For her 60th birthday, Mom wanted to do something different, so she asked her children to plan a mission trip.
As eight adults with six kids under 6, we faced the usual obstacles, but we knew we needed to do something. We decided to make a mission experience in our own part of the world, focused on serving God, and serving together.
The eight of us met Saturday afternoon in St. Catharines, Ont., and headed to a local shelter. We prayed together in the parking lot, asking God to guide us, and to work in and through us.
We husked corn, baked fish and chips, peeled peaches, and served up a meal to 45 residents and guests. Mom’s heart broke as she served corn and chatted with people in line. It was great to work and serve together as a family.
We quickly grabbed dinner and headed to a youth drop in. There, we hung out with 20 youth, playing games, chatting, shooting pool, then made huge plates of nachos. The kids were so surprised that all the food and drinks were free: “Your family just brought this stuff in for us?” It was great to be able to bless those youth.
Sunday morning, after a Sunday school presentation by a couple who had been in Thailand on mission for three years, we headed to a Catholic church to experience something different in worship. Then we went out for Korean food – another experience we’re not used to. It was good to be uncomfortable together.
“Are you from a TV show?”
During lunch, we gave mom her birthday card with some money and the explanation: “You can choose to do whatever you want with this money, using it for random acts of kindness through the city.”
Our first stop was a grocery store where mom wanted to buy someone’s groceries. Mom spotted a lady with a full grocery cart of rice, peanut butter, and mostly no-name products, her three adorable children following along eating popsicles. “That’s her! That’s the one I want to bless.”
We hovered around the checkout, waiting for the lady to get in line. When the cashier rang up the $98 sale, Mom handed the cashier a $100 bill and whispered: “I’d like to pay for her groceries.” Fumbling through her purse, the lady heard what Mom said. “WHAT? You want to buy my groceries?! Are you guys from a TV show?”
Mom replied, “No, we just want to bless you today, and buy your groceries.” Tears flowed, as the lady explained to her children that “this nice lady just bought all of our groceries!” She was so grateful and also gracious in how she accepted the gift.
Outside on the sidewalk, she took her kids to a booth collecting money for a Salvation Army food bank. She put a bunch of bills in the jar, saying, “Do you see that family there? They just bought all of our groceries! I have to do something for someone else now.”
Restocking the shelter
We headed to Costco to use the rest of the gift money on supplies for the shelter, which had a running list of “supplies needed” on the fridge door. At the shelter, a volunteer asked, “Did you guys forget something?”
“We noticed that you guys needed a few things,” Mom explained, “So we’re just bringing in a few items for you.”
As he took us to the kitchen to drop off packs of dishcloths and towels, bags of brown sugar, big cans of ketchup, and a huge box of chocolate bars (a treat for our new friends at the shelter), he exclaimed, “Your family is awesome!”
In the back of the van, Mom started crying as she thanked us for the most meaningful birthday celebration. She encouraged us to continue to live generously, to love Jesus, and love others.
Our family will never have a birthday like we used to. There were a million other ways Mom could’ve celebrated – I’m so proud of her for choosing this.
Happy birthday, Mom!