mercredi 17 janvier 2018

Step Up Your Game with 2018

Image result for stepping up your gameHappy New Year 2018 to all the readers of Help Me Understand blog. Today marks the beginning of my first blog-post for the year 2018. I am feeling in a story-telling mood and that is exactly what I am going to do.  
'Why do you like reading books' my cousin Tony asked me exasperated once. He had tried unsuccessfully to bring me out of the bedroom where it seemed to him I had spent most of my holiday times in. The year was 1998, I had just started my fourth year of high-school. Though i wasn't able to answer him intelligently at the time on why my eyes clung to this particular book the whole holiday, I think I can do so now. I was reading my first troubling book, 'The Normal Christian Life' by Watchman Nee. He wrote differently from every other authors I had read at that time. His writing style was new to me. He could vividly describe a complex situation simply by appealing to casual words, no sophisticated words in his writing. He had a fine use of common words.   

Stacking books after books after it, my reading became intoxicating as I grew up, thanks to my parents' encouragement. Given that I had come to split my time between dialogues and debates with spiritual opponents, Brahnamists and Jehovah Witnesses, I had come to read a lot of their respective documentations. One of them which I came to like despite our opposite views on religion and Christian doctrines, was the Jehovah Witness book that dealt with youth, 'Les Jeunes s'interrogent.' It was the best resource out there I could find dealing with behavior and teenage lifestyle. The book was so accessible and less dogmatic which I think played in its favor unlike their Watch Tower editions. In one of its chapters, the authors encouraged teenagers to be careful about their reading habits and they made a remarkable comment that has stuck with me up to this day and I paraphrase it, 'Reading a book is like having a conversation with the author. And some authors are not worth having a conversation with.' This piece of advise has encouraged me to be selective in my readings and it has given me a different outlook on literature. Reading is an opportunity to be in conversation, so to speak, with an author. And boy, i have been in conversation with some minds that have totally changed me.

The year was 2007 and I was reading 'Dream and you will win the World' by Cesar Castellanos. I came to a chapter where the story of his wife is recounted. She was watching a particular TV program and on the program a lady practicing new age spirituality was the main guest. The new ager lady had many repulsive views to her taste. Adding insult-to-injury, she also revealed that she would be running as a presidential candidate in Columbia. By the end of the TV program, Castellanos wife found herself mumbling and lamenting to herself, 'How can this country change if we have people like this running our country?' and almost suddenly as she mentally uttered these words, she heard what she identified as the voice of the Holy Spirit challenging her with these mental counter-thoughts, 'Then why don't you run for presidency?'

She took it as a lesson realizing that you shouldn't just complain in life, sometime you have to act. She ran for presidency and lost the election in Columbia when there were only two remaining national candidates. Though she didn't reach the supreme position, she became influential and was able in many ways to influence public opinion with her perceived ethical views based on her Christian worldview.

This story really hit me like a load of bricks. As I was reading the book, incidentally at my campus was running a recruitment of student representatives. The position was widely advertised on campuses running for weeks. I didn't even think about it as I daily passed it on my way to or from school. Upon the book read, I was reminded that I had always complained that students at the University were doing drugs and other things that affected their academic performance. Sometime I did pray for it but that was all. Now things were different. I had been in "dialogue" with an author who would awaken my resolve into going the extra mile. I felt compelled to apply for this academic position. I became restless. My thoughts were agitated during day and night. Many objections came to my mind on why I should not go for it, chief of them: I was a foreign student, a foreigner! "Who will vote for me anyway?", I asked myself repeatedly. I wasn't even sure what would I do even if I became one of the elite student representative at the University in charge of five campus with close to 60,000 students. In brief, I was afraid and sweating fear.

