A Family Reunion Arranged by God

A garage-sale purchase made on a whim yields a very special suprise for two doting grandparents.

- Posted on May 16, 2013

A stack of video tapes, the top of which is labeled "Villanueva Family."

Fiery ash spewed thousands of feet above Mount Pinatubo. Molten lava cascaded down the flanks of the ancient volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, destroying everything in its path. It was June 15, 1991.

My husband, Chuck, and I saw a news ticker about the eruption from 8,000 miles away in Niagara Falls, New York. Our daughter, Cindy, her husband, Ed, and our grandkids had been lucky to get out alive. They’d been evacuated from Clark Air Force Base, where Ed was stationed, near the capital city, Manila.

Cindy had called us earlier from a naval station in Subic Bay in the Philippines. “The kids and I are safe,” she said. “Ed stayed behind to clear the base while movers pack our things. He’s waiting for his next assignment. Can we stay with you and Dad?”

“Of course!” I said. It was hard living so far from our grandbabies. We were proud of Ed’s service, but we hadn’t seen Cindy or our 14-year-old grandson, Eddie, in seven years. We’d never met our youngest grandchildren: Eric, seven, and Evelyn, four.

How many birthdays had we missed, how many holidays? We only had the photos that didn’t come often enough in the mail.

Now this disaster had brought them to us. Cindy and the kids arrived and we spent a few glorious weeks together. Finally, Ed called. After Cindy spoke to him she told me, “Ed’s next assignment is in Shreveport, Louisiana, so we’ll go meet him there. Thank you so much for letting us stay.”

What a terrible shame they had to go through this, I thought. But I felt blessed we got to spend time with them.

We saw them more often after that. They moved to New Mexico and then Chuck and I moved to Mount Vernon, Texas, to be closer to my dad. It was there, last June, that Chuck and I stopped at a garage sale. One big box was labeled “72 VCR tapes for $7.00.”

We didn’t even own a VCR anymore. But I thumbed through the tapes anyway. There were some military and war videos, children’s movies, some unmarked tapes. “I’m not sure where they came from,” said the woman running the sale.

“Someone might like these kids’ movies,” I said to Chuck.

“Sure!” he said. “And I love war documentaries.”

We bought a cheap VCR to watch the tapes on before giving them away. One label caught my eye: “Villanueva Family.” How funny, Cindy and Ed’s last name. But it’s a common one in Texas. I popped it in and pressed “play.”

A little girl, around two, appeared on the screen. “Happy birthday, Evelyn,” a man said. With her shiny, dark hair and brown eyes, she was what I imagined our Evelyn looked like at that age.

Soon it cut to a child’s fifth birthday party. Wait! Could that be...Eric?

“Hold the camera steady, Ed,” a woman said. “Don’t worry, Cindy,” he answered. Chuck and I stared at the screen, openmouthed with awe and joy at what only God could have arranged.

Twenty years later, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo had reached us in a way we never could have imagined.


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