Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart,
Teach me to move in the power of your Spirit,
Teach me to walk in the light of your presence,
Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart.
African Children’s Choir song
BANGOR — The African Children’s Choir will bring native and Christian music to two local churches Sunday as part of a four-day stay in the Queen City.
The choir, comprising 26 children from Kenya and Uganda, will perform at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Messiah Baptist Church, 985 Union St., and at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Neighborhood Church, 263 Texas Ave.
There is no admission charge for either concert but donations to support the choir will be accepted.
The 14 girls and 12 boys between the ages of 7 and 10, and their seven adult chaperones, will stay at the homes of local church members. The group is dipping into Maine and Vermont on the eastern leg of its Canadian tour.
The children have spent August performing in churches and community halls in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. After it leaves Bangor, the choir is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Trinity United Methodist Church in Farmington.
“I just think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun for our congregation to host them,” said the Rev. Brian Haggerty, pastor of the Neighborhood Church, located in the former Dow Air Force Base chapel. “These kids [in the choir] have grown up with such difficult circumstances.
“Some are orphans,” he continued. “Some are about to be orphaned due to AIDS and others have been abandoned. This is a church mission organization that takes kids in, raises, feeds, educates and gives them medical attention. It’s a great testimony to the ability to be able to make it in life.”
Hosting the group in August has been a challenge for the churches, but both have found enough host families. Haggerty said that he hopes the choir members aren’t the only children who are changed by the experience.
“I hope our kids learn from these kids,” the pastor said. “If we are able to get some understanding about what their backgrounds in Africa have been like, then maybe they will realize what blessings they have here. This could be a very good education for them.”
Music for Life Institute is the parent organization of the African Children’s Choir Humanitarian Relief and Development Organization. It is, according to its Web site, dedicated to the survival, education and well-being of Africa’s innocent and abandoned children.
The organization’s vision is twofold:
ä to support relief and development projects directed at children and youth focused on improving access to education and the quality of education, including the building and staffing of schools, for Africa’s poorest children.
ä to bring joy and healing to communities of all cultures and faiths around the world through the music and performances of the choir.
The group also helps children from different tribes learn to live and play together, according to the Rev. Herman “Buddy” Frankland, pastor of Messiah Baptist Church. Many of them as adults work to continue cooperation between tribes.
“I believe that God’s word teaches that it is more blessed to give than receive,” Frankland said. “America, as a country, we give. The offering we take goes entirely toward supporting the choir’s schools and the children’s education.”
The organization was founded Ray Barnett, a Canadian human rights worker who went to Uganda in 1978 to research a book. He found a country in ruins and orphaned children that spent their days hunting for food and water in the bush or begging and scavenging for it on the city streets, according to information on the choir’s Web site.
Barnett spent the next six years raising money and setting up small relief projects. He returned to Africa in 1984 when he heard that 150,000 children were starving in northern Uganda. A small singing boy inspired him to form the choir. At the end of its first year of touring in Canada, enough money had been raised to open the Makerere Children’s Home in Uganda.
Donations gathered through concerts and other sources are used to establish new schools, finance education scholarships and support emergency relief efforts. Children and their families receive food, clothing, medical assistance and counseling.
A new choir is formed each year to tour for a year. Children then return to their homelands to attend school. While on tour, children attend classes and rehearse when not performing. Former choir members attend colleges and universities, along with vocational and technical schools. Some graduates of the choirs from the mid-1980s work with current choirs.
The choir is scheduled to return to Maine to perform on April 5 at the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono.
For more information, visit the following Web sites: www.neighborhoodcma.org; http://bigwebpages.com/members/messiah/index.html; and www.africanchildrenschoir.com.