The next day, we left the for home. There were a few groups traveling to different lands, but the Jewish group was largest. Our journey was slower than my last one, as we were walking and pulling animals carrying supplies. I didn’t mind, though. Though my legs moved slowly, my heart felt like it was flying. I was going home! After over four years of separation, I was going to see my family again.
Master—or, as we now called him, “Master Naaman”, a way of showing him respect while still acknowledging our freedom—rode with us. He led the way as we passed out of Aram and on to Israel. Along the way, different people would break off from our group to travel to their homes. At other times, we witnessed a former servant reunite with their family. Each time I watched these meetings, I felt an ache and intense desire to run all the way home. I just couldn’t wait to see my parents and siblings.
Finally, there were only a few of us left. Martha, who was still with me, was more excited than ever. She looked all around her, gasping in delight as she recognized trees, houses, buildings, and rivers. She recounted pleasant memories to me and kept pointing all around her. “I remember…” she said again and again. Then, as we approached a small home set a little distance away from the last village, she began to cry.
“Martha?” I asked, looking up at the thirteen-year-old girl.
“It’s my home,” she said through tears. “It’s my home, oh, it’s my home.” She began to walk forward, slowly, taking in every detail of her surroundings. “Mother?” she called. “Father? Leah? Jeremiah? Peter?” She continued stepping forward, calling the names of her family members. Then, a woman opened the door of the house. Martha stopped and stared at her. “Martha?” the woman asked in disbelief.
“Mother,” Martha whispered, stumbling forward.
“Martha,” the woman said, “oh, Martha!”
I watched, smiling, as the mother embraced her daughter.
“Martha!” someone yelled. A girl leaped out the doorway towards Martha, followed by two boys and a man. The yard was filled with cries of delight as the family all tried to hug Martha at once.
My heart squeezed painfully. “Almost,” I whispered. “I’m almost home. Just a little longer.”
“Elizabeth,” Martha finally said, turning back to me, “This is my family. This is my mother and father, and these are my siblings.” She introduced each child, and I smiled and greeted each one. We spent several minutes talking together, Martha and I trying to explain the past four years in a few sentences. However, I couldn’t stay forever. Eventually, I told Martha it was time for me to leave.
Martha cried again. I cried, too. I couldn’t help it. Though Martha was two years older than me, she had been my first and closest friend during the past years. She had been rather like a sister to me. Now, I was leaving, and I wasn’t sure when I’d see her again.
“If you’re ever coming my way,” I said, “come visit me. Please.”
“Yes, of course,” she said, hugging me close. “And if you can, you visit me, too.”
“I will,” I promised. “I’ll never forget you.”
“Nor I you,” Martha whispered.
The fields were ripe again. The autumn sunshine was pleasantly warm and made the fields glow. Men were cutting and binding wheat while woman carried jars of water out to them. Everything was so beautiful.
I took everything in, excitement and anticipating surging within me. I searched the fields, looking at every face. There…in the field on the edge, a man was working with his three sons.
“Daddy!” I screamed, like I had done so many years ago. Only this time it was a scream of joy.
I took off running, my feet pounding the earth and my heart leaping with happiness. “Daddy!” I screamed again.
The man in the field turned towards the noise. There was a look of confusion on his face and he stared at my face for a moment. Then, recognition, disbelief, and joy consumed his eyes. “Elizabeth!” he yelled. He began charging towards me. “Daddy!” I cried, throwing myself into his open arms.
“Elizabeth,” he said again, holding me tight. “My daughter. My sweet daughter.”
Someone called my name. I looked up to see David, Daniel, and Joshua a few feet away. I stepped forward and was crushed by hugs on every side, crying their names with joy.
They had all changed in the last years. David was taller and Daddy, Joshua, and Daniel all had thicker beards. They were all stronger and older and wiser—and yet they were all still the same. They were my family.
