story by Becky Karnsund
title by Pontus Karnsund
There was a rule on board the ship where I met Pontus that we all had to wait one year before being able to get "Social Permission" (term used when a couple was allowed to date). Before my year was up, I had an engagement ring on.
The following is the story of how that happened.
I first met Pontus while translating for him when he preached at a church in Acapulco, Mexico. The very next day, he left for Costa Rica. His job involved preparing the ports ahead, so he didn't live on board with the rest of us. He left an impression on me though. I had never met anyone like him. He was all I had ever imagined I would want in a guy, something I didn't think had existed until then. I assumed I couldn't have him though (he was just out of my league), but from then on I prayed every evening out on the deck that God would give me a guy just like him someday.
A week later I received an email from him. It was a simple note, but the beginning of months of email correspondence. No rules existed for emailing, so I approached the director of our ship to ask him if we could (I had decided I would stop contacting him if the director told me too, praying God to direct). I can't remember our conversation, but he said we could continue communicating.
Not quite a year into my time, I was invited to fly to Belgium to help with two youth events, which included a free week where I could take a train down to see my parents. Pontus, who was by this time living and studying at a theological school in Paris, asked me if he could visit when I went to Spain. Once again, I went to the director to ask. I was given the green light.
Soon there we were, in Spain together. My parents had a guest room in our home, but they had put Pontus up in a hotel across town. Every morning, Pontus would climb the hill up to our house and spend the day with us.
My dad approached me one evening when I was alone. He had seen Pontus put his arm around me while watching a movie and asked what our plans were. I told them there were none. He gently challenged me to commit some day to someone and that this seemed like a good guy to commit to.
I was a bit shocked and shared the conversation with Pontus while out on a walk the next day. Expecting him to laugh about it with me, I went pale when he responded with a smile: "Would that be so bad?" He figured that if we were going to be away from each other for another year and were meant to be, "why not get engaged before".
I wanted to run. I wanted to run far away and never see him again. I was scared. I didn't want to think about it. I barely knew him! Most of our time getting to know each other had just been over email! My dad talking about commitment and now Pontus!? I said no.
After a few hours, I calmed down and asked Pontus: "How do we know what God's will is?" I asked my dad the same question. No one gave me a satisfying answer.
Pontus was everything I had ever wanted in a husband, was going the same way in life that I was going, we were following the same God with the same passion, and a deep love was growing for him. But how to know what God wants? I prayed. I asked. But no answer, no signs in the sky, no dreams, no visions. Silence. I got kinda upset at God. Here I was asking him to guide me in one of my most important decisions, and he goes silent?!
The next few days we talked a lot, prayed for guidance, ... and looked at rings one time "just for fun". Eventually it was time to leave. Pontus decided to join me on the train ride back up to Holland.
The day before leaving he mentioned he wanted to ask my dad for my hand in marriage, "just in case the moment arose sometime in the future". I figured it couldn't hurt, but warned him I wasn't ready to give an answer. Pontus asked my dad while we were at a Chinese restaurant, when my mom and I had gone to wash our hands. My dad gave his blessing.
Soon we were back on the train and on our way to Holland. We would be changing trains in Paris and Belgium before arriving. Pontus kept throwing in that he thought Paris would be a great place to get engaged.
I'm not sure how or why, but I finally told him that "if I found the ring I wanted" (I had a specific one I was looking for and hadn't found it yet) and "if it fit my finger right away" (my fingers were always too fat for rings), that I would take those signs to mean that God was behind this." I wouldn't suggest this method to anyone, but I guess God has mercy and works even through foolishness sometimes.
Pontus got excited and figured: "It's Paris! How hard can it be to find a ring there!" He thought it was a done deal. But soon we arrived to Paris and everything was closed. Turns out that it was a national holiday in France. "Surely something would be open for tourists on the Champs-élysées though," he thought, so we made our way by metro to one of the busiest and most popular streets in the world. Walking towards the Arc of Triumph, we found nothing. Everything was closed! I had never seen it that way.
I finally looked at Pontus and said that maybe God didn't want us to get engaged. Maybe this was his way of telling us it not meant to be, at least not yet. We decided to return to the train station, but stopped to pray one last time. Holding hands right there in the middle of champs-élysées and surrounded by busy tourists walking by, we prayed. We gave our lives into God's hands and asked him to guide us. We prayed that, if it was his will that we get engaged, we would find a jewelry shop.
We were making our way back down champs-élysées, when suddenly Pontus noticed what seemed to be an open store at the end of a small ally on our right. He went down and came back excited. It was a small jewelry shop. Open! I held his hand as we made our way down. It was true. What?! Was this real? I looked at the display from outside and saw the ring I had been looking for. It was all so surreal. I hesitantly walked inside and I asked to try it on. It fit perfectly. I politely said a numb thank you and walked out. Pontus followed me, confused. Nervous and trembling I said: "What if this is all a mistake! What if this is all coincidence!" This was the biggest decision of my life!
Pontus calmly just smiled at me, like he does so many times when I freak out and he knows all is going to be OK. I sat down on the a ledge of the dirty street to calm my heart. In the depths of my soul I felt this was meant to be, but I was scared. I gave my fears to God and asked him to guide me. I looked up, smiled at Pontus and squeaked out an excited yes.
