African Children’s Choir: Find Joy In Spite of Circumstance

Don’t miss the African Children’s Choir “Just As I am” performances on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. at Deerfield Community Church located at 11605 Deerfield Drive, Truckee, CA and again at 7 p.m. at Valley Christian Fellowship located at 1681 Lucerne St., Minden, NV. No tickets, but donations are appreciated. 

The program, “Just As I Am,” blends traditional hymns with an African beat, sung entirely in English. The performance is a fusion of African dances, drumming, and songs in various African languages. Throughout the presentation, cultural elements are woven, offering a vibrant display of African heritage. The children participating in the program wear three distinct African costumes, adding to the richness of the cultural showcase.

“They have no agenda, they are just up there being themselves,” Tina Sipp, Choir Manager, said.   

Music for Life, an International nonprofit organization overseeing the African Children’s Choir program, extends its reach to thousands of underprivileged children across Africa, offering them education, discipleship, and leadership skills. These resources empower them to break free of their challenging circumstances, enabling them to trigger positive and enduring transformations within their families, communities, and countries. 

In fact, four African chaperones, all former members of the choir, are giving back by dedicating themselves to the current tour. In this role, they serve as models and mentors, actively contributing to the upbringing and development of the next generation. These chaperones play a crucial role as mentors for the children, leveraging their own experiences from being part of the choir to guide and support the young participants on the tour.

The upcoming tour of the African Children’s Choir will visit over 50 locations nationwide. The 2023 tour transcends the conventional concert experience. Comprising African children aged 8 to 11, hailing from vulnerable backgrounds and having encountered adversity and limited educational opportunities, the choir members embody the latent potential of African children to emerge as leaders shaping a brighter future.

“In the Western world, we are used to having a lot of material benefits. We have material wealth, but the children have a wealth of spiritual soul. They give us something for our soul that we long for: hope, beauty, and joy in spite of circumstance,” Sipp continues, “Their message is never spoken but you get it; you hear it. And we, in turn, get to give from our material resources. People leave with far more than seeing that concert. They’ve had an experience of the soul.” 

African Children’s Choir’s founder, Ray Barnett, is a humanitarian known for his deep compassion and a firm belief in the fundamental right of all individuals to have their basic needs met. His journey in the 1970s led him to engage in significant work with the persecuted church, particularly in Uganda, where Christians were facing deadly persecution. 

During one of his trips to Uganda, he provided a small boy who had lost both of his parents with transportation from his devastated home to the refuge of another village. All the while, the boy was singing prayer songs. Touched by this experience, Barnett envisioned that if people in the West could witness the beauty and potential of Africa’s children, they would be motivated to offer assistance. Despite numerous challenges involved in rescuing children from war-torn regions and bringing them to the West, Barnett remained unwavering in his commitment.

In the past four decades since Barnett’s initial trip to Uganda, the African Children’s Choir has played a pivotal role in educating more than 58,000 children and has positively impacted 100,000 children and families through various relief projects. Their endeavors have spanned seven different countries over the years. And this has all happened because of  “The heart of a man who couldn’t just sit on the couch and watch news clips. He had to make something happen,” Sipp said.  

Often, people express uncertainty about how to address global challenges, feeling overwhelmed by the myriad issues around the world. But the African Children’s Choir presents an opportunity for individuals to take tangible action. These are children who once resided in some of Uganda’s most impoverished slums, and now they’ve undergone remarkable changes. The option to sponsor a child and correspond with them provides a chance to invest in a real, tangible life, contributing to a transformative impact.

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