Through the eyes of…

… a chaperone on tour

IMG_4367This post is from Molly Kirk, one of our development representatives based out of Denver, CO. Molly had the unique opportunity to meet the children of Choir 40 while they were at our African Children’s Choir Training Academy in Kampala, Uganda and as a result of a lot of doors that only the Lord could have opened, is blessed to have the opportunity to advocate for the Choir both remotely in Colorado, and at times on tour itself. She has spent over 6 weeks on tour with this Choir so far, and every time she sees them she is reminded just how powerful their testimonies are. She can only hope her voice someday makes as much of a noise in advocating for the children of Africa as the children’s voices do during their concerts.

Below is Molly’s reaction to her first time seeing the Choir perform in the States:

There are sixteen children in the 40th African Children’s Choir. Eight little boys and eight little girls who are nothing short of amazing. They are soft-spoken, obedient, almost shy in demeanor. They have great respect for their elders, stand in line, and respond in unison. To them, everyone is an “Auntie” or an “Uncle.” They finish everything on their plates, and never complain about what they are served, evidence of the true gratitude that exudes from them. They even have a thank you song for every meal host churches prepare for them. Some of them are only 7 years old, their foreheads press into your rib cage when they enfold you in their tiny but strong embrace. To see them in their embroidered sweatshirts and neon sneakers, in their play clothes, they are so small.

But when they sing.

When they sing they are seven feet tall. Their smiles and their expressions and their voices tower. They radiate a joy and a confidence that anyone would find enviable. Many of the songs are begun by the voice of one. Five brave little fingers reach for a microphone and a single child pipes out several lines of praise before more voices join in-harmonizing in a sound of pure, innocent beauty such as only children can make. And if their voices weren’t enough, they sing many of the songs in two different languages, and thank you for coming in four.

All of this in front of a sanctuary filled with hundreds of strangers. Sometimes the voices quaver, ever so slightly, and sometimes the microphone is held a little too far from a child’s moving lips. But they press on, as they always do, and soon the swell of a chorus of voices drown out timidity and the audience is won over, doubly.

And when they dance.

When they dance the audience is awed into stillness. Shock of color and movement. Eight year olds sing into a microphone while they stomp out a beat, and spin in circles, even jump across the stage. Satin yellow dresses and headbands sway to music- as vibrant as the voices that they adorn. Shimmery pants and traditional African tops are only the background to intricately embroidered patterns that are each similar in design, but as unique as the child who wears them.

Costume change and the stage is filled with tangerine-orange juxtaposed against beautiful brown skin, and skirts that have strings of shells, and little boys who pound out rhythms on African drums as though they were warrior-men. The beat on the drums is so driving, the cadence so mesmerizing, the timing so impressive, one forgets that these could ever be children, like Mark, who are still waiting for their front teeth to grow back in.

Before the concerts, there is always a time of prayer, and the children ask God to help them smile nicely while they perform.

He does.

For an entire 80 minutes, radiant smiles, and radiant colors and radiant sound overwhelm the senses and warm the hearts of all who have the privilege of attending. When the choir sings, “the world is a village now, and it isn’t very large” the entire audience resonates with their message and the children are no longer singing to strangers. They are singing to aunties and uncles. To brothers and sisters. To their global family. And as this family learns their stories of triumph and trial, they become invested.

Because the stories of the children are ones worth being told.

And because these stories are only the visible tip of the iceberg. So much lies beneath the surface. But their presence and their lives are witness to the fact that the many deep, invisible needs of Africa can be addressed, one life at a time. Because people in the West are able to see the tip of the iceberg, through the children, resources are being pooled to reach the incredible need below the surface, and thousands are being given an opportunity for education, for hope, for becoming the leaders of tomorrow.

And that is why so many pour their hearts into bringing a bus load of African children into the Western world.

The transcending beauty of a beat and a tune and a smile.

The power of God shouting through the small lungs of children.

A melodic call to action that begs the response of nations.

By: Molly Kirk

If you would like to experience the unforgettable feeling of watching the African Children’s Choir perform visit our See the Choir page to find out when they’ll be delighting audiences next in your area.

If you would be interested in volunteering or becoming a chaperone, you can read more about those opportunities here.

Update from Auntie Jenny

Here is a wonderful update from Auntie Jenny, one of our chaperones on Choir 38. It is a letter that she has written to her supporters and she has graciously agreed to share it with you all.

How do you see the world?

I have always seen shape and design wherever I look. I was that kid who always saw pictures in the clouds in the sky, in the grain on a wood door, and in the textured “spackling” on the ceiling. When you look for shapes and designs in the world around you, you see different things… every view, at every moment takes on new dimensions…

Each moment of these last 5 months has seemed more vivid than “every-day life” was before the tour. Being in a new place every day and sleeping in a new place almost every night keeps you on your toes. I feel like I notice details I never noticed before, and value things that I never thought would be important. On top of this personal journey, I am bringing 17 children along with me. The way that a child see’s the world is unique… but the way that a young child from Uganda looks and see’s the world in America is even more astounding. They see things that I don’t. They pick up on people’s actions and behaviors when I would assume that it would go right over their heads. They ask questions about the bible and question why our world does not operate as we know it should. I am amazed, I am blown away, and I want to stay in this place for as long as I can.

