The bystanders at Raleigh-Durham Airport never knew what hit them.

Late Monday afternoon a few dozen people descended on Terminal 2. They brought banners and balloons and cookies and a camera crew. They gathered at the arrival point to welcome a very special little girl home. To her new home. To her forever home.

Elizabeth’s journey had started 24 hours before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But her parents’ journey? That had been underway for much, much longer.

Matt and Catherine Allison are some of my heroes. If something could possibly delay or derail an international adoption, they’ve faced it. They’ve battled bizarre hurricanes and errant visas and embassy holdups and lost adoption files. They had to switch from their originally intended country after that country’s adoption program completely shut down. They’ve processed mountains of paperwork and spent boatloads of cash and fought every conceivable battle in an effort to bring their daughter home.

And now, she is.

The crowd at RDU was full of people who have been impacted by Matt and Catherine’s story. Nearly every family there either had adopted or were in the process of adopting, and almost all of those were doing so, in part, because of the example they’ve seen through the Allison family. Beautifully blended and grafted and colorful families were waiting together, anxious for the moment when another former orphan would be united with her family.

In the group were kids of varying nationalities and skin tones and ethnic origin. But one thing united them all: they were sought after. They were rescued. Their identity had changed, and now it was secure.

As Catherine and Elizabeth made their way off the plane and towards waiting friends and family, it hit me that their journey is similar to our own. Like Elizabeth, we were sought by a foreign rescuer. Like Elizabeth, that rescuer stopped at nothing to bring his children home. And like Elizabeth, that rescuer gave us a new name and a new heritage.

Elizabeth doesn’t yet realize what she has been saved from. She doesn’t fully grasp what she has been saved to. Her identity, though legally binding, is still wholly unfamiliar. It will take time for her intellectual being to catch up to her physical reality, her “new normal.”

And yet, she’s an Allison. Now and forever. She’s another child that was an orphan, that was fatherless, that was homeless and hopeless, but now everything has changed.

She’s home.

But still, there are some who are not. Still, there are those who wait. Both in that crowd and in our church, there are families that will face another Christmas with a heart towards another country and an eye towards an empty chair. Mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have prayed for, sought after, and fought for another child to be grafted into their family.

I see that temporary but all-too-real scenario playing out in the lives of friends, some of whom are just beginning the adoption journey, and others who – like the Allisons – have been in it for far too long. They persevere not because they enjoy the wait, but because they understand the calling. They stick it out not because it’s easy, but because they can’t imagine giving up.

They hang in because a child – their child – has yet to come home.

This Christmas season, would you join me in praying for these families? Thank God for families like the Allisons who have remained steadfast in giving a new identity to a son or a daughter. Plead with God for others who feel like the journey will never end. Reach out to them. Encourage them. Pray for and with them.

The journey is long. But the reward is great. And the responsibility is ours.

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