The joy that stirred in my chest was nearly overwhelming; I couldn’t help but laugh and smile. And when Joshua called me “baby sister,” I found I didn’t mind.
“Excuse me,” someone said. I looked up to see Master Naaman standing there, smiling. “Master Naaman, this is my daddy and my brothers,” I said, turning to face him. “Daddy, this is my former master, Naaman, the commander of Aram’s armies.”
Daddy stood up to face Naaman, a wary look on his face. “Good afternoon,” Daddy said.
“Good afternoon,” Master Naaman replied. “I am very glad to meet you.”. Because of his job, Naaman had learned Hebrew and therefore could speak directly to Daddy. “I want to tell you that I regret everything I ever did to your family,” Naaman began. Daddy’s eyebrows went up in surprise as Master Naaman’s smile dissolved. He continued in a sober tone, “I wish that I had not supported the kidnapping of your daughter, nor forced her to remain with me for so long. I know I cannot fix the pain I have caused, nor bring back the lost years, but I would like to give you a small compensation. Please, is there anything your family lacks that I can give you?”
Daddy looked at him quietly for a moment before speaking. “No.” He shook his head and looked at me. “What our family lacked most, you just returned. Thank you.”
“There’s no need to thank me. It’s the least I could do, after all I did to your family, and all your daughter still did for me.”
Daddy looked confused at Master Naaman’s last comment. “What did she do?”
Naaman smiled, while I blushed. “Several weeks ago, I contracted leprosy, and I thought I was going to die. If I had died, all of my servants who were taken from foreign lands would have been released. Your daughter knew this well. Yet, unlike any other servant, she chose to tell my wife about the prophet Elisha, since there was a possibility God would heal me through him. I was indeed healed, but I could not rest until I knew why your daughter had shown such kindness to me. She told me it was because of a lesson you taught her, about helping your enemies.” Daddy gently squeezed my arm. He remembered that night. “She said she wanted to go home so much, yet she chose to help me because it was what God wanted her to do. I wanted to do what was right, like she had done. However, when I told her I would take her home, she refused. She didn’t want to leave her fellow Jews as my servants, despite the fact that they had not always treated her kindly. After thinking about it, I realized I could not own servants from Israel anymore, knowing who the true God is and that they are his people, and that keeping the kidnapped men and women was wrong. So I released all the servants from foreign lands, including your daughter. Your daughter chose to do what was right, and blessed everyone around her in the process.”
Daddy was smiling. I could tell he was proud of me as he hugged me closer. “Thank you, sir, for bringing her home.”
“Thank you,” I echoed.
Naaman placed his hand on my shoulder. “No, thank you, for all that you did for me despite all that I did to you.” Then he stood up and mounted his horse. “Farewell!” he called. “May God richly bless you and your family.”
“Farewell!” I called, waving as he turned his horse around and led the few remaining Jews away.
As they disappeared from sight, Daddy hugged me again. “Come on,” he whispered. “Your mother will be overjoyed to see you.”
As we walked through the familiar streets, memories came flooding back to me. I couldn’t help but laugh and smile as I sighted trees, houses, and people that I hadn’t seen in four years. Daddy held my hand tightly, and my brothers walked close behind us.
When I first glimpsed my home, I couldn’t hold back my excitement. I burst into a run, yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!”
A woman stepped outside, a look of shock on her face. “Mommy!” I shoved all of my energy into that final run towards home.
“Elizabeth!” Mommy dropped the rag she was holding and ran towards me. “Mommy!” I threw myself into her arms. “Elizabeth!” Mommy whispered. “Oh my dear girl. My dear, dear girl.” She held me close and rocked me gently back and forth, tears slipping down her cheeks.
“Elizabeth!” I looked around Mommy to see Mary charging towards me, followed by Abigail. Before I could slip out of Mommy’s arms to give my sisters a hug, they had their arms wrapped around me. Laughing, Daddy and my brothers joined in, and I was engulfed in love. It was so wonderful to be home.