Family on furlough 1956

(Our family when we returned to the States on furlough in 1956)


It was mid-January 1956 – the Rhodesian summer heat still had not abated. Finding a shady spot to escape the rays of the burning sun was the last thing on my mind though. The anticipated day had finally dawned; our home was a hive of frantic activity as last minute preparations were being made. Suitcases stood lined up at the door like soldiers at attention waiting for their orders. Dad and Mom were making sure travel documents were in order; excitement was running rampant among my sister Suzanne, my brother Henry and me. It was all we could do to contain the pent up emotions of anticipation which we had kept bottled up for several weeks now. The minutes were counting down………finally……….we were about to take our very first plane trip! It was going to be a long “first plane” trip, as our family was flying back to America for our missionary furlough. It had been over seven years since our feet had touched American soil. My grandmother had hoped that we could arrive in time to celebrate Christmas with her, in the snowy winter wonderland of northern Maine. This was not possible though as we had to wait for the newest member of the “Wilson children” to make her appearance. Carolyn was born on December 15, so our return to the States had to be delayed until she was at least four weeks old! Our excitement about our pending trip was heightened by the fact that none of the “kin” in the States knew that our family had grown from four children to five! We would be arriving with A PRECIOUS “SURPRISE PACKAGE”!


Our flight from Salisbury (now called Harare) was on a small Douglas Dakota DC3 that had two propellers; it rattled and shook like a disintegrating cement mixer; which was rather disconcerting to this 11 year-old who had never flown before. I was convinced the plane was going to implode into a thousand pieces mid-air! We landed in Nairobi and boarded a “big plane”. This time it was a plane with four propellers…..we were moving up in the world! The family was spread across the aisle and I ended up being seated beside a sailor who quickly sensed a very scared child that needed re-assuring. It did not take the sailor very long to figure out that we were a missionary family returning to “civilization and US soil” after many years of primitive living in Rhodesia. It was a long overnight flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Boston, with several re-fueling stops on the way!


My “sailor friend” soon became my hero as he regaled me with amazing tales of exploits that fired up my imagination until sleep finally overcame me. It seemed like we were flying into a never ending night but finally the clouds below us began to become tinged with the scarlet colors of the morning sunrise. Peeking out the window I watched in awe as the sun began to paint glorious colors across the horizon, announcing the arrival of dawn and a new day. Then the crackle of the squawky intercom intruded upon my absorption of the beautiful scene unfolding before my eyes; it was the voice of the pilot announcing that we were starting our descent to land at Boston. He also announced that there had been a bad snowstorm and that the temperatures were in the single digits Fahrenheit! The family only had light jackets to wear as a mere 21 hours earlier, we were sweltering in 98 degree temperatures! Relatives that were meeting us at the airport had been instructed to bring winter coats for all of us, which they were holding in their waiting arms.


For some reason the only member of our family who did NOT even have a light jacket to wear, was me! All I had was a light sweater. The plane taxied to a stop quite a distance from the building, which meant a dash across the runway in the frigid whipping New England winter’s wind. When the sailor realized that I did not even have a jacket, he turned to my Dad and insisted that he put his winter uniform coat on me; assuring Dad that he was dressed warm enough and was accustomed to cold temperatures. Slipping his HUGE coat on me, my new found friend engulfed his large hand in mine; helped me negotiate the steep stairs from the plane to the ground. Then continuing to hold tightly to my small hand, we walked as fast as my legs could carry me, while he used his own body to shield me from the icy buffeting wind, until we reached the inviting warmth of the terminal building and the waiting arms of American “kin”!


He and I must have made quite a picture crossing that airport runway…..his coat with all of its military patches displayed with pride, completely enveloped my small body, reaching almost to the ground, while beside me walked a tall sailor in full military dress minus his coat, compassionately making sure his small charge would not freeze in the harsh wind.


What a picture this sailor made of a perfect example of how much God cares for you and me!


Jesus spoke of this very truth: Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”


Did you ever wonder how God could possibly know every living person on the earth? It is pretty mind-boggling; there are billions of people in the world, and the Bible says that God knows everything there is to know about every one of us!


We might consider our lives insignificant in the global scheme of things, but Jesus would heartily disagree. In fact, in Mathew 10 Jesus made a point of showing the disciples just how intimately their Father knew them. He used the picture of tiny weak, sparrows, their life span so short, that no one even notices when it’s over…….but God does.


God is more than capable of loving each and every person he has created.


In case His disciples still didn’t understand His teaching, Jesus went on and explained that God even knows the number of hairs on our heads. The truth is…………. God knows us better than we know ourselves!


God doesn’t see us as a massive crowd; he sees and loves EACH of us INDIVIDUALLY. The disciples were about to go out into a hostile world. They would deal with dangerous, evil people. They would be mocked and threatened; they would even be face-to-face with demons. Jesus wanted to assure them that their heavenly Father was in control, that He loved each one of them, and that He was watching over them.


THIS PROMISE IS FOR YOU AND ME TODAY! Don’t ever assume you are just one of the crowd or that God isn’t intimately acquainted with your life.


We are precious to God…………. He knows everything about us………He loves us more than we can even begin to comprehend…………He will do whatever is best for us………… So we can trust him with our life!








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