December 17, 2008

Welcome Home


It was the return journey from my last family trip to India in 1998. We’d missed our original flight out of Delhi to Hong Kong and had to be rerouted to Los Angeles via London. A string of long flights with a long layover, and I was wiped out. Of course, it didn’t help that I was sick for the entire journey.
We’d traveled to India to visit relatives and do some wedding shopping for my big day coming that November. I have a weak stomach on good days in the United States, so it was no surprise that soon after arriving in India, I had a nice case of “Delhi Belly.” Sadly, the rest of the two-week trip involved days of feeling better and days of feeling pretty bad—except, of course, for the day I perked up for wedding shopping. The day we flew home, however, I was in bad shape.
2008 1535 page6It started with a fever and chills and other unpleasant things en route to London, and I am forever grateful to the kind flight attendant who gave me cans of ginger ale throughout the journey. On landing in London for our six-hour layover, I promptly stretched out on four seats in the transit lounge and tried to sleep. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I popped fever reducers, upset-stomach relievers, and tried to keep water down. I don’t remember much about the 10-hour flight to Los Angeles except for the apple juice I drank to wash down more medicine.
Finally, after seemingly endless hours of travel, which are tortuous under the best of circumstances, we were back in the United States. Summoning the last bit of my waning strength to trudge after my parents through the immigration line, I waited while the officer inspected our passports.
Then I heard two precious words that made everything better: “Welcome home.”
I do recall my eyes watered, and no, it wasn’t from the fever or my state of delirium. Those sweet words came from the mouth of a kind immigration officer who took our American passports, asked us what we had been doing in India, stamped them, and welcomed us back. He was just doing his job and being very gracious at the same time, but those words were still wonderful to hear.
It felt so good to be home.
I imagine a day, hopefully in the near future, when—after traveling through space and seeing mind-boggling things, after being reunited with loved ones we lost before, after enduring tests and trials that have made us fit for this journey—we will hear those words.
There will be a King there, holding open the gates to the city. He will point the way with pierced hands and He will say to us, “Welcome home.”
My tears will flow freely that day and they won’t have been caused by illness.
I can’t wait.

Wilona Karimabadi is privileged to work on KidsView, Adventist Review's magazine for children.