A couple of months ago, in a large United Methodist church in sunny Venice, Florida, the church’s annual missions conference was being held. One day, during the conference, a ten-year-old boy named Adam sat in his children’s class listening to a story about Daniel in the lions’ den. While trapped in a pit, facing down a pack of hungry lions, Daniel exhibited an extraordinary amount of courage in the face of great danger, all the while believing that his God was bigger than the lions’ appetites. For his faithfulness, God spared Daniel’s life.
When the story was finished, Adam and his classmates went off to craft time. To coincide with the story of Daniel, the children were asked to make pillows in the shape of a lion’s head. Adam set to work on his pillow, tying off the fleece strips to create a mane, meticulously cutting out and pasting on felt eyes and a nose, and carefully drawing on a mouth and whiskers with fabric paint.
The completed pillows were then collected and placed in a big pile on a table. Adam and the other children were told that people would come by the table, take one or two of the pillows, and give them to children who were struggling with a difficult situation in life. The teachers asked Adam’s class to pray for each child receiving a pillow. The children prayed that the pillows would remind the young recipients to be brave and remember that God was always with them – especially in scary situations. Adam and the others didn’t know who would be receiving their pillows. They only knew those children needed prayers.
As Adam watched, a pastor from Pennsylvania who was visiting the missions conference, picked up Adam’s pillow. Proudly, Adam informed Pastor Mark that it was his pillow the pastor was holding and he was happy that Pastor Mark had chosen it. Pastor Mark said, “I will find someone special to give it to – I promise.”
Twelve hundred miles away from Adam’s home in Venice lives a little boy named Gabe. Gabe is two years old. He was born into the most horrific surroundings one can imagine – the stuff of nightmares. But God had plans for Gabe from the day he was born. He was rescued from that awful situation, cared for by loving foster parents, and finally adopted in November of 2011. Gabe now lives in a bright, sunny world full of possibilities. Not only does he have a mother and a grandmother who love him absolutely, Gabe also has an entire village of devoted friends, “aunts”, and “uncles” who consistently surround him with love. Wherever he turns, someone is there to offer him a hug, to hold him, to tickle him, to give him “knuckles” – his term for a fist bump. He is a sunny, self-confident child who has earned every bit of the devotion poured out on him.
Happily, Gabe is too young to understand that there are some cloudy days ahead. In January, Gabe was diagnosed with metopic craniosynostosis or trigonocephaly. I can say them. I can almost spell them. I wish I didn’t know what they meant. Even more, I wish they did not apply to Gabe.
In common speak, this means that the frontal bones in Gabe’s skull have fused much earlier than is ideal. For now, the fusion of these bones isn’t presenting much of a problem. But, if Gabe is not treated, his brain will continue to grow and push against his skull, causing pressure to build up. This pressure could stunt his mental development or cause him to go blind – or both. Treatment for this diagnosis is surgery. It will involve separating the bones in his skull again, giving his brain the room it needs to develop. Surgery is scheduled for the end of July.
I was blessed with the job of making sure Gabe received his pillow - as Pastor Mark is my husband. :) I made a card and enclosed a brief synopsis of how the pillow came to be.
I didn't sign it because the pillow was really a gift from Adam and I really thought Gabe's mom, Jeanette, would be be able to figure out who left it. I wish now that I would've signed it and spared her the hassle. She spent a few days trying to piece the mystery together and then gave up, posting this on her facebook page:
As I write this today, over 125 people have "liked" this status update - a testament to the surrounding community's love for Jeanette and Gabe and the wonderful story surrounding these two boys.
Thank you, Adam. As Gabe, his family, and his village prepares for this surgery, we will be reminded again that somewhere in Florida, a young boy named Adam made a pillow, filled it with prayers for courage, and sent it on its way to Gabe. It will remind all of us that in the darkest of times, God is there – always loving, always faithful.