Her name was Ejiro. Is Ejiro. I can’t tell where she is right now; probably still in the country or now one of the increasing number of young Nigerians exiting their motherland. But I hope she’s okay. I hope she’s making progress in her life.
Ejiro was my classmate back in secondary school. Our paths crossed for those 10 months or so we spent as SS2C science students. I knew very little about her. I know less now. Though not a recluse, she had few friends; free with all but close to none. Probably her responsibility as the Scripture Union president contributed to her somewhat distant aura. Sometime in the course of the academic year, she took an interest in me. Whatever triggered it, I do not know. But in a class of almost 50, she zoomed in on me. An occasional ‘hi’ and ‘hello’ soon graduated to short conversations. Were they really conversations? ‘Interviews’ better describe our exchanges. She did the poking and prodding while I did the answering. Think not far dear reader, and draw no hasty conclusions on this being another mushy tale of high school romance. Far from it. Extremely far.
She always wore a smile when we spoke. Her slightly nasal tone remains fresh in my mental space. I can still see her hair-light shade of black made into thick cornrows. Ever peaceful, ever calm, a lady of few words she was. Her questions were disarming- had me rustling through my brain to come up with a sensible reply. They weren’t nosy, but they tore right through to the core of my being.
Our talks were always spiritually inclined- she was all about my soul.
“Why don’t you join us for S.U meetings during break?”
Externally, I laughed casually as any other teenager would but within, the reaction was exactly opposite.
“Why don’t I attend for real?”
I asked myself. Answers deserted me- logical and otherwise. I had nothing to say. Thankfully, the conversation soon veered away from such an uncomfortably personal issue.
Afterall, I wasn’t what you’d call a ‘bad boy’. Being 15 at the time and having enjoyed the good fortune of godly parentage, there was nothing to really point to that warranted this tender confrontation. There were no girls in my little world- I was way too small in stature to dare that territory (most of my classmates are still shocked when they see how tall I’ve grown. Thank you Lord!). I stole nothing, hardly lied, always calm and would never even get into heated arguments let alone a full scale fist fight (I think that part was due to my size- or lack of it).
But all that didn’t matter. Inexplicable as it was, I knew those ‘credentials’ didn’t provide satisfactory answers to Ejiro’s soul baring inquiries. I couldn’t really place my finger on it but something was definitely missing from my life. Not being bad was not good enough anymore. Internally, I felt hollow. No one knew about this, and neither did I feel that way every day. But every now and then, this feeling bubbled up like a recurring fever.
I really don’t know but I guess she sensed my ‘vulnerability’ to her pressure. Then she piled it on! Hardly a week went by without an invitation, each peppered with references to eternity. Almost always though, I had forgotten by break time. At other times, it was either I was trying to catch up on my ‘business’ (Yes I had one. I have a flair for writing which instinctively transformed into a business- updating notes for other students for a fee) or just basically loitering around the block till the bell announced the next period.
However, one bright afternoon, Ejiro finally ‘caught’ me. Escape would have required the help of Michael Scofield. Just like time travel in science fiction movies, I found myself in the S.U meeting- my first time ever. The details of that meeting have been blurred out by the relentless forward movement of life. But one image stuck- Ejiro’s facial expression in class afterwards. Her ear-to-ear grin is still etched so clearly in my mind that I could render a painting of it; if only I had artistic skills.
“So how was the meeting?” she asked with a naked sense of real satisfaction (almost triumph I feel).
“Fine” I said.
“Hope you’ll join us again next week” she pushed her luck.
No response. Just a slight, ambiguous smile.
I never did attend again till I moved to another school at the start of SS3. In the mean time, Ejiro kept trying her best to get me to attend but somehow I never did. It wasn’t like a conscious decision to not go, it just turned out that way.
Eventually, her enthusiasm to invite me began to wane; much to my relief. It tapered off to an occasional chat, trickled back down to any conversation and finally it all stopped. Did she give up on me or did the busyness of secondary school life take its’ toll? Only God knows.
Fast forward 11 years back to the present. I sit under a tree as I write this story in my notebook. People walk past all around me. Three guys in their 20’s sit behind me, chatting in Yoruba and laughing at what was possibly a funny remark by the chief speaker of the trio. An occasional honk from a passing car lifts my eyes off the page. I pause and take in the surrounding activities for a few seconds. Then return within.
As the world around me inevitably moves on, I chat on with someone. My lips are sealed, my phone rests peacefully in my pocket and there’s no one sitting with me. But once and again, a soft smile dances across my face. There’s no one with me; but that’s because He is in me. His name is the HolySpirit. We’ve been talking for quite some time now. Infact, he pulled up the memories you just read and inspired me to share this. He is my very special friend and senior partner.
We first got acquainted three years after I saw Ejiro for the last time and it has been a really pleasurable experience. In retrospect, I wonder how she would feel if she knew the changes that took place in me less than a thousand days after we parted ways. Would she realize that some way, somehow, she played a role in shaping who I’m becoming? Would she realize that her persistent, though mostly unheeded invitations have formed a part of this amazing collage called my Christian journey? What if she could see me now? What if she found out that her teenage classmate whom she tried to help establish a genuine God-connection now carries that same passion for young people everywhere? What if she discovered that the reluctant, one-time S.U attendee now burns with a passion for youths to live the God-life? What if Ejiro could see me now?
This story is an encouragement to all Ejiros out there. You might feel like your efforts to win your loved ones to the Lord are achieving nothing. It may seem like your passionate intercessions, invitations and conversations are not ‘hitting the target’. Be encouraged. Your friends and loved ones may be just like me. In a little while, they’ll come around. Trust in the Spirit’s ability to do the job and bring them to repentance. Keep ‘sowing the seed’ in love. Keep praying tirelessly for the salvation of your siblings, cousins, friends, classmates and more. Don’t give up on them just yet; keep praying fervently for them. Remember, the rock was not broken by the 100th blow, but by the combined effects of the first 99.
Keep pressing on. God bless you.
– As told by Ik,