My name is Kechi Okwuchi, and I am a 28
year-old singer. I am also an MBA student at the University of St. Thomas-Houston, an America’s Got Talent 2017 finalist, and a burns survivor / advocate for Shriners Burns Hospitals for Children.
I’d like to make it absolutely clear that none of the above were achieved by my power, but by the power of the Most High God, and the amazing human beings He put at key points in my life.
On December 10, 2005, I was involved in a
horrific accident, horrific not just because of the severity of injuries I sustained, but because of the sheer number of young lives that were lost in that same accident. I was heading home for Christmas aboard a Sosoliso Airlines flight with 108 other passengers, 60 of whom were fellow students from my secondary school in Abuja, Loyola Jesuit College. The plane malfunctioned during its descent into Port Harcourt Airport and when it crashed, it took 107 of the 109 lives on board, including every other LJC student. Only two people survived; myself and another
young woman named Bunmi. I suffered 3rd degree burns over 65% of my body and was immediately flown to South Africa, where they had the equipment necessary to care for the level of burns that I had.
From the moment the accident happened, I had very little control over the events that took place in my life, good or bad. The one thing I had absolute control over, however, was my reaction to these events, and that was entirely based on two very important lessons I learned early on in my recovery, about faith and identity.
My faith went through a dramatic revival during my treatment in South Africa. I was part of a family of believers, but at the time of my accident and for a while after, I was fine with a vicarious relationship with God, completely dependent upon the prayers of others, my mother’s especially, and not bothering to develop one for myself. I drew strength from her and she in turn drew strength from God. I was eventually forced to learn my first valuable
lesson, however, which was that in order to heal the parts of myself that medication could not reach, I would need to develop a direct relationship with this God who I’d been told could heal all manner of wounds, to the body and heart and soul. It was in Him that I then learned to define my identity and value, and since I knew that the physical did not matter to Him, it did not matter to me either.
So, when I saw my reflection for the first time after the accident, it was a joyous thing for me that I was still able to see myself in the mirror, despite looking so radically different. Equipped with my faith and the knowledge that my scars did not define me, I was able to live my life in the most freeing manner possible. Treatments continued in America and I eventually restarted highschool and got into college on an academic scholarship.
I set goals and worked to achieve them, and I soon realised that as long as I put in the work and did it well, no one cared what I looked like. This calls to mind something that acclaimed Nigerian music producer Cobhams said during a recent talk that really struck me: “Merit will take you much further than pity ever will.” Wise words, indeed.
I did not want anything I did not earn, and this was a big concern for me when I became a contestant on America’s Got Talent in 2017. It took awhile for me to believe that I deserved to be there as much as any of the other contestants did, and not just because of my story but because of my voice as well. It was at this point that I learned another valuable truth: We hold ourselves back more than anyone else can. We are our own worst critics, and we talk ourselves out of taking risks and exploring
opportunities better than anyone can. For me, this meant that I needed to get out
of my head. I needed to handle this new
opportunity the same way I handled past ones: do my best in the moment and avoid regrets. Let go and let God. He brought me here, so He knew where He was taking me.
Before I knew it, I was a top 10 finalist on AGT, a stage that God had turned into a platform to share not only my voice, but my story, with a global audience, in a way that would hopefully impact people positively. I would be lying if I claimed that this was the trajectory I saw my life heading towards. All I can tell you is that when you desperately hold on to God, especially in the most confusing and darkest of times, His plans for our lives almost always surpass our own. This leads me to share one last valuable lesson, one I learned most recently: The best things in life happen outside your comfort zone.
Thanks for reading.
– Kechi Okwuchi
Kechi’s article is from the March/April Issue, click HERE to purchase.