This is an excerpt from my journal:
June 3rd is Martyrs day in Uganda. It's a huge national holiday. In 1886 the king of Buganda, named Mwanga, felt threatened by the rise of Christianity. He feared that his people would worship Christ more than him, so he decided to eliminate Christianity by killing all the Christians. He forces 25 of his pages (13 Anglican and 12 Roman Catholic) to walk 37 miles to Namugongo. Because they would not deny their faith in Christ, the pages were tortured, wrapped in bamboo and then burned alive. The flames we started at their feet, giving them the opportunity to renounce their beliefs up until their death. There are two shrines in Namugongo (one for the Anglicans and one for the Roman Catholics) to honor these 25 martyrs and the many others who died for their beliefs. Today, June 3rd, is recognized by most of Eastern Africa. People pilgrimage to Namugongo before and on this day to remember the sacrifices that were made. People walk there from all over, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Congo. There were so many people there, it was incredible. We visited both shrines and learn all about the events that took place at that very spot, not so many years ago. I spent the day marveling at the courage of these young men. Would I be ready to lay down my life for what I believe? Would I be strong enough to endure the pains of torture and burning alive without denying my faith in Jesus Christ? Would you?
June 3rd, 2010: I was in a completely foreign country, on a continent half-way around the world, living with a group of people that I hadn't even known a month prior to the day. The day wasn't about me. I was in Africa serving the people of Uganda. I was whole heartedly invested in others, and so just for the experience, I forgot about myself a little.
And it was still the best birthday because there were the pieces of it that were special to me:
First, after days of restlessness, I ran. I took the path through the sugarcanes fields out behind the sugar factory with Carrie and Cecilly and I just ran. I'd never felt so alive before in my life. My lungs thrived on the beauty of everything around me. The glory of being alive, of being healthy, of being there! I felt like I could have run forever.
Next, I blissfully savored a Snickers bar that Carrie bought me in Mukono. Something American that happened to be my favorite candy bar. It was perfection.
Finally, just before bed, my mom called me and traditionally sang Happy Birthday to me.
Yeah, best birthday yet.