Story and photo by Emily Rogers, Assistant Editor, Global Internal Communications
There was hardly a dry eye in the auditorium of the Global Ministry Center (GMC) after the Tanzanian Children’s Choir sang on Friday afternoon.
“I’m here for singing and telling people the love of Jesus through gospel songs,” says Compassion-sponsored Hawa, 14, whose joy for life, talent for singing, and love for Jesus was translated through her tears. “I want people to know that the Lord is present.”
Hailing from the Anglican Mlimwa Student Center in Tanzania, 12 children from the 40-person choir boarded a plane for their first trip outside their country.
“None of these kids had ever been out of Tanzania, let alone on an airplane,” says Gary Clark, a Compassion choir host. “So it was a big deal, a big deal.”
Fourteen-year-old Danessa wasn’t intimidated by her first flight. “I don’t fear because I know Jesus is with you, with me, everywhere, even on the airplane,” she says with a smile.
More than 150 different children’s choirs in Tanzania are assisted by Compassion. Much like this group, they spread the gospel to various churches in their country, using their songs of praise, rich in rhythm and movement, to reach out to the community.
Hawa says, “I try the best of my level, even in Swahili, to tell [people] God is good through everything.”
This choir trip was the first time Compassion has brought a group of sponsored children to the GMC. The idea came from East Africa Area Director, Ephraim Gensi. Ephraim challenged us to use the Tanzanian children’s choirs to promote Compassion when he spoke at a chapel service earlier this year.
Tanzania’s Country Director, Emmanuel Mbennah says, “Personally, I have always had a desire that children’s choirs from field countries could come and minister, which would be a developmental experience for them and true ministry to people at GMC as well as sponsors and potential sponsors.”
Mary Lou Elliot, David Dahlin’s assistant, heard Ephraim’s words and decided to act. She says, “The Lord put that in my heart somehow, I don’t know why.”
Mary Lou’s idea was embraced by our leadership. They created guidelines to protect the children while in the U.S., and these guidelines will serve to govern similar visits in the future.
After the decision was made to bring the children to the U.S. and guidelines established to protect the children while here, Mary Lou had six weeks to select which children would come, obtain their visas and plane tickets, and find places for them to stay.
Hosting and featuring the choir was a dream come true, she says: “It brings me to tears; just the thought of bringing children from the centers who are full of the joy of the Lord.”
The children return to Tanzania today, after an eight-day visit. Their time here was packed with a visit to the zoo, a natural wonder called the Cave of the Winds, and an amusement center – in addition to inspiring performances at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colo.