I first noticed Claudia our first Sunday morning at the little church that meets inside a garage in a poor neighborhood of Sao Paulo. As one of our teens shared her testimony, she spoke about how God had used the killings at Virginia Tech and the death of a dancer-friend that day to draw her closer to Him. Claudia’s eyes brimmed with tears and she nodded her head as the missionary translated the testimony. Immediately, I was drawn to this compassionate mother.
After church, everyone stood in front of the garage talking and watching the children play. Two little boys were doing flips and handstands up against the side of the building. Claudia walked over and spoke to them. I couldn’t understand anything she said, but I knew. She was telling them to be careful and to not get hurt. She was asking them not to do handstands. I don’t know much Portuguese, but I do know the international language of Motherhood.
Then, as Claudia and another mother stood and talked, 4 year-old Linda came up and interrupted their conversation. Claudia bent over and spoke to her daughter. Again, I did not understand the Portuguese, but I knew. She was reminding Linda not to interrupt when two adults are talking. I have had that exact same conversation countless times with my children. I recognized it.
The missionary had told us that Claudia has 9 children, 5 of whom live with her. Maybe because I’m the mother of 6 or maybe because we both brimmed with tears over the same testimony, or maybe because we have the same conversations with our children . . . I don’t know. I only know that I immediately felt a bond with Claudia.
As we all stood and talked that evening after church, Claudia and I had our first conversation. I showed her a picture of our family. My husband and me with our 6 children. I pointed to the children and said their names. She repeated their names — Lauren and Jackson and Griffin don’t translate well into Portuguese, but she made the effort to say their names. I pointed to the children playing nearby, indicating that I wanted her to tell me which children were hers. She pointed to each of the 5 and said their names — Noemi, Rebecca, Elias, Felipe, and beautiful little Linda. She asked me where my children were. I understood from her gestures and the handful of Portuguese words I’d learned, but I didn’t know how to say “grandparents.” Claudia was asking me a word, but I didn’t know that word. So I asked one of the missionaries to come translate. Claudia repeated the word. The missionary said Claudia was asking if the children were with their grandparents. She’s a mom. She knew. She knew that if my husband and I had gone to another country for 10 days, our children were with their grandparents.
Claudia asked the missionary to tell me that she liked me the first moment she saw me. She felt a friendship with me. I laughed. “Tell her I felt the exact same way,” I said.
And though we had completely different backgrounds and spoke different languages, our friendship was born that day. As we stood and talked with the missionary translating, I told Claudia that I am looking forward to Heaven, when she and I can sit and have a long conversation and not need a translator. Every time I saw Claudia during my 10 days in Brazil, I ached for Heaven.
In the next post, I will tell you Claudia’s testimony. In the picture at the top of this post, both of us have red eyes from crying while she shared with us where she was before God and how she loves Him now.