Around Our Town...Serving Others
01/01/2006 - by Holly Mizell
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Have you ever met a child whose stepfather tried to kill him? I have. At only five years of age, Jonathan (not his real name) was the victim of a witch doctor stepfather's wrath. After days of starving and brutally beating the small boy, the witch doctor was frustrated that his plan to get rid of the child was failing. Not wanting to be burdened any further, he, along with Jonathan's mother, left the helpless child to die alone...but God had other plans for Jonathan.
Jonathan is now a happy, healthy eight -year-old boy, traveling with the African Children's Choir. Founded in 1984, the African Children's Choir has rescued thousands of Africa's orphaned and abandoned children from poverty, and given them hope once again. Currently providing food, clothing, housing, and education for over six thousand children in seven different African countries, the choir travels throughout North America and Europe to raise funds for children like them. Each year, fifty children between the ages of seven and eleven are selected from our schools and homes to join the Grammy-nominated choir. As ambassadors of hope, they sing and dance to traditional African songs, as well as well-loved children's songs and gospel favorites. They travel for one year, then return home, where their education is free until they finish university. In a culture without public schools, this is the only chance for children like Jonathan to receive even a primary level of education. No longer dreamless, Jonathan proudly shares with delighted audiences, "When I grow up, I want to be a pilot and an astronaut."
The children call me Auntie Holly. As a choir chaperone. I have the blessing of caring for Jonathan and his friends full time. Their smiles and joy in spite of all they have been through remind me daily that there is hope, no matter what our circumstances may be. If anyone knows how true that is, it's Robert.
Orphaned during the Ugandan crisis of 1984, Robert found himself the head of his family at the tender age of ten. Left with no other choice for survival, he and his four young siblings started walking, making their way unprotected across a war torn land, passing dead bodies left by the side of the road, in search of a place where they would be safe. Their journey wasn't alltogether successful; Robert's two young sisters, ages five and two, died of starvation along the way. Robert and his two brothers, however, came into the care of the African Children's Choir, and their lives were never the same again. Not only did they receive food, clothing, and education, Robert was given the once in a lifetime experience of touring with the very first African Children's Choir. He is now a proud doctor, donating his services to orphans of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa. One of his brothers is also a doctor and one is an engineer.
The motto of the African Children's Choir is, "Helping Africa's most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow." Like Robert, many other young men and women who toured as children are doing just that. As physicians, teachers, lawyers, engineers, and missionaries, they prove the reality of hope to children like Sara (not her real name).
Sara never knew her father. Her mother worked for a pittance at a bar in a Kampala slum. Forced to help out at the place, the eight-year-old girl was subjected to sexual abuse by her mother's male visitors. A one-room clay apartment with only holes in the walls for windows and a door offered no protection from the violence, and Sara once watched police burn a man to death in the street outside her home.
Now Sara is singing a new song. A soloist with the choir, her bright eyes and infectious smile charm every audience the choir plays for. Her solo is in her native tongue, Luganda. "Quata, quata nuesa! Ye si cho chua funa!" she belts. It means, "Hold on, hold on to joy! Your Father has saved you!" Sara knows what it feels like to be fatherless, but she now knows who her true Father is. "God makes me happy," she told me one day. "He loves me no matter where I come from."
In addition to food, clothing, and education, these children are hungry for love. They need someone to wrap their arms around them when they are sick or afraid. They need someone to teach and care for them as a parent would. They need someone to trust. That is why I believe God has brought me to them, and I love my job!
To learn more, or to help the children, visit