The Tenth Anniversary of My Thirtieth Birthday
Today is my fortieth birthday. Perhaps more significantly, it’s the tenth anniversary of my thirtieth birthday. I’m not just saying that so I can avoid talking too much about being 40, although there is a bit of weirdness associated with being as old as I remember my dad being when I was a little kid.
So what was so special about my thirtieth birthday? Well, 30 June 2004 was the day we had our final party for the Mexico mission trip – you know, that “one last” time you all get together to swap pictures and stories, tell the inside jokes again, play “remember that time?” eat some culturally-appropriate food, and commiserate a bit about how weird it is to be back at home.
Even though I’ve traveled outside the country with other people’s kids ten times as a group leader/chaperone, there’s (still) something special about the 2004 Mexico trip. That was the first time Karen let me lead a group all on my own. And although I fell far short of being the mature, responsible chaperone I should have been, no one was very seriously injured (sorry, Meredith), everyone made it back home (much to their chagrin), and the Good News was preached to the poor. It was, to say the least, a very special experience.
And the MEX04 party just happened to fall on my 30th birthday.
I use a trite, cliché phrase like “very special experience,” but I should really just call it what it was: life-changing. That trip was the thing that really made me start seriously thinking, “How can I make the other 50 weeks of my year more like the two weeks when I’m dong stuff like that?”
Coincidentally, the other trip I went on that same summer gave me the answer to that question, but I didn’t quite put two and two together right away. That August, I also went to Peru with another six high school students, teaching Bible Stories in Spanish at rural congregations in the mountains. It, too, was an unforgettable experience, one that solidified everything I had begun to suspect about myself during MEX04. One of the places we stayed in Peru was a compound owned by Wycliffe Bible Translators – did you hear that? Bible Translators – but my first reaction was “Wow. That’s cool. But there can’t be too many languages left without Bibles. They must be nearly done…”
It took me another year to figure out that no, “they” don’t really have that almost done yet, and there are still thousands of languages without even a single verse of Scripture. And another fair bit of time to get myself in a position to be able to do something about it.
But the seed had been planted. The MEX04 trip had changed my life – or at least, it had changed me – and now, exactly ten years after that party, with the peanut butter tortillas, endless quotes, remembrances, stories, a soundtrack, commemorative t-shirts, and a silly powerpoint presentation, here I am in Zambia, serving full-time as the exegete and translation advisor for a project to translate the Bible into a brand-new language for the first time. Wow.
Sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, he chooses to use completely ordinary ones. Today, as I celebrate 40 years of God’s amazing grace and mercy, I’m just happy he chose to use me for some of His awesome plans.
Thanks to all of you who have been a part of my journey all of these years.