I want to get as close as I can to seeing the world in the way that my children do. Though it will never be possible for me to literally be in their shoes and see through their eyes, I have done my best to come as close as I can… the following includes many of the fun things we have done on tour, but instead of listing where we have gone, I’ll do my best to share how I saw a little bit of what my children were seeing…

Red Water:

One night our host was making Kool-Aid. The host had already poured the red powder into a clear pitcher and was then running cold water from the sink into the pitcher to make the drink. When Brivett (8) saw this, his eyes got huge and he looked frightened. I stood there and thought… why is he scared? What is he seeing… what does he see that I am overlooking? And then I realized it. I got down on his level and explained “Brivett… the water coming from the faucet is not bright red. Our host is making a special kind of juice. The water from the faucet is clear, and when it hits the red powder it turns the water red.” He was shocked to hear how we make “juice” sometimes, but was quite relieved to hear that the water running from the faucet indeed NOT “red”.

A Carnival:

I had the opportunity to attend a carnival with Alice (9) and Dorcas(8) in Phoenix, AZ. When we arrived our host began asking them what “rides” they would like to go on. They were completely confused… What is a ride? And how far way would the ride take them? I quickly suggested we stick to bouncy houses and inflatable slides and they were much more comfortable with this idea. As I was explaining to them about standing in line and taking their shoes off to bounce, they looked around with huge, wide eyes and took in all of the people, the colors, and the lights and energy that come with a carnival. I was wondering to myself: “what are they thinking? What stands out to them the most? The lights? The food? The sounds?” when Alice interrupted my thoughts “Auntie Jenny… all of these children… do they not have aunties or uncles to take care of them?” It was then that I saw what she was seeing… children running EVERYWHERE… completely unattended by any adults. To a child who is used to following every direction we give them, waiting quietly in lines for their turn, and never asking for anything extra… this was complete chaos… and the only solution she could think of was that they had no one to care for them… and she had compassion for them, feeling sad that they did not have an auntie to hold their hand… I praised her for being so good and not running around like crazy. I then had a blast watching Alice and Dorcas light up the whole carnival with their smiles of joy and excitement as they jumped in a bouncy house for the first time ever.

Snow!

For three months the children prayed for snow. I mean earnestly prayed for snow… at bedtime, at meals, and during devotions each day. They had heard of it, they knew they could somehow make it into balls and throw it at each other… but they had never touched it… until… we were in Park City, UT. While eating breakfast with Gaster (8) and Timothy (7), I noticed the rain turn to snow! When I told them to look outside Gaster shouted “Praise God! Thank you God!” and fell to his knees in rejoice/excitement! When they finally went outside they did not know what to think… or say. Timothy tried desperately to scrape the tiny dusting of snow into his pockets to “save it for later.” Gaster was happy until his jacket hood fell backwards and then snow fell lightly on his head and he shouted “Owe! Owe! Owe! The snow is pinching me auntie! It is hot! No… it is cold! Ouch!” (he finally did adjust and loved it.) I guess not knowing what to expect would throw me off too! Later that day the whole choir was blessed with an hour of playing in 6 inches of snow altogether. Their prayers came true, and their dreams of snowballs, snowmen, and snow angels finally became a reality!

Christmas In America:

You have not seen excitement until you witness African children seeing a Christmas tree full of gifts for the first time ever! They are not hoping to get “what they asked for” because they did not ask for anything. My children were excited beyond belief to receive a candy cane… let alone all of the presents that our Choir 38 family was blessed with by many donors along the way. They were elated to open every single gift, even if they did not know what it was. One of my favorite moments was sitting next to Damalie (8) when she opened a portable CD player (for listening to music on the bus!) The wrapping paper flew off and she shouted “Hurray! Hurray” Praise God! Isn’t it beautiful! Oh it is so beautiful!… Excuse me Auntie… what is it?” When Damalie looks at a gift, her definition of its beauty is not based on what it can do for her, but instead its just the fact that it is for her. She saw it as beautiful, without even knowing what it was. I think we could all learn a lot by the way Damalie sees the world.

Well friends, I have many, many more things to tell you about, but I have surely already written too much. I hope that through these updates I can communicate to each of you how much your support for me being on this tour is changing my life… but even more so, I hope that you can SEE the difference you are making in the lives of each one of these children. They will never forget each of the “firsts” they had here in America, and because of supporters making this tour possible for them to see America, they will go home and get the gift of a lifetime… an education! Thank you for blessing my kids through your support for me!

Sincerely,
Auntie Jenny