My son arrived home from his two-year mission to Argentina last week. I had anticipated the day of his return for the entire two years. It was hard sending him off two years ago, wondering if I had taught him all I should have, all he would need to know during those two years when our only communication, outside of one Christmas call and two Mother’s Day calls, would be a weekly email. My brothers served missions while I was growing up, and I knew from the stories they told years later that a lot of hard things can happen on a mission – things that wrench your heart, things that threaten your life, things that test your very faith in God.
Many missionaries have a father who has served a mission, and who can give them counsel and guidance throughout their mission. My husband had died three years previously, and so my son, still grieving that loss, would be serving without that added support and help.
As we stood at the foot of the escalator in the airport near the baggage claim area, holding welcome home signs and balloons, waiting for him to appear at the top, I wondered, how will he have changed? What has he gone through that he hasn’t told us about? (I am quite sure, from listening to those stories from my brothers and from other returned missionaries, that they are given instructions not to inform us mothers about things that may cause us concern.) I also knew his heart would be breaking to come home, because he had come to love serving the Argentine people so very much, and if he could have extended his stay with them, I know he would have.
Finally, he appeared, standing next to another handsome young missionary he had served with, and as the escalator slowly descended, I watched their expressions. I saw them smile as they caught sight of their respective families, but I also saw them sharing a last few comments – and at the bottom of the escalator, they looked intently at each other, gave each other a big “abrazo” (Argentine hug), and shook hands – and at that moment I could see they realized that their parting signaled the end of something they had loved and would miss terribly.
It was a sweet reunion for us. He had changed – he left as a boy, and came back a man. I could see the maturity in his eyes, I noticed an increased breadth in his shoulders, and I could feel the confidence in his bearing. As I held him in my arms, I felt his greatness of spirit, and I knew he had earned the commendation, “Well done.”
I thought about the phrase, “Welcome Home.” Here was my son, along with several other young missionaries, returning to families waiting to take them home and to surround them with love and gratitude. They had all been serving their Lord, their King, who Himself had not had that kind of home to return to. Both New Testament authors Matthew and Luke tell us the Master said, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”1
I wondered, “Does the Savior have a home here in my heart? Have I made place for Him in my busy life? Does my Lord feel welcome here? Have I created enough space for the Savior in my life that my son will now feel ‘at home’ in my home? Or are there things I need to do that will invite the Savior into our home more often and more consistently?”
I determined then and there to work continually at building a place in my heart and home that says to the Savior, “Welcome home. Dwell here.”
My son had a sweet welcome home there at the airport. One day in the future I hope to return to my Heavenly home, and to be welcomed into waiting arms there. Most of all, I hope to be worthy to earn that same commendation; “Well done.”
Though it may be years away, that welcome is what I live for. I have faced things that things that have wrenched my heart, things that have threatened my life, and things that have tested my very faith in God. But I know this life is not the end, and that there are much greater things awaiting us beyond this existence. As we were taught by Him who fed the hungry and healed the lame, finding ways to serve others here seems to be the very best way to prepare for that next sphere. And so we continue, day after day, doing what we can to lighten others’ burdens, and looking forward to our own Welcome Home.
May it be glorious – and may our homes and hearts be such that our Lord will always feel welcome here.
1 Luke 9:58, Matthew 8:20