Image result for stepping up your gameBeing unsuccessful to dissuade myself out it, I chose the path of least resistance - I embraced the challenge. Going one more time through the requirement listed, I decided to apply by faith. I was tired of complaining and running away each time I saw an opportunity to make a commitment to affect changes in my immediate surrounding. I had to make a decision that night in my room as I closed the book one last time. My choses were clear: Either I stop complaining at what happens in the Campus or I get involved and bring the little light I have as God's allows me. After some time in prayers, I finally decided to respond to the inner call. I went through the opening positions, and their requirements. I got confirmation that I was indeed eligible as Head Mentor_Student Representative candidate. I had only one problem, I wasn't known. A big issue since candidate would be voted. Mentor students from all campuses of our University (in Pretoria) would be present for the election. I proceeded anyway with my application. I chose a position that reflected best my immediate interest, Head Mentor_Student Representative in charge of Academic PortfolioI gave God one condition though before I submit my candidacy, 'please, you know I know no body, I would appreciate as a sign that you are in this affair that you allow that I be elected at 100%'. If you dream big, why stop with the election success? I was in for the kill. I wanted a Soviet score. 

The election day came, we were at the main Campus of Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), a distant campus from Arcadia campus where I usually attended my classes. As expected, I saw probably 1 or 2 person that I knew among the participants coming for the votes. Not a good start, I needed more than 2 votes to be elected. Darkness started falling upon me. I kept hope rationalizing that this was just the beginning and were were still waiting for other voters to arrive fort the election.

By the time the election process begun, I looked again around me and noted with horror this time that all the rest of the voters were perfect strangers! The leader of the event, a psychologist/psychiatrist by academic training involved in student life, call the room in order and explained the electorate process. All candidates of different portfolios were invited to give a speech on who they were and to present their intellectual program, followed by votes from student mentors from different campus choosing who fit best the advertised position. Different positions, there were only 5 portfolios, were presented by the leader of the electorate commission. Candidates walked on the hot-spot to pitch their programs. And the votes were casted. Then came the turn of the portfolio on academics. I was shaking and almost cursing myself for being so vain and audacious as to think that I could even be a likely candidate. I had no faith at that time and in that room. I had lost my faith.  I forgot about the book I read, and if I remembered it, I would have cursed the author. I had a good life, a uneventful life but a peaceful life nevertheless until I read him. Why did I want to put myself in a position were failure was a possibility? Why did I do it? I regretted.

My name was called. I felt as pined on my chair. They called me twice and people started looking around. The one person who knew me looked at me as if to say, 'they are calling you!' Damn it, no where to hide. I stood up and walked to the stage swallowing my fear as much as I could. It seemed as a long walk. I ran mentally through my program speech that I had rehearsed the previous day and in the morning when my faith was still alive and incendiary. I gave my small presentation to the gazing audience, trying to find a friendly face I could focus on and administrate the totality of message. My presentation ended, people applauded respectfully. Then they called the other candidates for this same position on Academics. No one stood up. They insisted, no one was there. It looked like I was the 'Candidat unique'. I was voted at 100% with no abstention. The mentor group applauded their new student representative in charge of the academic portfolio. I smiled, barely realizing what was happening. I waived confidently, greeting them with a growing confidence. My faith at that time had completely returned! Did God really answered my prayers literally? I was mildly shaking my head as I was going to the new honorific chair prepared for the winner of this position.

The year 2007 to March 2009 was indisputably one of the best years of my student life and arguably my best intellectual years yet. I practiced faith as never before in my life. My wife sometimes asks me, 'what did they give you in South Africa? You always talk about it.' I always laugh. I can't stop thinking of my life then, for I have seen God walk with me in a new and unexpected way. Matter of fact, He has never stopped doing so even when I left South Africa to Rwanda, nevertheless what I had experienced there has left a mark in my mind. Probably because it was a formative year, a learning time, a time when I did many things for the first time. Maybe that is why it has marked me so much. I have lived other incredible moment of God's actions since then - sometime even more than what I lived in South Africa, but it is always difficult to compare the current moment when the marvelous is not new with when the marvelous is first experienced.

With this I end my story-telling, as I got on to vacate into my many pending project currently awaiting my attention. Be faithful and dare to believe and to try in this new year 2018. It won't cost you to try but it would cost you regrets if you do not try. To the immortal words of Pastor Rick Godwin from San Antonio, Texas: 
'Live full and die empty'
Have a blessed, prosperous and productive New Year 2018 in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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