The lecture hall was the most beautiful it had ever been since the conference started ten days ago. Fatima looked around her and saw several faces and dresses. It was indeed a pleasant sight to behold.
They had been served their food which was a little more than normal, and surprisingly more delicious. She wondered if that had been planned since the inception; to give them bland food throughout and a spicy meal at the end. She laughed it over. Might just have been a coincidence. They were served a cup of juice each with a bottle of water to go alongside.
Outside were the suya and ice-cream stands; they were expected to buy those, if they so chose, after the awards ceremony. Fatima had been impressed with the overhaul the organizers had given to the hall in the hours between the Community Projects’ reports and when the Awards began. They had done a beautiful work.
She remembered when she had entered the hall the first time; she had been impressed by the size. Then, she had been wondering how things would turn out. Now, it was all over and God had been faithful to her. She was grateful for her new friends and proposed to pray daily for them.
Uche was the only one that bothered her but she had decided to commit him to God; who alone could help him. She would trust God to capture his heart again at the right time. She wouldn’t stop praying for him or getting in touch with him.
Fatima was happy she had collected his telephone number and other contacts much earlier in the conference as she doubted he would have given her now if she was just asking. She would be there for him whenever he was ready to receive God’s love again.
She looked up. Different students had been called to receive awards. The CD was now announcing the best Communinity Project Group. It was Group 7; George and Tunbosun’s group. She clapped so hard her hands ached. She was so thrilled as she saw the two walk up the podium and collect the award on behalf of their group mates who were already on their feet and hooting.
George looked so good in his blue Tuxedo. Tunbosun would have won the most elegant girl of the night if there was such an award. She definitely had an aura of elegance around her. And what tripped Fatima more was that she was decent and modest about her dressing. It was a lovely combination; elegance, modesty and decency.
“We are going to be announcing the winners of the Talent Hunt now. We’ll call the Second runner-up, the runner-up, and the winner in that order.” The Conference Director said, and Fatima suddenly felt nervous. It wasn’t easy to get her nervous but she was on this occasion.
The first two names had been mentioned, heightening her uneasiness.
“And now, to our winner”, the CD was saying. “By a unanimous decision,” he paused, obviously enjoying the silence and attention. “Fatima Sule!”
The applause was deafening. Fatima couldn’t believe her ears. She really didn’t know how she got up and walked up the podium but she did. When she received the award, the applause increased. She was encouraged more by the applause than the award. It was obvious God had used her to touch many lives and for that she was indeed grateful.
She was asked to dedicate the award, and she knew just what she had to do. It was her last chance to reach out to all and she wasn’t going to let it pass. She was going to talk as fast as she could.
“I dedicate this award first and foremost to my God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has made me all that I am today. I dedicate it to you CD”, she said, turning to face the Conference Director. “And all other facilitators especially my teacher, Mr. Aminu for giving us all a chance to use our talents.”
She paused briefly. “I dedicate it to you all for believing in me and finally to my friends.” She knew where they were seated, so she glanced at them as she acknowledged them.
“Thank you Faith for your gift that has blessed us all.” She waved at her friend.
“Thank you Tara for your heart of forgiveness.” She smiled at her.
“Thank you Shade for your resilient Spirit.” She nodded in her direction.
“Thank you Tunbosun for your heart of faith.” She winked at her elegant friend.
“Thank you George for finding the strength to get back up again.” She did a salute to him.
She took a breath as she located Uche. She looked straight at him. “Thank you Uche for being my first friend in this conference.” She paused and said the remaining words with great care. “Please come back home.” She said, her eyes filling. “I don’t know what is eating you up inside but please know that God loves you and is waiting for you. So am I”, she said and noticed he bowed his head.
Fatima blinked away the tears and looked at all the students facing her. They were all leaving the conference in a few hours time. She had one more gift for them all. A gift she was going to give not minding the Conference Director that seemed to want to get her off the stage.
“Jesus loves you all”, she said with a wink and then added with her ever charming smile. “Fatima loves you too.” She blew them a kiss and walked away from the stage. The audience stood on their feet and applauded. ---------------------------------
The sight in the car park was just like it had been on the arrival day. Different kind of buses honked, teachers hurrying their students on. The participants had learnt a lot and unlearned a lot too within the ten days of being together. It was now time to go home; time to return to their base. The conference had been an experience for them. It was one conference they would all remember for the rest of their lives.