KAMPALA – 7,837 miles. That’s how far the 10 children of the Uganda Kids Choir are from their home in east Africa.
The group of 8 to 10-year-olds has traveled to the U.S. to sing and dance, spread knowledge about their culture and change their own lives.
The choir is organized by Childcare Worldwide’s sponsorship program. The choir has performed nationwide at churches, schools, Disneyland and Qwest Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks.
This weekend, they are in Central Minnesota to perform three free concerts.
The choir makes stops in Cold Spring and Sauk Rapids on Sunday, performing traditional African songs and dances. They are hosted by two churches in the area: River of Life Assembly of God Church in Cold Spring and Living Waters Lutheran Church in Sauk Rapids.
Childcare Worldwide have worked with children in the developing world since 1981. Through child sponsorship, Childcare Worldwide helps to provide education, resulting in jobs that could help break the cycle of poverty in their lives.
The choir will also be exposed to Central Minnesota life, including vacation bible school and time on a farm complete with a hay ride, said Stephanie Foster, chair of the worship and music board at Living Water. The kids will stay in the homes of Ted and Cindy Helgerson and Tim and Brenda Wright, members of the church.
The kids will also take time to continue their education, in school, led by chaperones, for most of the day Monday.
Some members of the church were at first reluctant to host the group, only because the choir’s visit fell so close to the 4th of July holiday. Foster worried they would have trouble finding an audience for the choir and families to host them, because church members were out of town or at cabins.
But members stepped up, and before she knew it, she had families to host, a potluck and other meals planned and a connection to vacation bible school, a guaranteed audience for the choir on Sunday night.
“That’s why we’re a church,” Foster said. “We do these things together.”
She said the church looks forward to providing hospitality.
“We’re the bunch that reaches, teaches and cares for the world,” she said. “We decided that’s our mission statement, by golly. … We do so much in the community, this is just a way of bringing in the world.”
She thinks local kids will love the performance.
“They’ll just be psyched by the whole thing. They really will,” she said. “There’s nothing like a show for kids. I remember taking my kids … to Up With People, and they were dancing for days.”
Cindy said her family is very excited to host the kids.
“They were looking for host families for the children,” she said. “We raised three boys. I have three empty bedrooms. I thought, hmm, what could we do? So we volunteered.”
She and her husband plan to set up lawn games for the kids and hopefully take them out on the river they live by. They’re also thinking about having a camp fire and s’mores.
“I just want to give back. I try to do as many things as I can,” she said. “We will show them a really good time. We’re excited.”
Brenda said they read about the need for host families in the church bulletin.
“After seeing that request and reading about these kids and their history. Many have no parents or come from difficult situations,” she said. “I grew up in a family where my parents always encouraged us to follow our dreams. Nothing was too extravagant to shoot for. My mom always said if there’s a will there’s a way.”
She knows this tour is a opportunity for the kids, who have their won big hopes and and dreams.
“What an awesome experience for these kids and their chaperones to come from oceans away to make these dreams happen,” Brenda said. “This is my opportunity: If I can be a small part in making dreams come true then I’ve helped a child.”
As a mother, she sees a role for herself, briefly, in the lives of these children.
“Parenting is not about only mentoring my own kids but any others that come in my life,” she said.
Her husband put it another way: God’s work, our hands.
If you go …
Uganda Kids Choir
When: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., Sunday, July 9.
Where: River of Life Assembly of God Church, Cold Spring.
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday.
Where: Living Waters Lutheran Church, Sauk Rapids.