“Akofa, I have this friend who would like to meet you some day,” my close friend Jacinta — who was soon leaving Ghana to join her husband abroad — told me. “Her name is Etelese.”
I wasn’t surprised that Jacinta — a natural extrovert — had yet another friend that I didn’t know about.
“I wonder what you told her about me that she seems eager to meet me?” I quipped.
I knew kind words must have been involved. Jacinta has a natural gift of networking and complimenting people. A few minutes with her and an individual is likely to be charmed by her enthusiasm for life and love for people.
“Oh, just the usual stuff. You’re a charming person and so she is,” Jacinta explained. “You have some commonalities and I think you’d be good friends, especially while I’m away. I got to know her when you were in the U.S. It might also interest you to know that she’s related to your former roommate.”
“Oh yeah? It’s really a small world!”
“Can I give her your phone number? I assure you, she is a good friend and will be good company while I’m away.”
“Really? How come I have never met her before?” I wondered. “Well, sure, you can give her my number.”
I was doubtful that this new friend would ever call.
A few weeks later, Jacinta left for Europe during a very trying, depressing period in my life. I was in graduate school and my close friends had all married and moved away. It seemed that my life had come to a standstill and I no longer had a support system. Who will help me, now? I anxiously wondered, pondering Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
I had chosen to pursue a one-year intensive graduate program in Communication Studies. Within two weeks of classes starting, I felt overloaded with reading materials and assignments. I found myself questioning whether I had made the right choice.
Most of my classmates were already media professionals. They were all reconciling theory with their experience, while I was one of the few who didn’t have any prior experience in the communications field. I was stressed out and lonely, missing a friend whom I could run to for validation and encouragement. My clothes hang loosely; I was a walking skeleton. And although I regularly fellowshipped at church, my personal relationship with God took a back seat. I had lost passion for life.
Thankfully, God did not leave me friendless for long. As Jacinta promised, Etelese did call — more than once.
I never hang up the phone with Etelese without some word of encouragement, edification, or Scripture in exchange for my “I can’t go on like this. Graduate school is so hard.” Each time too, I was amazed that a “stranger” would consistently take time to call to find out how I was doing.
When the first semester was over we agreed to finally meet in person.
Etelese and I decided to meet at a bus stop close to the main entrance of the University. It was roughly an equal distance between our two homes. Although we had talked on the phone a few times over the course of several weeks, this was our first face-to-face meeting.
As we walked to one of the dining halls, we shared introductory information about ourselves. We sat at one of the tables where we continued to chat as if we had known each other for ages. I was surprised at how much we were able to share — to the point that Etelese was running late for her next appointment with someone else.
Our time ended with a brief prayer and the promise to meet again soon.
Little did I know what a tremendous blessing God had in store for me through my friendship with Etelese.
Being a few years older than me and having lived a completely different life from my mostly sheltered one, I’ve been amazed at the woman I see in Etelese: enduring, faithful, relentless in spite of setbacks, never one to complain, diligent about living, prayerful, grounded in her personal faith in God, and more.
Yet despite our differences, we also shared a common life struggle: extended singleness. And what a great joy to watch an older friend walk firmly in faith in spite of societal pressures to marry out of God’s will. Even though she is now married, mutual support continues today through prayer times and shared activities with her young family.
In less than two years of our first meeting, Etelese asked me to by her maid of honor. What a great honor it was, for I initially felt I didn’t deserve such a role. But Etelese insisted that I stand by her. It’s no wonder it gives me great pleasure to pour out my life to love her and her family just as she has done for me in the past.
Jacinta remains a close mutual friend. I often tell my parents and other friends, “When Jacinta was going to Europe, she left me a legacy.” What is this legacy? It’s not a what, but a who instead — Etelese. God used Jacinta to introduce this special friendship into my life.
I now patiently hope and wait for the day when Jacinta returns to Ghana. What a joy it would be for all three of us to share fellowship together under the same roof.