All African Student Convention (2016)

The Conventions were friendly competitions that Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) students from all over the world took part in. By attending these conventions, I got to travel outside my home country, Tanzania, and go to countries like Kenya (regional), South Africa (national) and even the United States (international). I got exposed to different cultures both inside and outside Africa and made lasting friendships with people halfway across the world from where I call home. The Conventions are places, like their motto goes: "where one week can last a lifetime." Come October 2016, I knew that this would be my final chance to make a mark at the AASC. How would I pass up such an opportunity? I had been practicing. I had been memorizing. And it all came down to this: will I bring home the gold, or will I be a mere spectator to surrounding victories? I was content to do whatever it takes. That year I did: Singing (mixed duet and small ensemble), Group Bible Speaking, Golden Harp (memorization of the book of Psalms), Preaching, and Expressive Reading. When I wasn't at singing practice, I was practicing my Expressive Reading, and if I wasn't practicing for that, I was at Group Bible Speaking practice (a Biblical theater form of sorts), and if I wasn't at either of those, I was memorizing yet another of the 150 chapters of the book of Psalms. The victory was mine; I could almost taste it. When our trip commenced, I was nervous, excited, and terrified all at the same time. I obviously could not wait to perform and put all of my hard work on display, but I was not ready for the rejection. “What if I don't place?” became a constant visitor in my subconscious. I knew I worked hard, but doubt has a way of creeping in when you least expect it. I was sure of one thing, however, because I had memorized the book of Psalms, there was one medal and ISC nomination out there for me regardless. This thought held me together throughout all my performances. And as Lorri Faye said, “even a single thread of hope, is still a very powerful thing.” Furthermore, by nightfall of every day, we all gathered for what we called “evening rallies.” I looked forward to these. The auditorium became filled with 1000+ students: chanting, shouting and just being themselves. I felt at home. I was surrounded by people who understood my joys and struggles both academically and spiritually. It was idyllic. As the Convention progressed and performances drew to a close, judges would welcome to the stage, students who did exceptionally well in different categories. These were called "command performances," and although it did not mean that these students placed, it was still a great honor. On a particular night, as we made our way to the auditorium, word got to my friends and I that our small ensemble group had gotten a command performance, and we were due on stage soon. “This is it,” I thought, even if they said we don't necessarily place when we got command performances, I hoped that we would (spoiler alert: we did). The thrill of being up on that stage with my friends, all eyes on us as we belted lyrics that we had worked long and hard to memorize was exhilarating. I felt like I was on top of the world, however old and typical that phrase is, I felt it that night. And it felt good. Soon enough, we had two days left and the Convention would be over. When Friday arrived, the air seemed to buzz in harmony with the excitement of the students. Piled to the rafters in the auditorium each one held their breath as the winners and runner ups for each category were announced. The memorization categories went first. I leaped from my seat as soon as I saw my name and by the time it was called out, I reached for my trophy with trembling hands and bowed my head as the medal was placed around my neck. Animated, I ran up to where my school was seated, everyone beaming and clapping me on the back, wishing me a hearty congratulations. I was happy. Moments later, the singing categories were displayed and I saw my name. Doing a double take, I almost tripped as I rushed down the stairs and into the waiting room. My friend Victor and I had placed second in the mixed duets category. Soon after our small ensemble group was called out, I went on stage to collect my third medal. It felt too good to be true. However, since it was my first time doing Expressive Reading, I wasn't as wounded when I didn't place. To conclude, they called out the names for the female preachers (a more recent development in the Convention) and imagine my shock to see my name on display. I got first place. I placed first. And I was in every sense of the word: elated. Shortly thereafter, the Convention ended and it was in every bit fun and nerve wracking. It really did last a lifetime. And even though that chapter in my life is closed, I now have “memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”

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