For those of you who remembered my birthday: Thanks!
For those of you who didn’t: Don’t Worry!
For those of you who have been asking about African birthday traditions: This Is For You!
I had the treat of being with the other MUD3 volunteers in Pietermaritzburg over my birthday, where we had gathered for our second retreat of the year. They surprised me a day early with two big tubs of ice cream and the biggest birthday candle I’ve ever had to blow out! We all enjoyed the ice cream, and it didn’t take long to disappear! The following day our Country Coordinator’s son was baptized, and we enjoyed cake and other baked goods in honor of the newest Child of God. After the baptism, we headed to a local recreation area for a game of soccer and some time in the pool. I’m fairly confident that I have never been swimming in an outdoor pool on my birthday (or an indoor one, at that!) so it was my first ever Birthday Pool Party! Afterwards, we headed out for (you guessed it) more ice cream; my fellow volunteers know me so well! It was a joyous, relaxing day, and unlike any other birthday I’ve had. So, there you go. A great birthday!
I thought all the celebrations were over, but on my first day back in Carolina my host family surprised me after our Morning Prayer with a big chocolate cake and a special African Birthday song and dance (I’ll sing it to you when I return to the US!) I was touched that they wanted to celebrate with me, even though my birthday was already many days past. Their family has a birthday tradition of eating chocolate cake and then reading the Psalm that corresponds to your age (they don’t buy gifts, but reading and discussing the special Psalm is their way of blessing and ushering in the next year with wisdom and grace). Therefore, we read Psalm 28 in honor of my birthday. It is entitled Prayer for Help and Thanksgiving for It, and verse 7 is especially meaningful for me:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
I will throughout this year continue to reference this Psalm and give thanks not only for the comfort it provides but for my host family, who “gave” me this Psalm as their special gift on my 28th birthday.
So… ice cream, a pool, chocolate cake, and a birthday psalm? My African birthday(s) was perfect! For those who sent me birthday wishes via email, your heartfelt messages were truly the icing on the cake. Thanks!