First published on 15th February 2019 on jedaktari.wordpress.com
This is the story of how I got the best seat in the house, for a reservation only concert, in a foreign country, from an endless series of “errors and mistakes.”
Back in 2013, I was young doctor working at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital ICU. Part of what we were proudest of was our cardiac programme: a charitable programme that allowed children from poor backgrounds with heart disease to access very costly life-saving heart surgery. Whereas the programme had grown to a point where about 70% of the surgeries were done by local doctors, we had partnerships with key foreign specialists (philanthropists really, who took their time to come to a country they didn’t know and save children they never heard of, without pay). Of these partners, the team that helped us with complex congenital (born with) heart disease was a joint Czech/Slovak team led by Dr. Roman Gebauer, of Motol Teaching Hospital (FN Motol).
In 2013, they took their charity a notch higher. You see it’s not only the technical ability that matters, but also the the equipment, devices and medical support structure. There were cases that were deemed too complex to be carried out within the local setting, and so that particular year, they offered to airlift 3 children, and their parents to Prague, operate on them at their cost, and send them back home. For me to become the accompanying doctor required that my boss at the time who was the first choice for the mission would be unavailble, and so it was. This is how I ended up in the Czech Republic in December 2013.
FN Motol is a highly structured hospital. I had my meals at the staff mess and I must say that the food was great. The timings were very strict though and I was careful to be at the mess at least half an hour before it closed. Information about changes was also shared with staff well in advance. This was where I made my first mistake (of a number key to this story). A message had been sent to staff that on a particular day, the mess would close earlier than usual. I hadn’t read this message and arrived at my usual time. Unsurprisingly, and to my dismay (as I was quite hungry), I found it closed. If I remember well, someone sympathetically pointed to the notification on change of time, clearly pinned to the door. Faced with a closed door, I had no choice but to notice some of the adverts posted on it. One of the notices on the door was advertising a Christmas Concert, in Prague, by Maranatha Gospel Choir! Who’d have known! A silver lining to missing lunch. Had the mess been open, I would have walked right in, had my meal and never heard of the concert. I purposed to attend it.
One of the great attractions of Prague is the old town with the Astronomical clock and tonnes of tourists in the night. I noted that the concert was near “narodni” and in a previous visit to the city, I had taken a mental note of “narodni.” Noting that it wasn’t far from the old town, I saw the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. I would visit the old town and then proceed to the concert venue, on foot. Here was my third mistake(the second mistake will be mentioned later). You see, “Narodni” in the Czech language means “National”… Yes, National Centre for, National Museum, National you name it are all called “Narodni…”
So what was meant to be a fifteen minute walk ended up taking nearly an hour with a lot of help from a few English speaking but friendly locals. But this “lost” time was very critical to this story.
Now you would imagine that when numbering buildings on a street, number 9 would follow number 8, which would follow number 7 and so on, right? well it turns out that the concert venue was on a street that didn’t follow this logic. Worse, the locals didn’t know which building was numbered what and the folks at the restaurant I sought assistance from didn’t recognize the name of the building either. I couldn’t believe all the things that were going wrong!
I knew I was on the right street. The building had to be close but I just couldn’t figure it out and no one seemed to know the place I was looking for. As I tried to figure out how to proceed, I had a rare moment: I saw another black person in Prague! You see, in the week I had been there, I had only seen one, and I mean one, other black person in the Czech republic. That struck me, then I saw her walk into a building accompanied by a small group of people, black people being religious folk, I figured I should check out the building and indeed that was the correct venue! A sigh of relief.
I walked up to the front desk and stated my business, “Good evening, I would like to attend the Maranatha Concert, please.” “Good evening. Do you have a reservation?” “No, do I require one?” “Yes, you do. I’m sorry you may not attend the concert without a prior reservation” “Sorry, I didn’t know this. Can I buy a ticket?” “Unfortunately, you cannot. The event is also sold out, sorry.”
I was bewildered. You see, in 2013 Kenya, you walk to the concert venue, pay your entry fee, find yourself a place to sit, and enjoy the show. Hey, but this wasn’t Kenya. So this was my second mistake. Not making a reservation for an event in the Czech republic thinking it is just like Kenya. I was crestfallen. I would miss listening to Maranatha Gospel Choir after all. So close yet so far!
At that moment, the lady I had seen walking in, who must have overhead our conversation walked up to the lady at the front desk, smiled at me and said, ” I will give him one of my tickets.” She quickly reached into her bag and produced a ticket (or was the ticket produced by the person who was with her? I cannot remember). She held it out with both hands and said to me, “this is for you.” I was overwhelmed. This wonderful stranger didn’t know difference her gesture had made to me on this day that it seemed everything was going wrong. I requested that we would take a photo, and she graciously agreed.
Elated, and with a ticket in hand, the next task was to find a seat. The place was indeed packed all the way to the balconies. It didn’t help that I had arrived very late. “Do you not know the lady you were talking to?” “No, I don’t. Who is she?” That iss Juwana Jenkins. She is one of the most gifted singers of this generation and she will be one of the leading performers tonight! “What?!” “Just walk in and ask for the seats reserved for Juwana. Sit on any one of the seats” And that is where I sat. The venue was great, but it was packed (understandably given the global profile of Maranatha Gospel Choir), people squeezing a little bit against each other. There was one exception to this, the spacious, comfortable, first class section of this airplane of a concert hall, and that was the section reserved for Juwana Jenkins. And there, seated the spacious comfort with the a wonderful view of the stage, next to Juwana Jenkings (no less) and her assistant, was I. 🙂
I look back at the mistakes I made: missing a notice and turning up late for lunch, that enabled me notice the advert, thinking “narodni” was one place and thus losing 45 minutes in time, losing a few more minutes trying to figure out the order of buildings, until I notice Juwana going in and thereby going in at the same time, failing to make a reservation, making room for Juwana’s act of kindness to cap one great miracle in Prague! All these things worked together and allowed me to have the best, most privileged concert experience of all the guests at the concert.
Now one may read this and say its coincidence and etc etc. Take it from me, it is 100% God’s doing and God’s miracle. Our God is gracious and he is good! His favour, it don’t stop, even when it seems we are making mistakes and things don’t work out.
As for Juwana, may the almighty God bless and favour you in greater ways. I know I should have written this story a few years back, but I pray that in it’s lateness, the timing is perfect for you. I am grateful for your kindness, and I am glad that God chose to use you as he did. May his spirit be upon you, and the reassurance that he is undoubtedly with you, bring you peace and help you chose wisely.
Our Medical Mission to the Czech Republic was a great success, and we all returned to our Country Kenya a few months later. God’s amazing favour has continued in my life since.