The Bilbo Baggins Birthday Party Miracle
When Dawn and I moved from Chicago to San Diego with our 6 children, we left behind a vibrant homeschool community that had one amazing event we loved: The Bilbo Baggins Birthday Party. Each September this homeschooling co-op named Riverside would have all the students prepare the theatrical scenes from the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings in full costume, share an enormous potluck filled with dragon wings and troll legs, and enjoy a late summer evening outdoors in the forest. It was a magical night that over 400 people would participate in each year.
We decided to put on our very own Bilbo Party in San Diego last Fall (2022), and we advertised at our new church as well as on Facebook. About 40 people came, and they all loved it. But one family in particular came who have since become dear friends. They have a very large home and two wonderful teenage children. This last year they decided to get serious about their faith, and the father baptized his two teenage children at home in a swimming pool. I would describe them as people of peace who are very well networked in the community.
In the meantime, our teenagers visited dozens of youth ministries in the area but could not find a place where they felt they could belong (the incredible youth ministry at Church of the Resurrection back in Wheaton had set a pretty high bar!), so we decided to start our own youth group at our home this summer. Many teens joined us, including the two recently baptized teens who had first met us at “Bilbo.”
Before long, Dawn was asked by the local homeschooling network that we had recently joined if she would be the theater teacher. With fear and trembling, she agreed, and now has a full cadre of 40 teenagers who are preparing to put on this year’s Bilbo Baggins Birthday Party. Our well networked family offered to host it at their beautiful multi-acre property, and then asked if she could invite “the whole world,” to which we gave a resounding, “YES!”
This event, though, has never really been about Bilbo, or even Tolkien. It has always been about community: coming together around a fantastic story, engaging our creativity, and sharing the Gospel. Something amazing and wonderful is being built for the kingdom of God in San Diego through the ministry of Greenhouse!