I have many years of experience of going home. One of my longest journeys was travelling back to the UK after the end of my first trip to sea in March 1974. I left my ship in the small port of Otaru in Hokkaido (Japan). After a night in a hotel ten of us were taken by bus to Sapporo. Hokkaido was covered in deep snow and delays at Sapporo resulted in us nearly missing our connecting flight in Tokyo. From Tokyo we flew to Anchorage in Alaska, where passengers were allowed to spend a couple of hours in the terminal while the aircraft was refuelled. From Anchorage we flew to Amsterdam. I took another flight from Amsterdam to London where on arrival I telephoned my parents who were unaware that I was coming home.
Although it was time for me to leave my first ship I really did not want to go home. I had completed the standard trip of five months set by my shipping company, but the ship was sailing to Australia after Japan, and I desperately wanted to go there. It would be twenty-six years before I finally made it to Australia when a two-week business trip took me down under. The journey home was as long as when I left my first ship with stopovers in Auckland and Los Angeles.
Marooned in yet another Covid-induced lockdown in the UK I have been sorting out old photographs and scanning slides. I came across a slide of our family Christmas tea in 1963, which is shown below. I am the only person in the photograph that hasn’t gone home. My grandfather (far left) only had a year and five days left to live when the photograph was taken. He didn’t know that he would be spending his next Christmas in hospital or that his earthly life would end before 1965. My Aunty Beryl, who is sitting next to Granddad, lived until she was nearly ninety-one. My Nan who is serving food at the end of the table died in 1983 and lived long enough to meet her first two great grandchildren. My sister Linda is seated next to my mother on the right of the table. Both went home last year; Mum a year ago next week, followed by Linda in May.
There are two things the folk at the table have in common. The first and most obvious is that we are all Welfords. The second is that we all had or came to have a strong faith in Jesus Christ, giving us complete confidence that our final home is with Him. Do you have that confidence?
There is one person missing from the photograph – my Dad who took the photograph. Dad will be 90 years old in March. Although life is now lonely at times without my mother and the regular visits he and Mum enjoyed from Linda, Dad continues to embrace the life he has been given (having a view of the sea from his living room window obviously helps) but he knows that this planet is not his home. He also knows that his final destination will make the sea view that he currently enjoys seem somewhat dull!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:1-7 (NLT)