A Small Miracle on an Eight-Lane Highway

Belém, where I went to college, is a city of about 2 million people. Most of these people don’t own a car. They have to rely on unreliable public transportation. And when you have children who are still on diapers, it is virtually impossible to go long distances without wasting hours fighting against the

People pack the buses like sardines. They wait long until a bus shows up — there is no set schedule. Next, they have to step into the road to flag a bus and hope that it actually stops. Then they have to allow themselves to be shoved inside with the surge of the people coming behind them. Once in, they have to hold on to whatever appears to be standing in one place for a few seconds — peoples’ umbrellas count, especially if they are attached to a purse by the handle. They have to make their way to the guy sitting on the chair who collects the money. And they have to keep moving toward the front so they won’t miss their stop.

Women struggle more. They have to endure the stares and “lazy hands” of dirty men who are interested in another kind of trip. And if you try to bring small children into the bus, the experience can turn quickly into a mental breakdown. And such was our fate on a Sunday morning when I pastored a church located 45 minutes away by bus. We were running later than usual. I had one of the girls on my arm and Naza was pushing the other on a stroller.

In order to get to the bus stop, we had to cross two sets of four-lane highways. I was running ahead,  straining my eyes, trying to read the letters on the front of the bus to make sure we didn’t miss our Halley comet. Sure enough, as I got closer to the first set of highways, I spotted our bus. Instinctively, I sprinted toward the middle of the road, where a shallow divider was. Stupidly, I left the wife and the other daughter behind and in the process dropped my glasses. As I unsuccessfully tried to save it from reaching the pavement, I lost my folder and my notes flew everywhere. “Oh no, my sermon notes. How will I preach today?”

But that didn’t matter anymore. The bus didn’t matter anymore. The only thing that mattered now was for me to hold on to my daughter and find my glasses so I could see where I was headed, and more importantly, what was headed in my direction…

Thankfully, I put myself together. As I lifted my head, though, I saw something I had never witnessed before: The bus was still there and people were peering at us through the windows. Some were laughing, some were shaking their heads, but all were being entertained. I took another look. “This is not possible. Buses don’t wait for anyone. Elderly? No! Disabled? No! Maybe a young woman in a short supply of clothes, but that wasn’t me!”

But it was true, the bus was not moving. We came in, entering the bus to a round of thunderous applause. We made the way to the front, only to find that in a city of two million, one of my brothers, for whatever reason, was on the same bus, at exactly the same time we were trying to cross the highway. He standing next to the bus driver, doing something all Trindades are famous for — making conversation with a total stranger. He simple asked the bus driver to stay put and he did!

That was the sweetest ride on the way to church ever and it reminded me of the words of the author of Hebrews: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16). In the original language, “in our time of need” literally means “in a nick of time.” It’s the kind of help that comes “just when we need it” — not a second too early, nor a moment too late. That is the nature of my God and I never cease to be amazed by it.

Ivanildo C. Trindade