Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Long Awaited Reunion

Liliana Ovington walks with veteran Dominick Liberatore at St. Michael's Cathedral.

Where do I begin? Today was our first full day in Qingdao, and the events that filled our day accomplish part of the purpose of why we came to China.

 After a sleep-filled night and a late start to the morning, we began our day with breakfast. I could feel the anticipation and excitement that filled the veterans and the students as they ate; they were ready. Ready to see where these men and women spent a part of their lives and how they were changed because of it. Our first stop was the beach. There were hundreds of people around celebrating the season of when the Communist party took over mainland China.

 This beach was where many of the Marines and Chinese people would go to spend their leisure time as well as where Charlie was taught to swim. The weather was beautiful and Charlie said we were lucky to come at this time because autumn was the most beautiful time of the year.

Our second stop today was St. Michael's Cathedral. This cathedral had significant importance to both Charlie and the Marines. St. Michael's Cathedral was the location of Charlie’s baptism by Cardinal Spellman. When Charlie was young, a nun named Sister Blanda, taught him the importance of his faith in the Lord. As Charlie said, it was Sister Blanda who made him who he is today.

Charlie told us his story of being baptized, his relationship with Sister Blanda, and the importance of who God is in his life today. It was so fascinating and heartwarming to hear Charlie declare his faith openly even though it caused him to be persecuted and ostracized.
My veteran, Dominick Liberatore is from the First Marine Regiment and knew Charlie at the barracks. It has been great to hear his stories. He is from New York and by his accent you would definitely know it if you ever met him. He remembered many stories from St. Michael's Cathedral including being the best man in his friend's wedding to a Chinese woman, only to be sent to the brig directly after it ended because his friend was not allowed to get married. Oh to hear his stories... Dominick grew up in Yonkers, New York in a family with very little income. He joined the Marines at age 16 and was sent to training camp in South Caroline two weeks later. I think I have only tapped the beginning of his experiences in China but his excitement at being back in Qingdao and his enthusiasm for life has made me even more excited to share these days with him. He is a joy!

Charlie stands in front of St. Michael's
Cathedral where he was baptized.
After lunch we departed for what would be the pinnacle of the day. We loaded up on our bus and traveled to another section of Qingdao. This section of the city is poor and not many foreigners go there. We were stared at as strangers and celebrities as we got off our bus, but the real celebrity tonight was Charlie. As we got off the bus and went into a building, dozens of Charlie’s friends and relatives were there to see him. Tears of joy ran down his face and many of those there who witnessed the reuniting of families and friends who had been apart for 29 years. Member after member of Charlie his and wife, Jin Mie’s, family came up to hug him and share tears of happiness to be together. Among the family members was Charlie's older brother who Charlie thought had died a long time ago. The reunion was beautiful!

Charlie is reunited with a dear friend.
We then made our way upstairs where Charlie shared of his life, his thankfulness to his family and friends, his joy of being reunited, and of his faith. He believes so strongly that God has brought him to where he is today. No matter how anyone looks at him, either as a traitor to his country or as a hero, he gives all the credit to God Almighty. What a witness and challenge to everyone there, including me, to be bold and strong in our faith. He emphasized that all of his relatives and friends, although not all believers, knew there is an almighty God. Charlie then shared music, both Chinese and American, to show that the Lord encompasses all things.

 There are so many great things that happened today, and these were just a few of the highlights. I am overjoyed to be able to walk through these memories with the men and women on this trip. The experiences of today only bring more excitement for what will happen tomorrow and the next. The joy, emotions, and memories shared by Charlie and the veterans have impacted my life already and I thank God I am here and able to relive this period in history with them.

 Liliana Ovington

Chelsea Paulsen enjoys the bus ride to St. Michael's Cathedral with veteran William Marsh.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading these stories! Charlie sounds like such an incredible man, and the veterans sound phenomenal! I'm so thrilled for all of you, and I can't wait to hear more stories when you return. :)

    Praying for you all as your journey continues!