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From 8,000 miles away, a special holiday homecoming

7:26 AM, Dec 27, 2013   |    comments
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MARIETTA, Ga. -- On the day after Christmas, the Payne family is the picture of holiday happiness.

But what the family portrait doesn't show is what it took to get there.

When Ellyce Payne graduated from the University of North Georgia last spring, she wanted to branch out. So she headed to Tanzania, more than eight thousand miles away from home, to teach English to schoolchildren.

This would be her first Christmas away from home.

"She was supporting me, but I could tell that it was not easy for her," Ellyce said of her mother, Laura Payne.

Laura never let on, but the thought of Christmas without her oldest girl was downright painful.

"I lost my mother and father and I was just very sad," Laura Payne said through tears. "I just didn't want her not to be here."

The problem was airfare. A ticket from Tanzania to Atlanta would easily run more than $3000. 

But with Christmas fast approaching, Ellyce kept searching. Finally, a plane ticket was within reach.

"I messaged my dad and said, 'I think I found a flight, I think I can get home -- and let's make this a surprise!'" she remembered.

And that's why on Christmas Eve, just as Laura had finished wrapping the last of the presents, Santa came with a special gift for her -- in the form of her little girl.

"When I realized it was her, I just said 'I can't believe it's her!'" she said. "All of my prayers have been answered!"

On a whim, her husband, Ed Payne, put the video on YouTube. As of Thursday night, the video was closing in on 3,000 hits.

"When you really, really want something and it can't happen, we've all been there," Laura said. "And then when it happens, it's a wonderful Christmas miracle."

* A very merry Christmas in metro Atlanta
* East Ga. soldier surprises daughter in time for Christmas

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