We first met in a Beijing hotel—every one of us jet-lagged, but thrilled nonetheless to be making this long-anticipated trip.
I remember our first meeting as if it were yesterday.
On that morning in March of 2012, Peter and I took our seats in a circle with a dozen-or-so other couples and a few of their kids. We exchanged names and hometowns and travel anecdotes, as strangers will do. Then we quieted when our Chinese guide called for our attention and outlined the itinerary for our three-week stay.
We were scheduled to spend a few blurry days as tourists in and around Beijing. Each morning we boarded a bus together and took in some of the most spectacular and significant sights in the world—the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, an acrobatic show, and Tiananmen Square. In our free time, we roamed the city streets, shopped for souvenirs, and tried to rest—knowing that very soon all of our lives would be forever changed.
On day four, the bus returned us to the Beijing airport. Theoretically, we were now sufficiently acclimated and ready to handle the real reason for this journey. Our party now split into a few smaller travel groups, and each group jetted off to a particular location around the country.
Peter and I and a few other families—not-long-ago strangers, already friends—flew south to Nanchang.
At 10 a.m. the very next day, we gathered yet again around a large table, but this time we weren’t just chitchatting over chicken chow mein.
This time we were anxiously waiting for our daughters to arrive.
We fidgeted with baby toys and bottles and burp clothes. We watched the clock. We tried to make small talk—until finally, more than an hour after they had been expected, five caregivers paraded into the room, carrying five beautiful baby girls. Our guide called each families’ name in turn, and as we stood and stepped forward, a caregiver delivered each child to her parents’ waiting arms. Some tears were shed. Some videos were shot. Much cooing and cuddling commenced. And some incomparable bonds began to form.
For the next two weeks, our families continued to connect over many more meals and adoption appointments and sightseeing adventures. We traded parenting tips and baby paraphernalia and contact information.
Then, on our last night in China, we crowded into one family’s hotel room to sing worship songs together and to pray. We took pictures of all of the babies propped up on pillows, and we vowed to stay in touch.
“We need to have yearly reunions,” one veteran adoptive mom said.
And she promptly proceeded to plan our first.
In 2013, we met in Missouri, when Amelia and a couple of the other girls had just turned two. The next year we Worralls organized a reunion in Chicago. In 2015, we gathered in Galena. In 2016, a family from New Jersey invited the group to come out to their coast. Sadly, our family had to miss that one. It happens. Some years, some families can’t come.
Last summer, Peter and Daryl were spending our China reunion week at camp, so Amelia and I drove down to Branson, MO, to be with her China friends. Our first Momma-Mia road trip.
And right now, this week, our whole family is here in the Rocky Mountains with three of our travel group families.
Reunited. Yet again.
Last weekend, as our family drove the sixteen hours from Chicago to Colorado, I had plenty of time to think about this longing we have to reunite. To gather back together. To see familiar faces and simply be in one another’s presence.
What lies at the core of that desire?
What do we hope will happen in this time?
Why do we keep on coming?
For several reasons, I’m sure. Here are a few:
A reunion can be an act of remembrance.
Sitting around the dinner table and lounging by the pool, we inevitably reminisce. We retell the same stories over and over again. It becomes a liturgy of sorts, and each year the younger generations—our daughters from China—absorb more and more of their shared history. As we remember, we pass those memories on to them and graft them into their own story.
A reunion can provide a reconnection.
It can involve a reestablishment of relationship and a recommitment to continued care. We are for one another. We are there for one another. We understand one another in ways that others cannot. And while attending a reunion isn’t always easy, nor is it cheap, these people—these relationships—are worth the investment.
A reunion can also help us realign our identity.
In our day-to-day, we regularly lose our way and even ourselves. So when we reunite, a core part of who we are is reinstilled in our hearts. Our daughters are American, but they are also Chinese. They share that heritage, and our reunion realigns them with that key portion of themselves.
This summer I am rereading You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith. A part of Smith’s premise is that what we love is what we long for, and what we long for is evidence by what we pursue.
Because of my reading, I can’t shake the thought that this same sort of longing to reunite ought to drive us to our knees every morning, and to church every Sunday.
Every time we fall on our face before our Father and gather with our church family before His throne, we ought to experience a glorious reunion.
Our worship should be an act of remembrance and a passing on of liturgy. Our prayers should be a reconnection and reestablishment of relationship. In our gathering, we ought to demonstrate to one another our commitment to continued are. And all of this should serve to realign our soul. It should reminded of who we are—our common identity as children of God and body of Christ.
And so, the same sort of longing and desire that we might have to meet with dear friends ought to draw us back to worship again and again, day after day, week after week, personal and communal.
One of Amelia’s favorite adjectives right now is “glorious.” When something meets with her particular approval, she will pronounce it “glorious” with all the drama that the word demands. But even then, one “glorious” is typically not enough. If she deems something “glorious,” it deserves to be celebrated as so in triplicate.
So this has been, in the words of Amelia, a “glorious, glorious, glorious” week of reunion.
In just a few hours, we will meet with our China adoption travel group friends for our last breakfast. We will pray together. And we will talk about when and where we will meet again—because seeing our girls play and laugh and talk about their adoption over dinner and call each other “sister” is worth all sorts of sacrifice.
I cannot write this post without also pleading for prayer once again for our Moody Bible Institute family. While we Worralls have been reuniting with adoption friends, this week has also been a sad week of mourning for our ministry community as three young Moody aviation pilots lost their lives in a plane crash outside of Spokane. These men were committed to spreading the Gospel around the world. They were training and teaching sacrificially, so that all would know. They leave behind children and wives; two of them are expecting. One young wife wrote the following poignant tribute in honor of her husband:
“I love you and I miss you. I probably won’t stop crying for years thinking about you. But I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the love, sacrifice, laugh, dreams and the memories you’ve given me. You have completely changed me, and I’m so so grateful for that. I will see you soon and we will be together again in the presence of God.”
The most glorious reunion we could ever imagine.