One of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever taken part in took place five years ago this week. This party wasn’t a cookout at somebody’s house, and it didn’t take place at a fancy restaurant or park. or even at disgusting Chuck E Cheese’s. In fact, the celebration took place far from home, in a church building that smelled awful, surrounded by people who hadn’t had a proper bath or shower in days.
We were in Juárez, Mexico on a mission trip with a group of high school students and adults from Eastridge. On Tuesday of that week, one of the students, Caitlin, celebrated her 16th birthday. In an era of ridiculous, over-the-top parties (especially for milestone celebrations like a Sweet Sixteen), Caitlin spent her big day serving others. That night, we marked the occasion. It wasn’t a big party, but it was a unique, special time.
I’ve been to plenty of big birthday parties — and enjoyed most of them, but I’ll never forget commemorating a 16th birthday in the kitchen of a church in Juárez.