Saturday was my missionary’s 19th birthday.
I’ve spent every birthday with him until now, and all day Saturday, I fought back tears. My heart just ached and pined for him. I wondered if anyone knew, or even wished him a happy birthday. I wondered if he felt homesick or sad. I happened to be on a weekend away with some girlfriends, and they wisely convinced me that we should make a cake and celebrate him anyway. Which we did. Laughing through my tears, I said a prayer of gratitude for the brilliant women in my life who take such good care of me.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through social media, and a Facebook friend request popped up. Ordinarily, I am hesitant to accept friend requests from people I do not know in real life. An article I wrote a few years ago went viral, and I frequently have strangers send friend requests to me. Because my Facebook page is a personal one, I never use it for business relationships, and so I decline any requests that come through from people I don’t know.
But I noticed the man’s hometown was listed as Rancagua, Chile, which happens to be the mission my son is serving in.
Immediately, I accepted the friend request, but had no expectations beyond that. I figured I’d ask my son about the man on our email chat tomorrow. I then went back to my mindless scrolling
Five minutes later, I was looking at eight photos of my son.
The man fed the missionaries, knew it was my son’s birthday, and took the trouble to take care of him, and, inadvertently, me. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I stared at these photos of my sweet boy, and I just sobbed. He had a piece of cake, with candles, and he looked so happy. I can barely think of it several hours later without my heart swelling in humility and joy.
He had cake on his birthday.
It wouldn’t have mattered to him, but it mattered to me. My heart was breaking at the thought of my son passing into his 19th year unnoticed by anyone around him.
I quickly pulled up google translate (since I speak no Spanish, and he speaks no English), and the man and I had a sweet exchange wherein I thanked him profusely for taking care of my boy.
This man will never know what it meant to me.
Missionary Mamas, listen up. If you have shut down your Facebook accounts, or been loathe to start one, you need to get on it right now. Don’t wait or think that it doesn’t matter. It matters when someone halfway around the world wants to share a piece of your child with you. It matters when you get to see them surrounded by the people who are loving and caring for them. It matters when it’s his first birthday away from home and your homesickness for him feels like a weight on your chest.
As much as Facebook has become an annoying, endless parade of political rants, hateful opinions, and fake headlines, there is a simplistic joy in being able to communicate with a man in Chile who just happened to be loving my son in my stead.
On his birthday.
Get on social media. As long as you have a missionary, you really should have a Facebook account.