You’re looking at my friends Ryan and Morgan, and my friend-that-I-haven’t-yet-met, Charlie.
Charlie is an orphan from central Africa. Scratch that. Was an orphan from central Africa. A few months ago, a court declared Charlie a Doherty. He’s Ryan and Morgan’s son now. Instead of growing up in an orphanage, he’ll grow up in a home with a daddy and mommy who love him, a brother and sister who spoil him, and he’ll be friends with more people who have prayed for him than he can possibly count.
But because of some governmental glitches, Charlie can’t leave the country for now. What has been promised has not yet been realized. “Home” is still a foreign concept, both figuratively and geographically. For the foreseeable future Charlie is – for all practical purposes – stuck.
But while Charlie can’t come to his mom and dad, his mom and dad can go to him. And go to him they did. A couple of weeks ago Ryan and Morgan made the rather sudden decision to temporarily leave Durham and head to Africa. The son that is theirs is still there, and so it made no sense for them to be here.
They decided that the uphill journey would be more effective if they were on the ground and close to Charlie. And so – armed with nothing but a folder full of documents and a heart full of fire – Ryan and Morgan boarded a flight and promised to fight.
Even as I type, I weep. I wonder if Charlie knows what is transpiring around him? I wonder if he knows the prayers that have been offered, the tears that have been shed, the money that has been spent and the battles that have been fought? I wonder if he realizes that before he knew he needed these parents, these parents knew he needed them, and they were willing to do whatever it took to bring him home?
I wonder if he’ll ever realize the sacrifice they made to leave two children in one country while pursuing a third child in another? Will he know the sleepless nights they endured, the hundreds of times they looked at his picture, the thousands of times their arms ached for the baby that belonged there?
As Charlie snuggles up to his parents at a tiny bungalow, does he know what awaits him on the other side of this journey? Can he fathom what it will be like to spend his life being pursued, known, and loved? Can his little mind begin to imagine what life in his daddy’s house will hold for him?
Does that little boy know that he’s been given a new name? That he possesses a new identity? That he’s forever protected and completely provided for? That everything that Ryan and Morgan call theirs can now be called his?
Later this week, Morgan will begin the journey back to America. You can imagine that it will be one of the hardest goodbyes she’ll ever say. But as she reunites with her two oldest children here in Durham, Ryan will remain with their youngest on another continent. And he’ll fight. He’ll leave no stone unturned and no door unopened as he looks for just the right connection, just the right answer, just the right approval to rightfully claim his son and join the family that awaits him. He won’t come home until Charlie comes with him.
A father who fights. That’s what Ryan is for Charlie. And that’s what God is for us. We’re in the middle of a season where we celebrate the One who left his home and went to a foreign land. What he didn’t have to do, he chose to do. He sent his son to become one of us. To live among us. To come to our turf and dwell in our land and fight on our behalf. Before we knew we were orphans, Jesus knew we needed a Father. And the Father knew we couldn’t get to him on our own.
So he fought. Jesus came. God wrapped himself in flesh and lived with us so we could live with him.
God with us.
He fought for us then. He fights for us now. You see, Christmas isn’t just a reminder of what Jesus did, it’s a reminder of what he is doing. How he still fights. How he still pursues. How he still does whatever it takes to bring us home, give us a new name and identity, and help us see our Father.
So as you prepare your heart for Christmas, remember that it’s not just about a baby in a stable. It’s about a King who invaded the earth to claim what was rightfully his and to give us our forever home.
And as you thank Jesus for his pursuit, beg Jesus for his mercy: on Charlie. On Ryan and Morgan. Pray for walls to fall and doors to open and mountains to move. Pray that Charlie will miraculously spend Christmas Day in a living room in Durham. Pray for dozens of other Summit families who are enduring a similar journey. And most of all, pray that spiritual orphans will know the pursuit of their Daddy this Christmas season.
“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” – Jesus (John 14:18)