Miracles do take place in people’s lives. In Tokyo I experienced a miracle. My first trip alone to the United States was from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Omaha, Nebraska. It was also my first airplane flight.

My uncle in Nebraska made all the travel arrangements for me. The travel agent mailed a detailed itinerary to my home in Teluk Intan, which is about three hours from Kuala Lumpur. However, knowing that it was going to be my first flight, my uncle called several times before I left home and gave me very specific instructions about the flights I had to take. He told me that the trip from Kuala Lumpur to Omaha would take nearly 21 hours with long layovers in Tokyo and Chicago. Before I left, I had to make sure that my two suitcases did not weigh more than 50 pounds each. He also told me to pack a couple changes of clothes in my carry-on baggage to change in Tokyo and Chicago. I had to make sure I was at the Kuala Lumpur airport at least two hours prior to departure. He made sure he covered every detail.

My uncle continued by telling me that most of the Japanese attendants at the airport didn’t speak English fluently, so I had to be sure to read the monitors for flight and gate numbers and not to hesitate to ask other passengers for directions. During my three hour layover in Tokyo, I was to go to the restroom, which would be marked as “toilets,” freshen up and change my clothes.

On arrival in Chicago, he said I must follow the passengers to the Immigration Check-point, where I would be asked for the purpose of my visit. I was to tell the officer that I was visiting my sister and uncles’ families in Nebraska and Maryland and going sight-seeing with them. They should then give me a visitor’s visa for six months.

Next, I was to pick up my luggage and go to the customs checkpoint. There they would ask me if I had anything to declare. They might open my suitcases and check the baggage. “Don’t fear; let them do it,” he explained.

After checking in, I was to find something to do for five hours until my flight to Omaha boarded. My first meal in the USA would be breakfast at the airport. As I listened to the above instructions on three different occasions within a week, I felt belittled and wondered if my uncle thought I was a little child traveling unescorted by a flight attendant. I was confident that everything would be fine and I felt I really did not need these instructions.

I soon discovered the foolishness of my arrogance. I speak the national language of Malaysia so I did not have any trouble in Kuala Lumpur. Moreover, a van load of relatives came to the airport to send me off. I followed my uncle’s instructions to the letter and arrived at Kuala Lumpur Airport, checked in and boarded the flight to Japan.

The next morning I arrived safely in Tokyo. I showed the attendant at the counter my ticket to Chicago and asked for directions to United Airlines. After she gave them to me, I freshened up in the restroom and waited at the gate. Many different flights took off from that gate. When it was only 50 minutes before my flight, there was nobody around. When I talked to the Japanese attendant at the next counter, in broken English he told me to wait. I waited, but I panicked. I prayed and prayed. I wished somebody would come to my rescue.

Various stories I read of people aided or rescued by angels in person filled my mind. I remembered Psalms 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and he delivers them.” I hummed songs of hope, faith and courage. I kept praying. Also, I wondered where I went wrong in following directions. Was my uncle correct in telling me that I could be misguided? I was afraid that I would miss my flight and be stranded in Tokyo. Was that my fate? I had no way of contacting my family at home or my uncle in Nebraska.

Out of nowhere an old Japanese gentleman dressed in western clothes came directly toward me and in perfectly fluent English asked me if I was going to Chicago by United Airlines. “Yes, I am,” I responded. He motioned me to follow him. He looked like a kind person and was friendly, too. Something inside told me that I could trust him. So I quickly picked up my suitcase and handbag and followed him. We walked fast from one concourse to another until we arrived at the gate where the United Airlines flight was boarding the passengers.

As we walked to the gate, I thanked him for helping me. At the gate he spoke to the Japanese attendant and quickly got me checked in. I boarded the plane in the nick of time — I was the last passenger on board. If I had been couple of minutes later, the jet way would have been pulled back, and I would have missed my flight.

After I handed my boarding pass to the attendant, I looked back to thank the old man, but he was gone. It seemed like he disappeared into thin air. I knew right then that the Lord heard my cry for help and sent my guardian angel to appear to me in person. Now I can tell others the story of a miracle in my life.

Sujannah Jacobs, a native of Malaysia, was a nursing student at Union College when she wrote this story. Republished from the March 2005 issue of Outlook magazine.