Pontus went back into the shop, bought a ring for me and one for himself (he wanted people to know that he was engaged too while we were apart). I was waiting nervously outside when he returned holding up two red paper bags. "So who wants to visit the Eiffel Tower?!" he yelled out.
As if in a dream, we held hands and made our way to the tower. We paid for our tickets and got into the glass elevator full of people and started the ascent up what equals 108 floors (900 ft). Being scared of heights, Pontus stayed glued to the center pole, while I leaned up against the glass and watched the world melt away.
We reached the top and were pushed out of the elevator to a crowd of people, old cigarette buds on the ground, and urine smells. None of which bothered me. Everything except Pontus was a blur. We found a corner where we could talk and I looked into his blue dancing eyes. Pontus took out a little black box from one of the paper bags and held it in his hand. He told me how much I meant to him, how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I actually don't remember the details of what he said, but I do remember that he never actually asked me to marry him. He asked if I would wear the ring and stopped talking. I took the ring and asked: "I will wear the ring, but did you want me to marry you?" "Yes!!" He yelled out in shock. "That's what I meant! Do you want to marry me!!!??"
I said yes and he kissed me.
Suddenly a bunch of Asians around us started clapping away and asking us if we wanted them to take a picture. We said no, but I wish now that I would have accepted. Soon we were on our way back down in the elevator. I was in a daze. I was engaged! Walking across the lawn towards the metro, I looked over at what was now my fiancee and down at our locked fingers. I was engaged to this guy I barely knew. This young man was going to be the father of my children. I was in love, but I was nervous. Above all, though, I felt God had brought us together and I could trust him. By the time we were back at the train station I was telling complete strangers I was engaged. I was so excited!
Newly engaged, we got on the first train out of Paris, but due to all this taking more time than we realized, we missed a connecting train in Belgium and were told there were no connecting trains till the next day! We made ourselves comfortable on two of the station benches, but police men came by and kicked us out of the building. Turns out you can't spend the night in train station in Belgium. So there we were, standing in the rain, in the dark and in the cold, with nowhere to go. We could see a hotel across the street, but we knew we didn't want that. As tempting as a warm dry bed was right then, we both wanted to wait for our wedding to spend the night together. That would have not been a wise choice. Looking around, we saw a closed furniture store nearby that had a small awning that would protect us from the rain. So there we went. We sat down on a ledge just inches from the ground and I leaned my head on his shoulder to slept off and on till morning (with occasional drunk people stumbling by and yelling at us).
We finally arrived to the conference, run by the organization that our ship was part of. Leaders from all over the world were gathering there. As we entered, it suddenly dawned on us what we had done: we didn't have SP (that social permission to be together) and we were engaged! It hadn't even crossed our minds this whole time. I had been under my parents' authority, we had received my dad's blessing, I was off the ship and under God's rules in my mind, not theirs. We just hadn't thought about it! But what would we do now? We had to face the music. First thing we did was find a tollbooth and Pontus called the director of the ship in South America to explain what had happened. Then we met with personnel leaders at the conference. Wow were we in trouble. They were very upset. I told them I could take the ring off, but we didn't feel we could retract getting engaged.
People coming from around the world had already heard about us by the next day.. .the couple that got engaged before getting "SP". To make matters worse, it turns out that while we were gone all the existing couples on board the ship had had to sign a contract stating that they would not get engaged while on board (something we obviously didn't know about)!
Pontus returned to Bible school in Paris and I returned to the ship. Some adults came to me and told me my dad was foolish for blessing us, others disagreed and some friends distanced themselves. The director of the ship, who had sadly gotten the hit for us, was full grace, mercy and understanding though. The captain and his wife also took us gracefully under their wings. I was very grateful. The months ahead I stayed busy with my responsibilities on board, but also bought cheap local Caribbean material to start making a wedding dress on the ship's small sewing machine.
A year later I flew to Spain to marry the guy God had brought into my life in such a miraculous way. You can read about the wedding here.
Sometimes it's hard to know which step to take when we seek God's will in our lives, but I've learned that if I follow my shepherd commands (found in the Bible) and if I trust his guidance (believing he will guide and trusting he has good plans/intentions for me), I can use the logic he gave me, the wisdom in people he sends my way, and trust him to guide.
I love watching how my children lean back in their car seats, look out the window as I drive, and trust me to take them where they need to go. They don't worry. They trust I'm driving them to a place of safety. There are rules I have set in place that they need to follow to be safe. And the more they know me, the more they trust me to do what is best for them. I want to do that too: follow, obey, and trust my heavenly Father through this windy crazy stormy journey that is called life.
Pontus and Becky Karnsund have four children ages 11-16. Pontus was born and raised in Sweden and Becky was born and raised in Spain (American parents). They met in Mexico, got engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower, married in Spain, and moved to Sweden where Pontus completed his Masters degree in theology. After Sweden, they lived in Spain for 6 years, then transferred over to Arizona for 7 years, where Pontus was involved in pastoring, church plant training, and church consulting. In 2016 they moved to Holly Springs, North Carolina, to start a new church.
Pontus & Becky Karnsund
PO Box 756
Holly Springs, NC 27540
We write not because we think we are good writers, but because we want to share with you a journey God has us on. We write not to point to us, but to the amazing, merciful, good, and gracious Father we all have access to through Jesus.