School holidays on the Ebeneser

As soon as we had a school holiday, we had to go to the ship – it was the only way for us to be together as a family. It was not easy to arrange. We needed someone to come and watch our house while we were gone. It was not possible to go away and leave the house empty. There was always a risk of robbers coming to a vacant house.

Dad had moved Ebeneser from Colombo to Trincomalee. There he did not have to pay expensive port charges. It was also much cleaner in every way as there were not many ships that emitted soot and oil all the time. One could swim in the harbor around the boat without getting dirty from the oil from other ships.

The first few times it was fun to go to the boat during school holidays. We traveled north and northeast from Kandy through a lush landscape with all imaginable shades of green. 

Dogs, hens, ox carriages and people along the road posed a traffic risk. Fruit vendors sat in palm-leaf sheds selling pineapple, bananas, mangos and many other kinds of fruit. Sometimes we stopped to buy something. 

Mum had brought sandwiches that we ate by the shore of the Kantale tank – an artificial lake, which was built to irrigate fields in the area already between the years 608 and 618 AD. Stretching our legs for a while was nice.

The landscape became arider as we approached Trincomalee. The salty smell of the ocean reached us far before we saw the blue water between the bushes that grew on the sand dunes. Everyone was excited to see the first glimpse of Ebeneser.

Far out in the harbor, we saw the white boat with the familiar blue and white flag. As we arrived at the beach, Dad called until someone on the ship heard him and came to pick us up with a small motorboat. We installed ourselves in our old cabin.

Almost everything was as before. At night when the generator was shut down, and the lights were extinguished, I felt something was different. Something was moving in the room and crawling over my feet. Mom lit the flashlight and saw the big cockroaches that had appeared in the dark. How could I sleep with such insects in the cabin? Mom killed as many as she could, but most of them disappeared into cracks in the wall. Later, I learned that many cockroaches had come to the ship while the boat was in Colombo harbor. Dad had received some large sea shells as a gift from a Maldivian fishing boat - and the cockroaches became a permanent nuisance on the ship. It was impossible to get rid of them.


There were always a lot of guests to Ebeneser. Dad had meetings on the boat and in many different communities around the harbor where he was.  The ship needed frequent maintenance. Therefore, Dad made many trips to India.

Those visits gave dad an opportunity to preach in different churches throughout South India. As the trips to India usually took several weeks, I could not go along due to the school schedules. Dad, of course, wanted to have his family together whenever possible. He had been away from us so much, that our relationship was not natural. He gave himself entirely to his work - his missionary task - and always tried to imprint its significance in us, his children. It started having the opposite effect on me.

I didn't look forward to holidays o the ship.  I was building an identity that never could be mine entirely.  I was a foreigner, trying to find a place where I could belong.


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