To God be the glory!   It is over.   I am a 2017 World Champion of Public Speaking Finalist, and the beneficiary of several miracles along the way. How about the fact that when I was on stage, arousing from the warmth of its environment, a significantly large spider almost began to crawl around in my pants, resulting in some very awkward and uncomfortable involuntary movements on my part, inappropriate for the audience, but most appropriate to my circumstance. The miracle is that all that was avoided when, as I was about to put on my pants (in my hotel room), that same said spider that the Devil intended to stimulate me on stage, crawled out of the foot of my pants and went its merry way. To God be the glory!

As you all know, I placed third in my District in April, and as such resigned all hopes of going to the World Championships. Then, three weeks before the event, I got a call saying that the First and Second Place winners can’t make it, and I was being asked to step up to the plate. I did.  Now, because I placed third, and not first, and because I assumed that the fault was with my speech and not with the judging, I renovated my speech, and ended up with one that was about 75% different from my District Speech.

I pause to thank all those who helped me in both formal and informal evaluations of that speech, to the very last minute.  So much so, that no audience ever heard my Semi-Final Speech before it was delivered at the Semi Finals. Without citing names of “Evaluators”, some experienced, and others relatively new to Toastmasters, suffice it to say that I received evaluations from persons in the USA, Guyana, Jamaica and England. Thank you all. I am my harshest critic as everyone knows, and I extracted the best recommendations from all the well-intentioned Evaluations, tweaked, personalized and applied them. To that I added my own creativity, especially with my double-mirror prop which I took apart on stage with good effect. That’s a look at the anatomy of a world-class winning speech. And it won!

In contrast, having perfected my Semi-Final Speech, there was literally no time to work on my Final speech. Less than 24 hours before delivery time, I signed off on its text. I read it a few times, was able to do a formal “reading” before an audience of four consisting of my Immediate Past District Director, Lynda, and three friends who she had just met.  That was about mid-day of the day of the Finals. Even in that short space of time, I received two helpful evaluations. I called Lydia and received another helpful evaluation… But there was literally none of the “several” days available, that are necessary to learn the speech.  So while back-stage, waiting my turn to go on stage, I decided to do a 5-7 minute Table Topics instead. I began with the first quarter of the speech that I had succeeded in memorizing, and then went off into impromptu mode. I was holding my written speech in my hand up until the last minute. So that became my prop on stage. In my impromptu presentation, I spoke of hearing the words “You’re Fired” after my Manager asked for my contract. I quipped that it was not Donald Trump speaking… I gave my Manager my contract, which he opened up to make sure it was the contract, and then he tore it up… on stage. The “contract” was my written speech.

Given my lack of preparation in contrast to the supersaturated preparation levels of the other 9 contestants, it would have been a travesty of justice for me to place, and so I did not. The winner actually gave the same speech he gave two years ago at the World Finals when he placed third. I did not know that was even possible.  I read that the Speech had to be a brand new speech that you had not given before… apparently, the interpretation is that it must be different to the one you gave at the Semi-Finals. Interesting!!

The 50’ wide stage was easily the biggest on which I have ever spoken, and so was the audience of more than 2000. I felt 100% comfortable with both the big stage and the large audience… I just wished it was a real speech I was giving and not a competition performance. I am called to ministry… real ministry…. Not performances. But I thank God for the opportunity that He provided. I was able to experience a very simple secret to working a large stage. Just try to reach out to the furthest person on your right, and then on your left. The natural thing would be to walk towards them, and get as close as you can. I definitely belong on the big stage… and IF there was even a 1% doubt in my mind before, there is none now.

I am grateful to God that I was able to represent District 47 directly, and District 81 indirectly on the World Stage. For me it was an honor. I gave a big shout out to my Club members at Achievers 2903 who adopted me and made me theirs the minute I landed in America a little less than three years ago. The District and Division Leadership of District 47 have also been by my side from the moment I arrived and have stood with me through two District Table Topics Championships in 2015 and 2016 and now a World Semi Final win in 2017 (I only count the First places). Your support, beginning at my Club, has been in morale and money, and I appreciate both.

But District 47 inherited a Champion born in District 81 where I earned my DTM in 1 year in 2003, and my first District Table Topics Championship in 2012. My home Club from inception has been Pacesetters Toastmasters Club and I am happy that I still enjoy dual membership with them so that I can legitimately share my Semi Final win with them. Thank you for your moral support throughout the years.

Many of my supporters and sources of strength are outside of my Toastmasters family. My mother at 103 years heads that list, and several family members and friends follow. I give a big shout-out to my extended family in Rwanda who I have never met face-to-face, but with whom I have developed a strong bond of love. Their prayer and morale support are unsurpassable. Thank you Pastor Brasius, and thanks to your family and congregations.

For me, the highlight of my involvement in the World Championship was my opportunity to give God all the praise and all the glory. I know He did not put me on the World Stage so that I would not be the World Champion. I therefore await to see what “tricks He has up His sleeve”. I may not have mentioned you by name in this “epistulam longam”, but if I send this to you, my heart-felt appreciation is intended for you.

Clearly, it would have been better to be the 1 out of 30,000 rather than 1 out of 10 out of 30,000. But already I have seen the evidence that God has used my appearance to touch lives. I look forward to being used by Him to touch even more lives.

May God bless you richly, and To God be the Glory!