Once, among all the clothes and dried foods was a post-order catalog. My nine-year-old brother and I studied the pages with pictures of children’s clothes. Can there be so many lovely clothes for children? I wondered. My mother sewed most of our clothes on her hand-driven Singer sewing machine. Some of our clothes came in parcels, but they were never as beautiful as the pictures in the catalog.

  

“If there are such a lot of cute clothes for children, we must have a lot of children when we grow up!” Emmanuel said.
“How many should we have?” I asked.
“Twelve, I think is good. Six boys and six girls.”
“Why six and six?”
“Well, Dad always has so much work to do, so he would need more boys than he has to help him put up his tent for tent meetings and preaching. He has only three of us.”
“Yes, and Mom has an awful lot of work every day, and she has only Mary and me to help her here at home.”
Since we agreed on these matters, Emmanuel went to mom and asked, “Can a brother and sister get married when they grow up?”
“No, that is impossible. A brother and sister can’t marry each other.”

We decided to pray for each other to find the right person to marry – and for the twelve kids, each one of us should have.