hhaapppy birthdayyyy dear Muhammaddd!!



The manager of the Octopus where we had been staying is named Muhammad. This is quite a common name, so to differentiate between all the Muhammads that we have met, we call him Muhammad Ali. You know, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”? Well, during our time here he had a birthday. Yes, this is the same Muhammad that I wrote about a few days before. Muhammad said that he was going to be, “25,” then there was a long pregnant pause before he added, “plus ten.” We all laughed as he is clearly older than 25. He is a slender guy with black hair beginning to be peppered with grey. Our friend Becky’s birthday had prompted his remark.

One of many (many) things that I have learned during outreach is the importance of hospitality. Hospitality is almost like the actions behind the words: “thank you” or “love you”. All my life the little- out-of-the-way things have meant so much to me. A thoughtful note here, a quick e-mail there, a cup of coffee already made for me, changing the oil in my car without asking, surprise visits. These unrequired acts of service and love mean more to me than a hundred roses on my birthday. Yes, I also enjoy the roses. After some scheming, we put some money together to buy some birthday treats, I fashioned a birthday card out of paper purchased in India. After Ramadan ended for the day at 5:30PM, the nine of us serenaded him with a jubilant “Happy Birthday Muhammad” song. Wrapping gifts while traveling is always a bit of a challenge. I went to a place called the market. The market is like a big dollar store except has more of a food selection. While looking in the paper isle for some birthday celebration accessories I found: plastic birthday wrapping material, one old balloon void of any packaging, and some string. So? I wrapped his birthday treats up tootsie-roll style: rolled up and tied together on both ends. Blew up the gross little balloon– I mean it tasted awful to blow it up– and decorated it with a zany smiley face before affixing it to the package. Taah–dahh!

I wish that these words I am writing could justly convey the magnitude of what this birthday celebration meant to him. He told us that he had never celebrated his birthday before—that this was the first time, in his life, he had a birthday celebration. You could see the sincerity of his words and what this simple birthday had meant to him. Simply looking around and loving the people you find yourself around is a powerful statement and declaration of who Jesus is. If you want to be challenged today? I invite you to actively love the person beside you: pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the starbucks line, write an encouraging note to your spouse, take out the trash at work, smile at the person in front of you in the grocery store.
Big hugs and blessings!

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