THE AIR had a brilliant clarity that cold Friday morning last March as I stepped out of the house. I was still not feeling well after a week's siege with the flu and I shivered despite my heavy wool pants suit, coat and scarf.
My husband, Gunnar, had left for work and I was now leaving for an 8:15 A.M. hairdresser's appointment. We live in a St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb and our house is somewhat secluded. I was scrap ing ice off the car windshield when I heard noises. Startled, I turned to face two men in ski masks. One pointed a nickel-plated revolver at me. I screamed. They lunged at me and wrestled me into my car.
"Do what we tell you and you won't get hurt," one commanded. I was paralyzed with fright. They blindfolded me, tied my hands and shoved me down in the back seat.
"What do you want?" I gasped as the car surged out of the drive way.
"We'll tell you later!"
The horror of my situation swept over me. There was no one at home. Our children are grown and live elsewhere. Gunnar didn't expect to hear from me until two o'clock. I found myself praying, "Father, I trust You to watch over me."
After about an hour of twisting and turning, then being transferred to another car for more driving, we entered a garage. I was led up stairs into a room. Peeking under my blindfold, I could see a white shag rug. "Sit down here," a voice ordered.
"Please, what do you want?" "Money from your husband."
Of course. Gunnar is president of the Drovers State Bank in South St. Paul.
"Where can we reach him?"
After I told him, he said grimly, "If everyone cooperates, it shouldn't take but a few hours."
One of the men left and my other captor sat down beside me. Even though I couldn't see him, I could sense his tension. Thoughts of recent kidnapings in which desperate men killed their captives chilled me. I tried to blot them out, and as I did, Bible verses came into my mind.
Two verses from Isaiah kept coming to me: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee. Be not dismayed; for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee" (Isaiah 41:10). And, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, be cause he trusteth in thee" (Isaiah 26:3).
As my fear subsided, my senses seemed to sharpen. As a nurse who teaches classes in mental health, I decided the best thing was to talk to him, to try to keep things calm.
Trembling inwardly, I tried to sound lighthearted. "Well, I don't want to talk to the wall. So I'll call you Bill. O.K.?"
Silence; then a muttered, "O.K."
"How much will you ask for?"
"Half a million."
Half a million dollars! My heart sank. "I don't know how my hus band can get that."
"He'd better!" The voice was ugly.
I prayed inwardly for Gunnar, then started rubbing my wrists where they had been tied. My captor shifted toward me. My nostrils picked up his rough scent. "You're a cool one. How come you're so calm?"
"Because I believe God is protecting me."
He was silent. But strangely, it seemed a receptive silence. So I told him how Christ had changed my life and given me a new set of values.
He didn't respond, but I thought I sensed a change. It was now probably about noon. He gave me some coffee. I was still blind folded; I could hear a radio monitoring police calls. In the after noon the other man sat next to me. "I called your partner Bill," I said. "What can I call you?"
"Jerry will do."
Hour after hour we sat. My body was aching. By now they must have reached Gunnar. Surely they would let me go soon.
I forced myself to talk to Jerry. I asked about his family. Then he turned to me with almost the same question that Bill had asked, "How come you're so relaxed?"
"God gives me strength to endure," I answered, trying to keep my voice from trembling. "I believe in His protection. Do you want me to tell you about it?"
He jumped to his feet and walked away. "No," he snapped. The slow minutes ticked away. Evening had come; Bill returned.
"Have you reached my husband?" I asked. He mumbled something about being double-crossed. "You'll have to spend the night here," he said.
Here? Tears welled up. But again came reassurance: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
Now hunger pained me. I had had no food since breakfast. Jerry gave me a tiny bit of a sandwich, saying it was all he had.
I spent a fitful night on the rug. By Saturday morning every bone in my body ached. Both men seemed grim. Apparently the ransom arrangements weren't going as expected.
Still nothing to eat or drink. At noon one man handed me a can of soda.
Late Saturday Bill said, "We'll have to move you." They took me to the garage. The icy air bit into me. I heard the car trunk open.
"Please!" I cried. "Not the trunk!"
"It's the only way," Bill retorted. They thrust me in, then slammed the lid. I lay hunched around the spare tire as we bumped over rough roads. Hours passed. I cried in pain from cramps and the cold. Finally we stopped, and, still blind folded, I was led into a small room.
I was handed a stale wiener bun. I ate one half and saved the other. Two days had passed. Would I ever see Gunnar again? But again that comfort: "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).
Sunday morning Jerry guarded me while Bill left. I was coughing from the flu. Jerry snapped on the radio. "Can you get KTIS?" I pleaded. KTIS is a religious station and soon a familiar hymn from the First Baptist Church came over it. My heart lifted. I knew the minister, Bill Malam, and his wife, Rita. Then came a special announcement. "We ask all listeners to pray for the safe return of Eunice Kronholm." Suddenly I felt much better.
My Sunday dinner was a can of soda. Later that day, letting me lift my blindfold for the time it took, Bill and jerry made me write Gunnar instructions on delivering the ransom.
That night they tied me up, then both left to pick up the ransom. I lay there sick with fear. My fears came flooding back. Then abruptly Bill returned and said, "We've got to move." We got into the car again. *
Maybe I'm going home! I thought* But after driving awhile, we parked and I was led into a strangely familiar room. Under my mask I could see the white shagrug. It was starting all over again!
Jerry came in and Bill left. ''When am I going to go home?" I pleaded.
"I don't know." Jerry seemed sullen. From my black world I couldn't see him, but I sensed something ominous.
Then a thought came to me. I had prayed for protection and been given it. But maybe I should ask God for a specific time of re lease not just sometime, but a definite hour. The hour of six p.m. came into my mind. "O God," I prayed, "take me home by six o'clock tonight."
I relaxed. "Jerry," I said, "I don't know what you think, but I feel that God is going to get me home by six o'clock tonight."
He didn't reply. The radio music was interrupted by a special news report: "A suspect in the Kronholm case has just been arrested."
Jerry became very agitated. Fear again clutched me as he paced the floor muttering. Is this when it will happen? I thought. A quick explosion behind my head? My body buried in the woods?
I trembled, then decided to refuse to think about ugliness or death, but rather, as the Bible says, "Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others" (Philippians 4:8).
Now I tried to convince Jerry to let me go. "I'll get some money for you," I pleaded.
"No," he said, "it won't work." He kept pacing the floor. It was now after five, according to the radio.
"Why don't you let me go now?" "Well," he said, looking out the window, "wait until dark."
Until dark? I was too weak to walk in the dark. I talked to him a little longer, then said, "I think I'll put my coat on."
"O.K.," he said, sighing wearily, "you might as well take off your mask, too." It seemed as if some thing was beginning to crumble within him.
As I stood to leave, my smarting eyes blinking in the harsh light, I could see that he looked pathetic and mournful. "You know," he said, "I've never met a woman like you. You don't seem to feel bitterness or anything."
I looked into his tormented eyes. "I have no bitterness toward you, really." I touched his shoulder. "I forgive you; God loves you."
I turned and stepped out into the dusk. As I started down the wooded road I heard him following me. A cold wind tore at my coat as I plodded on. I reached a highway, looked back and couldn't see Jerry.
"Oh, Father, a car, please." Soon one approached and I stepped out into the road, waving my arms. The driver took me to a nearby grocery store.
My fingers shook as I dialed home. One of our sons answered. Our three children were at the house waiting and praying.
The FBI men came quickly and took me to Gunnar. We fell into each other's arms. A few minutes later | looked at my watch.
It was 6:10 P.M.
Reprinted by permission from GUIDEPOSTS MAGAZINE, Copyright 1975 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512.