As an all volunteer crew, we lived on support. Everyone raised a certain amount of money, based on nationality, and it all went into a common fund. We were given our toiletries, medical care, etc. Our clothes came from “Charlie” (aka Charles of the Ritz), a room full of donated second hand clothes which we picked through when we needed something “new.” We each received US$15 per month for spending money.
Peter and I had dates memorable for their simplicity! He would buy us each a drink, and a chocolate bar to share. We could meet once a week for about an hour, in a leader’s office with the door cracked open… Peter would set up a little boom box, and we’d sit and talk. That is how we started to learn about each other.
I.T. continued. We had to keep things on the “downlow.” As we neared the end of the leadership training, our team went for a week long assignment in a town called Middelfart (I kid you not!) in Denmark.
One day, one of the men on the team asked Peter to take a walk with him. There was something pressing on his mind. He confided in Peter as his leader that he was interested in a gal on the team… (yours truly). Awkward! Secret or no secret, it was time to tell the team about our relationship.
We returned to the ship. The leadership training had ended. The full blown I.T. program now began. Our SP was made public. In fact, it was published in the bulletin! “Frank Dietz has granted social permission to Barby Zuniga and Peter Ward.” I wanted to dive under the table when my brother thanked God for it over the loudspeaker at dinner, as he prayed for the food!
Our relationship went through its own intensive training. Peter and I saw each other every day, starting at 5:30 in the morning to jog by the quayside, on to many other group activities, until late at night. We were in all kinds of pressurized situations together. There was also some opposition to our relationship, stemming from the situation in South Africa. I had leaders take me aside and express doubts about us as a couple, mostly because my ministry was more public, and Peter’s seemed to be more behind the scenes. Ridiculous now, but then we had to listen to, and consider, all the input.
Our being together was so right! Besides, never in my life had I seen anyone as bright-eyed and energetic at five o’clock in the morning as Peter. That was enough for me. God had dropped this fellow from another continent into my life. He was arranging things, just as I had asked…
We met in Chile, Peter asked for social permission in Germany, it was made public in Norway…
Now we were on another land team, this time at a ministry center in Sweden, which helped persecuted Christians in the Soviet Union. He proposed. Just like with the initial SP, I told him I’d pray about it, and tell him Yes on Monday. Monday came, it was Yes.
What to do about a ring? We had very limited funds. And I didn’t know my ring size. After getting kicked out of a jewelry store in Holland when they realized we weren’t going to buy anything (just trying to find out my ring size!), Peter made a little wire ring, sized it to fit me, taped it to a letter, and mailed it to his mother in South Africa. She would buy us a ring, and mail it to us.
Next stop was Southampton, England. Our first “alone” date was a trip to London. Guess what movie we saw at Piccadilly? The Killing Fields. Yikes.
The days passed. When would the ring arrive?? Our stay in England was drawing to a close. Southampton was the last port before Portugal, and we had very little hope of the ring surviving customs in Portugal! Time to pray hard.
The day of departure arrived, the ring did not. It seemed the prayers hadn’t worked. The ring was lost. We sailed away, quite disappointed. As the horizon was fading from view, we were sitting despondently in one of the lounges.
The Chief Purser walked by. “Peter, can you come by my office? I have something for you.”
Peter rushed to the office. The Purser he held out a little package. “Can I guess what this is?” he asked, smiling.
Peter was overcome with thankfulness. The Purser expressed his amazement at what had happened. He told this story: the local Pilot had steered the ship out. When the Pilot’s boat came to take him back to shore, it brought an unexpected, very last minute mail delivery! God had come through for us.
Now we could get officially engaged. It was April. The ship’s Director gave us $50 for dinner, a local family offered their vehicle, and we drove out to a beautiful restaurant by the ocean in Porto, Portugal…
We had a superb dinner, then walked out alone onto the rocky beach, under a shiny soothing moon, water shimmering, breeze blowing… He placed the ring on my finger, and we became fiances.