I fully expected this birthday to pass unnoticed as I was a newcomer in this dusty desert town. My colleagues knew it was my birthday thanks to a department chart posted on a cork board of announcements and keys to the teachers only bathrooms.
This year, my birthday kicked off on the tail end of a quick trip to Ecuador. After being hassled at the border back into Peru, I realized I'd never planned to spend my birthday in an immigration office in the dark, early morning hours of the dawning day.
After arriving home, I debated heavily on whether I would attend church services. It was already well after 9 a.m. when I walked into the door of my rented room. I'd already missed sacrament, and I would just have Sunday School and Relief Society to attend.
On the side against going to church, the argument was strong and I'll admit pretty rational:
"It doesn't matter if you go to church today or not. Nobody expects you to show up after the temple trip. Nobody even will notice or care if you're there or not. I mean you're just a burden to the ward since you can't even understand anything that is going on there. Just stay home and sleep."
The argument for going to church wasn't as rational to my mind but stronger in my heart. For some reason, I dumped my bag out onto my bed, as I rushed to freshen up. I ran a comb through my 2-day dirty hair, thankful that it was long enough for a hair clip. I splashed my face with some soap and water, put on a bit of foundation and mascara and brushed my teeth. After pulling on a top and skirt, I ran out the door.
As I was hustling towards the church building, the inner dialogue kept going. I could easily turn around and go home. No one would be the wiser. I hate walking in late to things in any situation. Why would I walk in so obviously late to church? The siren song of sleep kept playing in my mind. Yet, my feet kept propelling me towards the building. I must do what I believe is right, even when it's too hard for me alone.
With 15 minutes left of sacrament, I slipped into the chapel and took a seat. After the meeting was over, a ward member turned and said "Hey's it your birthday today isn't?" I was surprised. How did she know? Maybe they read my records into the ward. Though, I shouldn't be surprised. As I'm discovering in Piura, everyone knows everybody and everything.
Yet, I was greeted with a steady of hugs, handshakes and well wishes were regular and genuine. In Sunday School, the class wished me a happy birthday and from the conversations, I came to understand they wanted to have a party for me the next day, in conjunction with another girl's birthday celebration, and for another girl leaving for college in the United States. I felt really touched and surprised they'd include me in the festivities. I was just pleased they told me happy birthday.
In Relief Society, the women wished me happy birthday as well. At the end of the meeting, I was presented with the beautiful flowers that decorated the chapel. I also was invited to lunch at a sister's home with the sister missionaries. I got more well wishes. As I headed home, I was filled with a sweet spirit. I was not alone. When I turned on my phone, I had text messages from my colleagues as well. Later, lunch was very nice and the sister missionaries presented me a Spanish Book of Mormon so I could study it and the language. Later than night, my father actually called me and it worked on my cell phone! He actually said he could hear me better in Peru than when I lived in Utah and he called me from Arizona!
All in all, it was a lovely birthday, especially with the e-cards, emails and Facebook messages. Today, I felt that the distance between hearts wasn't as far as the map or language might indicate.