Two years ago, we had a little girl who was at camp for her first time. Every time she would see me, she would remind me that it was her birthday during the week, and she asked me over and over not to forget. I promised her each time that I would be sure to remember and that we would celebrate it together.
Confession: I knew something that she didn’t. At the camp, we always throw a birthday party for ALL the kids on Thursday night. Many of them have never celebrated their birthdays before, so we get a church to donate enough toys to fill up a large shoebox for each child, make a giant cake, decorate the camp’s mess hall with streamers, confetti and party favors and make sure it’s an event that they will all remember!
When the night of the party arrived, I was excited for her and hoped that she would be pleased with the celebration. Amazingly, none of the older kids had let on about the party, even though they had been to camp several times before. I did my part distracting the kids with some other meaningful activities while the party decorations were completed, and then I got them lined up at the door of the mess hall, ready to go in for their big surprise.
The door opened up, loud cheers and clapping emerged, and the kids bounded inside, high-fiving all the adults and teens that had lined up to greet them! Once past the gauntlet of celebrating big people, the kids found tables and chairs set for the biggest birthday party they had ever seen! Party hats, juice pouches, colorful plates, napkins and plastic ware, noise makers and balloons! Everyone excitedly took their seats and began to explore their table settings while the adults brought them cake and ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday!” to them.
When I went to see the girl after the initial surprise, she caught me off guard. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Pastor Mike! You remembered!” Over and over. She was quite undone by the grace of it all.
I was a little embarrassed that she thought I was the reason for the party when I had really done nothing except distract the kids while the preparations were being made, but I didn’t want to ruin her moment by saying anything awkward. To her, this was a promise fulfilled and an opportunity to celebrate her birthday for the very first time.
I often think about this moment. It both breaks my heart (for a little girl who had never had the simple gesture of a birthday party), and it humbles me. There were dozens of people more deserving of the credit for her birthday celebration, but God allowed me to be the one that received her appreciation. What I’ve realized is that God often allows us to get the credit for good works that we had very little to do with. If we are honest, He does 99% of the work most of the time. We have little to offer, and we are often selfish about offering what we do have.
I think He uses these moments to remind us of the joy we receive from joining Him in His work. They are an incentive for us to trust Him more with our time, our talents and our treasures, and they soften our hearts toward those in need.
So, in retrospect, I’m not sure if the birthday party that night was more for the little girl or more for me. I suspect God made the appointment for us both.
If you would like to know more about Royal Family Kids’ Camps (which are held in many places around the world), you can visit their website at http://www.rfkc.org.