Bocha. Gabriel. God’s timing.

Every February, for the last 4 years, our family has been blessed to rent a friend’s house at a beach city a couple of hours to the north of where we live. He charges us very little compared to what it would cost anywhere else. Every year we invite some people to come spend a few days with us. We have fun together, relax together, laugh a lot and do ministry planning for the new year. It has become one of our favorite times of the year. This is where we go.

This year we were blessed to have two families come and spend time with us. This is one of them:

It’s Vanderlei, Luisa and one of their sons, Caio. Vanderlei is one of the pastors of our church and I can’t even begin to tell you how much this family has blessed us since we first met them in 2015. We are blessed and happier and closer to God because of this family. We laugh all the time together. That’s something we were definitely needing when we met them.

Anyway, back to the beach. One day Vanderlei and I were playing a game called bocha. I won’t explain it here but it’s a very simple, very fun game. I had never heard of it before we moved here. I love it. Vanderlei is very good. We have some good battles which I usually lose. As we were playing a little boy, around 2, showed up. He started watching us. We said hi to him and that brought him in even closer. We were playing right in front of two younger couples. The beach was full so we assumed one of those two couples were his parents as they watched little Gabriel and smiled as we played.

The more we talked to Gabriel the more involved he became in our game. The more involved he became the more he began to help himself to the game pieces. In the middle of a tight game little Gabriel began grabbing things and walking them back to us. In his mind he was being an amazing helper but I confess that I was getting frustrated at this and wondered why his parents weren’t coming to let him know that he could watch but couldn’t grab everything. They never came. I continued to talk to Gabriel. He was super cute and kind, but he was, at least in my mind, messing up our game and it happened to be one in which I was actually beating Vanderlei. I’m sure I would not have minded his help as much if I were losing. Vanderlei just laughed through the whole thing and kept conversing with Gabriel. Vanderlei has the best, easy going, God centered in all things attitude of anyone I think I’ve ever been around. As he and I drive in a car he will often softly say, “All praise and honor to your name Father.” Never for show. It’s just because he loves his Dad so much and he can’t help it. Distruptions rarely rattle him. I learn much just by being with him.

As we played and continued talking to Gabriel in the middle of our game, a young woman suddenly appeared. She asked if the little boy was with us. We told her no and Vanderlei said, “But his parents are right over there” and pointed to the couples that were smiling as they watched us play and interact with Gabriel. The young woman said, “Ok. A family has lost their child and we are looking for him.” As she started walking away I said, “Vanderlei are you sure he belongs to them?” He called out to the families. They both said they were not Gabriel’s parents. Vanderlei scooped up Gabriel and called out to the lady to let her know Gabriel’s parents weren’t around.

Vanderlei and the woman set off with Gabriel to find his mom. I stayed behind to clean up the game and tell our families what was going on as they were looking on at a distance and had no clue. Caio heard and then caught up to his dad and the woman to help as well. They were gone for a while. When they came back they told us that they had reunited Gabriel with his mom. Gabriel only wanted Vanderlei to hold him the entire time. When they found the very distraught mom she was so very thankful that her son, who had been missing for 45 minutes, was ok. By that time a big group had surrounded them. Vanderlei told the mom that the Lord had brought her son back to her and that it was a time to thank Him for doing so. Vanderlei then led a prayer on that beach thanking our Father. Caio said there was a hush over the group as he prayed.

Later that night Luisa began to talk about how present God was in that whole thing. How he led Gabriel to a pastor and a missionary to watch over him and take care of him. To keep him safe. She talked of all the people in this world who might have taken Gabriel when they realized no one knew he was there but God had brought him to two protectors.

Those thoughts humbled me greatly as I thought about my brief moment of frustration that this little guy was messing up our game. At that moment I was seeing with my physical eyes and defintely not my spiritual eyes. Vanderlei, on the other hand, was kingdom focused all the way. He’s an incredible role model to me.

When he and Caio finally got back to me he looked at me and said, “I owe you a game piece.” As he walked with little Gabriel to find his mom Gabriel clung to one of the pieces of our game. Vanderlei said he could not bring himself to take it back.

We talked about that piece later that night. Our prayer is that it will be kept in that family for years and every time they look at it they will remember God’s faithfulness and protection in taking care of Gabriel that day. Having one piece missing from our game set will also be a great reminder to our family of God’s faithfulness and protection.

I read a commentary from Tony Evans on Psalms 90:12. It’s powerful, woke me up and reminded me of how Vanderlei lives his life. Dr. Evans said, “Ask the Lord to make the brevity of life sink in to your soul so that you are convicted to make godly choices during your short stay on earth. Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once.”

May we walk with our eyes open, not missing God’s working and timing and may we spend our coins well.

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