I decided I was going to IMPACT South Africa, and I told God about it. There are things that just work that way. You decide, you engage, you table it before God and you both work on it.
I travel a lot for work and during the IMPACT South Africa World Youth Congress held in mid-July, I was booked to teach at the Africa School of Internet Governance in Durban, so I was only able to go to Pretoria for the conference on the final Sabbath, July 13. I was disappointed that I was not able to get there earlier. I wanted to be part of the ground team that handed out copies of The Great Hope because I never want to miss any opportunity of giving hope. (By the way, if you found one in the back seat cover of a Delta Airlines flight in the continental USA, Emirates flights to and from a West African destination, or Turkish Airlines from or to West Africa, it just might have been placed there by me.)
So I went straight from the airport in Johannesburg, to St George Conference Center where IMPACT South Africa was going on.
Marble Arch is huge. More than you could imagine it from the gate. I love the cobbled walkways, the architecture and the greenery. I begin to listen to the languages being spoken. The Southern American youth were highly organized. I can also pick out people from the Islands, by their calm and flowery nature. There are many Portuguese-speaking delegations, and lots of Angolans.
Someone walks up to me: “Hello Sister Nnenna.”
I have only a few seconds to remember him. Then he is joined by three others. Ah, okay. They are Nigerians. I am originally from there. Then some more arrive. They are my friends on Facebook. We pose for pictures. And we hug. More people are arriving. From every bus, they are stepping out.
Young and less young.
Men and women.
So many languages.
United in mission.
I take some pictures, I give and receive more hugs. I sit and watch the faces, the multitude. Then I see Thomas. We graduated together in 1996. I have only seen him once since then. I hug him and he is surprised to see me. Then I see Pastor Thompson of Ghana. He is the Pastor of Prince Emmanuel Accra SDA Church. I have not seen him in a long while – not since I left Ghana as a Côte d'Ivoire war refugee.
Now I am sitting with people from Togo and Côte d'Ivoire. I begin to speak French and we talk about how to engage the youth more. Then there is a group from the eastern part of Nigeria. My language automatically switches itself to Igbo, my native tongue.
I notice people from East Africa showing off brightly colored Shukas, those Masaai blankets. I go over, and exchange a few words in Swahili.
By this time, my joy is flowing like a river. Fellowship. Pure, sweet fellowship. I am happy, thankful. Grateful for such an opportunity. Then I see a back, a neck.
I call out the name: “Promisen?!” And yes, it is him. Dear Lord! I bend low and start dancing. I dance up to him and give him a hug. I can hardly believe is really here. More of old friends come around. We sit and chat. Eat and drink. We talk about the old times, about when we were younger, about the last time we met, about family, work, church, and the many wonderful blessings that God has given us all these years. Then we go over to where I can purchase memorabilia.
I ask the lady to take a big carton, and fill it. She does. I am taking all these souvenirs to my local church in Rue des Jardins, Abidjan, in Côte d'Ivoire. By the time I am done, I have about 40 pieces going home with me.
As I am waiting for my driver to pick me up, Pastor Paul Ratsara arrives. Incroyable! About 13 years ago, he and his family, myself and Promisen were among the few pioneer members of a small group at Rue des Jardins in Abidjan. We worshiped in a classroom, which sits about 15. Between then and now Rue des Jardins has become an organized big church, and so many things have gone on in our different lives.
So many things.
But the presence, the love and the blessings of God have been constant in our lives.
It is the same love that I see mirrored in the eyes of the young people. People who came in one week before IMPACT 2013 began for community service. They served thousands of South African residents in hospitals, homes, schools and prisons.
The same blessings that made thousands brave the cold winter of Pretoria, armed with “The Great Hope,” knocking on every door, sharing the printed pages, sowing hope, nursing faith and quickening hearts.
The same presence of God that stood all through the days of IMPACT South Africa, with the 3200 participants. The same God that was preached every morning and evening, on whose name the people called upon, whose word was shared.
The same Lord
Whose salvation has been freely granted us
Whose life we live
Whose coming we are awaiting
Whose impact on us is everlasting.
Nnenna Nwakanma is an activist, community organizer, development adviser and consultant originally from Nigeria. She is the co-founder of The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, which she also co-chairs. She is based in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
Photo: Promise Nwaka
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5430