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A YAV year, and really any mission experience, is based on the premise of Jesus’ words “whosoever would save her life will lose it” (Mark 8:35) and “whosoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). Through self-sacrifice and denying the individual to serve community, you can begin to live into the kingdom of God.  I have been living this mantra (with varying degrees of success) these past 2½ months in Peru.

But I also know, in the words of Marie Dennis, that “life is at its truest and clearest in times of simple intimacy, in touching others deeply, in relishing in the wonder of simple life and love. These too are times of knowing God.”  So sometimes it’s not about denying self, it’s about the deep happiness of embracing life.

So this month I celebrated my 27th birthday, and I took a few days to know God by savoring and living.

In Latin America, they make much of birthdays. My birthday was not extravagant, but it was more than I could have dreamed. I received the following presents:

– being sung “Happy birthday” to bilingually at work, at home, and at church,

– a mandarin orange and a kiss on the cheek given my one of the youth with different abilities that attends the Ann Sullivan Center,

– cake and my favorite foods made by the family of the president of Shane’s church,

– a homemade card signed by many of my coworkers,

– from my wonderful husband, roses and two pair of earrings made by the artisans of the Free Trade group that we work with here (,

– a huge homemade cake and a delicious dinner from my host family,

– a bottle of wine and earrings from “momma” Debbie, our site coordinator,

– laughter and good conversation with friends and fellow YAVs.

It is also traditional for the celebrant to take the first bite straight out of the birthday cake, and then for friends to push your face into the cake. I managed to avoid getting a complete frosting facial, and everyone had a good laugh. 

More than anything, though, I truly cherished the warmth that was outpoured by my community here in Peru.  While I was busy “losing my life” and being a servant that God could work through, I wasn’t letting myself receive love from those with whom I live, work, and worship. I was scared to jump in, to open up, to love and live fully in my time here.  But through God’s grace, others were brave. And on my birthday they wrapped me in smiles, songs, prayer, care, and joy.  It was a blessing.

So as I go forward in my year of service, I do so in a more balanced frame of mind.

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”  – Rom 15:13

My eternal thanks for all of your prayers and love.

God bless,

~ Sarah