Esangalo Children’s Choir’s Hope Awakens Tour
When: Sunday, June 19
Where: Northside Church, North Hall Community Center, 4175 Nopone Road, Gainesville
Cost: Donations accepted
More info: www.helpinghandsmissions.org
A group of 20 children from Uganda have been singing praises around Georgia the past few months.
The Esangalo Children’s Choir’s Hope Awakens Tour is wrapping up at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 19, at Northside Church in Gainesville. The church now meets at the North Hall Community Center at 4175 Nopone Road.
This is the second time the children’s choir has performed there. And it is the last in a 60-performance tour through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida that began in February.
“We love them. Our people love them, so we wanted to have them back,” the Rev. Tony Elrod said. “Their performance is amazing, very entertaining, enlightening. They tell you about their culture and it helps us to appreciate what we have here and it also allows us to help someone else to have a better life...”
Hosting the choir is a way to raise money and awareness for Helping Hands Foreign Missions and its work in Uganda. The Buford-based ministry was founded after Dr. Richard and Dr. Brenda Kowalske went on a short-term volunteer mission trip with their church in 2002 to Cochabamba, Bolivia. The couple felt called to full-time ministry and formed Helping Hands Foreign Missions by early 2003. After the project in Bolivia came together, the Kowalske’s began taking volunteer teams to Uganda.
“What we do in Uganda has everything to do with children, and our main ministry is to the vulnerable children and orphans in Uganda as well as the families and communities,” said Stan Bell, director of operations at Helping Hands Foreign Missions.
The children who form the choir — 10 boys and 10 girls from Uganda — rehearse for about a year before coming to the United States in February. They typically do a 45-minute or one-hour-and-15 minute performance depending on the host church. The performance is all acoustic, with the children playing most of the music and dressed in traditional grass skirts and celebration costumes.
“It’s a performance, but it’s not a performance, it’s from their hearts,” Elrod said. “You can see the sincerity and the genuineness of what they do and they believe in the God they serve.”
The children also give the audience an idea of what life is like in Uganda.
“You get a real taste of Uganda,” Bell said. “You see the joys the children have and experience something very close to what a church service will be like in Uganda, a lot of singing, dancing and worshiping the Lord.”
The inspiration for the Hope Awakens Tour is Romans 15:13, which says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
From there the choir was named. “Esangalo” means joy in the children’s native language.
There’s nothing similar to watching a live performance, Bell said.
“The children come in running and do a celebration dance to start the service, and they quote Bible scripture,” he said. “We show videos targeting a few of the children and what Village of Eden has done for them.”
The Village of Eden is, as Helping Hands Foreign Missions describes, a “model” Christian village. The organization is working to grow the 133-acre complex into a community with God and the church at the helm of leadership.
“In the future we hope to house 400 orphans and/or vulnerable children,” Bell said. “We would completely care for them, offer them an education and hopefully prepare them for the future while at the same time thinking about Jesus.”
Currently the village consists of seven duplexes, a large church, a school building and a medical center. The village serves people within a 40- to 50- mile radius.
Every Saturday morning, the children receive a meal, play games and study scripture during the one-day vacation Bible school. About 2,000 children show up each week and all of the children on the tour came from the Saturday program.
“This is a way to bring some of the children over to kind of inform folks who don’t know about the plight of children in Uganda,” Bell said. “We have been ministering to them for a few years through children’s sponsorship.”
Bell said he hopes the tour raises more awareness and draws more sponsors for what Helping Hands Foreign Ministries is doing in Uganda. It’s also an opportunity for the children to minister to people who have been supporting the organization.
Some of the children in the choir are orphaned and some are vulnerable children, Bell said, but all of them are in Helping Hands Foreign Mission’s sponsorship program.
While visiting the U.S. the children, who range in age from 7 to 16 years old, have experienced many firsts, Bell said. Their home village of Namuwombi is a few miles north of the equator and they had never experienced temperatures of less than 70 degrees until arriving in Georgia in February. They got to see the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Prior to this trip they had never rode in an elevator either. Their favorite food is pizza — which they also knew nothing about before the trip.
Elrod said the children bring so much joy and blessings to Northside Church.
“They come here to raise money so they can have a better life for their community,” Elrod said. “But coming to us, they touch our hearts.”
For more information or to donate to Helping Hands Foreign Missions, visit www.helpinghandsmissions.org.