Our staff love hearing stories of how God weaves together hearts and families through adoption. Today we are featuring a unique story about the Joyce family, written by Racey Burden, and featured in the Wise County Messenger. It is a beautiful story of how God lead Andria to join an America World Storyteller team serving in one of our partnership orphanages in China, where she met Emery. Though they didn’t know it at the time, God was weaving together a beautiful story involving Andria, Emery, and the Joyce family. We hope you enjoy this sweet story:
In an orphanage in China, Andria Williams met her future flower girl.
Andria Williams bonded with Emery Joyce while on a mission trip to an orphanage in China. Emery was later adopted by a family in North Carolina who kept in touch with Williams.
Of course, she had no way of knowing that the toddler she first saw crying in the corner would continue to hold a special place in her heart for the next two-and-a-half years. The nannies in the 2-year-old’s room weren’t even sure if the little girl would let Williams hold her, gesturing that she didn’t really like people, but for whatever reason, the girl, nicknamed Emery by Williams, formed an attachment to her temporary caretaker. Williams was in China for only a week in 2013, on a mission trip to help watch children at the orphanage. In that time, Emery opened up to her, laughing and smiling when Williams was around, and crying when she would leave for the night.
“We made faces, and we laughed. There wasn’t much of a language barrier,” Williams said. “I taught her how to make the little duck face. With me, she would laugh and be silly. She wouldn’t want anybody else to be around.”
All week, the nannies would point out children who had been adopted and say, “America.” Williams pointed at Emery every day and asked “America?” The answer would always be a shaking head – no. At the end of Williams’ stay in China, she tried one more time, gesturing to Emery and asking “America?”
This time, the answer was a “yes.” Though Williams didn’t know it yet, a couple named Mike and Brooke Joyce had received Emery’s file just the week before.
When it was time for Williams to return to the U.S., the separation from Emery hit hard. “We both kind of lost it,” Williams said. Once home, Williams contacted the adoption agency, America World Adoption, to let them know that she’d spent a lot of time with Emery and to pass her contact information along to the girl’s prospective parents.
Within an hour, the Joyces were calling.
This March, Williams saw Emery for the first time in two years when the girl and her family road-tripped to Texas for Williams’ wedding. Williams met Emery on a mission trip to China before Emery was adopted by an American family.
Brooke Joyce had wanted to adopt since 2007, but it took Mike longer to get on board. They started the process in 2012 and received Emery’s file in July 2013. Emery has spina bifida, so the agency told the Joyces they could wait until Williams’ team returned to tell them more about her health before they made their final decision.
“By the time they’d gotten back, we were sure she was ours,” Brooke said.
But they still wanted to talk to the team member who’d spent the most time with their future daughter, so they called Williams. The couple talked with Williams for over an hour. Williams explained that Emery was shy and seemed to form strong attachments with one person at a time, which was a bit of a concern for the Joyces because they already had three children. In the end though, they knew they still wanted to adopt Emery.
“They just decided they couldn’t say no,” Williams said.
She also mentioned the American nickname she’d given the girl. Williams wasn’t sure why she’d picked that particular name, saying it just came to her. The Joyces had three biological children already – Landon, Eli and Ella – and decided Emery would go well with those names.
“Mike and I just prayed about it, and we were like, ‘If she felt called to call her Emery, and we felt called to adopt her, we need to name her Emery,'” Brooke said.
The Joyces brought Emery home to Winston-Salem, N.C., in January of 2014, after a two-week stay in China. The first time they saw their new daughter was in a room full of other crying orphans.
“It was crazy. It was just almost surreal because we were expecting it to be this formal process when we got to China, and it really wasn’t,” Brooke said. “You walk into this room, and they hand her to you.
“We were elated and scared to death at the same time.”
Once in the U.S., Emery adjusted quickly, getting along well with her new brothers and sister and learning to speak English. She hasn’t shown any symptoms of spina bifida since her adoption. Throughout the adaptation process, the Joyces stayed in contact with Williams. When Williams started dating her future husband, Brennan, she texted Brooke to tell her.
“She told me she was going on a date, and I told her I’d pray for her,” Brooke said. “Then she told me it was going to be a second date, and so we just texted back and forth a lot about the dating process.”
When Williams got engaged in September 2015, she realized that there were too many young girls in her and her fiancé’s families to pick any one to be her flower girl. Emery became her first choice.
“For two years we still talked all the time and sent pictures,” Williams said. “I guess I felt like I never really lost that relationship. “She had just been such an important part of my life.”
Williams asked the Joyces if there was any way they could come to Texas for her wedding in March. They told her they’d pray about it.
“We didn’t have to pray very long,” Brooke said. “We knew we would come, we were just trying to figure out logistically how to do it.”
The Joyces decided to take a road trip for the wedding. In the months leading up, they would send Andria pictures of Emery in her flower girl dress, and videos of the now 4-year-old twirling around in circles saying, “I’m going to Texas!”
In March, the Joyces drove from North Carolina to Decatur, making a few stops along the way. Williams waited anxiously for their arrival, three days before her wedding.
“I had been waiting for so long. Of course I was looking forward to it,” she said. “The hours couldn’t pass by fast enough.”
Then the Joyces were in Decatur, meeting Williams for the first time face-to-face. Except for Emery, who was reunited with Williams after more than two years apart. “From the moment they got out of the truck, it was like meeting family you hadn’t seen for the first time in two years,” Williams said. “It just showed it was all God.” Brooke expressed a similar sentiment.
“It felt like we really knew each other well before that point, so it was just cool to meet in person and get to see and talk and experience things together,” she said.
The Joyces spent the days leading up to the wedding exploring Texas things, like hay bales and Tex Mex and Whataburger, which the kids greatly enjoyed. On Williams’ wedding day, March 5, Emery walked down the aisle in a sequined pink dress, with a big smile for her friend, the bride. Even though Williams thinks it’s not likely Emery recognized her at first, she said by the end of the week the girl realized that this was someone she had known when she was younger, in China.
“Emery didn’t act hesitant to see new strangers,” Williams said. “It didn’t feel like I hadn’t seen her in two years.”
Now that the Joyces are back home, Williams still stays in touch with them. Since March, Emery has had a new favorite game – playing pretend wedding.
We love seeing beautiful adoption stories unfold in God’s perfect timing. If your family is considering adoption, you can contact our China staff at email@example.com or by phone at 800.429.3369. Our staff would love to help guide you as you consider adopting a boy or girl from China.