My favorite birthday party is not one of mine. It was this past Wednesday for a lady I’ve only known for a few months.
Every day for the past three weeks Elsie has been reminding me that her 91st birthday was coming up on August 17. Just a couple days ago she asked me to calculate it for her. She was born in 1926 and so she is actually turning 90.
Elsie is staying in our emergency shelter. Sitting in the day room by day and sleeping on a cot in our chapel in the evening because we are overcrowded and have run out of beds.
I asked Elsie why she was living at the mission and she told me that four months ago, at the ripe old age of 89, she got behind on rent and the landlord evicted her. She lived on the sidewalk for a month before someone brought her to the Union Rescue Mission.
I told Elsie we were going to throw her a party. She got excited. Here were her birthday wishes… To have it inside, to have a strawberry cake, a can of grape soda, and to be able to invite all the women in the emergency section to the event. I told her, “As you wish.”
One of the grads and I did a Costco run on Tuesday and got enough birthday cake and ice cream for the whole gang. We got Elsie her own Strawberry Cheesecake. We invited all the guests and even some of the URM staff.
But I couldn’t find a grape soda. On my way to the party I prayed believing if Jesus could turn water to wine he could provide grape soda out of thin air. I stopped by the next vending machine I could find and there it was! “How cool is that”, I said out loud.
We gathered everyone for the party to celebrate Elsie’s life and friendship. The ladies sang the most beautiful version of “Happy Birthday” you’ve ever heard with big smiles on their faces. Mama, as they call her, was grinning from ear to ear and soaking up all the attention. She wanted pictures with everybody. For a few minutes the entire emergency women’s section were able to forget about their own personal struggles and focus on a little woman who needed a little attention.
The celebration ended with a prayer for Elsie and as we were packing up Elsie pulled me aside and wanted a picture. Then she shared some things with me that made her cry and me as well. Pray for Elsie, our oldest guest, at the mission.
One last thing… take 43 seconds to hear from Elsie as she shared her heart on this short video clip and you will probably shed a tear as well… You see… Elsie had never had a birthday party for 89 years! Her father gave her away when she was just three years old. My favorite birthday party was Elsie’s first one ever… celebrating 90 years of living. For one day Elsie wasn’t stuck in poverty… for a lady with that many friends at her birthday party is a rich woman!!!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!