In early June of 1976 we boarded a plane at San Francisco International airport. We were heading to Japan. I had never taken an international trip before and had no idea what was in store for me. I was scared and apprehensive of what the next three years held for me. I was also excited for a new adventure with my husband of of 17 months. Together we found our seats, and buckled up for our trip.
Several hours later I looked out to see brilliant blue waters below me. We were descending to land. I looked over to Dale (my husband) and asked if we were there already. He smiled and said, “No dear, we are in Honolulu” . I had no idea that the flight would be so long. We had a 45 minute layover there and I said I wanted to breathe Hawaiian air. At that time we could get off the plane and go outside, no security checks, no TSA, just a terminal with doors to go through. We walked outside and smelled the fresh Hawaiian air. Something I thought I would never do. We came back inside and bought an ice cream bar from a vending machine. Vending machines were the only thing that was available, no restaurants like we have now. We got back to our seats ready for the next leg of our journey. That has been my only Hawaiian adventure.
The plane itself was filled mostly with military folks going to a new duty station. We were all young, early twenties and some ‘older folks’ who were in their thirties. There was a party atmosphere on the plane as one of the wineries in California had provided wine for the second leg of the trip. As we drew near to Japan airspace the crowd in the plane was in full tilt party mode. We had all had wine, we had a buffet, we were becoming friends.
It was a rainy evening when we touched down at Haneda airport in Tokyo. We taxied to a stop and the plane grew silent. We had landed and reality hit us all. We had filled out the forms for what we were bringing into the country, and we were ready to head to customs. At the door of the plane, I hesitated, afraid of the next step. Dale gave me a gentle nudge and I started down the stairs. We stood on the tarmac and looked at the signs. Both were in Kanji with English translation below. The first sign said ‘residents’ the second ‘aliens’. Everyone hesitated. Here we were aliens. We did not belong to this country. This was not our home. I will never forget that feeling. I knew I would be there for three years. The bottom line was I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my sisters. I needed to see them. I needed reassurance and hugs. Instead, my husband held out his hand and guided me into the terminal. The first step, done.
Obviously, we made it through customs and met our sponsor from the base who greeted us and got us to our final destination, Yokosuka. Our sponsor became a dear friend who got us settled and ready for what would become one of the greatest adventure of my life.
It was in Japan that I would become a born-again Christian. It was there that I began to realize that we are all aliens on this earth. Our true home for those of us who trust our Lord with our lives, is in Heaven. We are just passing through. We are resident aliens.
II Corinthians 5:1-5 says, “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” (the Message)