After a sleepless night cramming statistics and staring at the candles giving me some aroma therapy, I got ready to head over to church on a rainy Sunday morning. Taking the LRT, I reached Kingdomcity KL, the church that I came to love.
Walking in I saw stands set up in the foyer, with beautiful t-shirts and stuff being sold. I asked a friend that passed by me and she said “Jem, remember the Watoto thing that we were promoting during KCTV?”
Needless to say that the Watoto Children’s Choir rocked the worship session and danced so beautifully.
Watoto means “Children “in Swahili. Founded by Gary and Marilyn Skinner, Watoto was birthed through Watoto Church; a thriving, community-focused church the couple planted in Kampala, Uganda, in 1984.
1988 was the year Gary Skinner was faced with the stark reality he couldn’t ignore. Eight years prior, the couple who were Christian missionaries moved their young family, a country known for its savagery and poverty. There they planted a church in Kampala, where they believed God would restore hope to the country.
Through a specific encounter of visiting an old widow who pointed to the graves of her husband and six children who all died from AIDS, and to car for her last child that was also dying from the same disease, He was reminded of this verse in the Bible.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
In 1994, Watoto Child Care Ministries was birthed out of Watoto Church as a result of this encounter. It started with one simple house in Kansanga; a suburb that is eight kilometres south of Kampala. Here, eight orphans and a widow were given the chance to become a new family.
During the testimonies between their performances at church, this little boy spoke strength, stating that he came from a family that was so poor that his mother had to steal to feed him and his siblings. One day his mother got caught stealing, and she was thrown to jail. This little boy and his siblings were left to fend for themselves. The Watoto Child Care Ministries (WCCM) found him and his siblings, took them in and gave them hope and a family.
In the Watoto Village, children are given quality education up to their secondary school years, and with the help of sponsors, enter their tertiary studies and graduate. The Vision of the WCCM is to bring out future leaders of Africa, and many of these kids who thought they had no future and hope, through sponsors became lawyers, doctors, accountants and some even became political leaders of their country.
Another girl named Edith was in the choir too, she is around 24 years old. She was a child of Watoto Children’s Choir and grew up in the Village. Her life was given hope by various sponsors. Last year, she graduated with her Bachelors in Ethics and Human Rights, and now serves as one of the leaders of the Choir.
Each child in the Watoto Children’s Choir has suffered the loss of one or both parents.The experience of travelling on a choir helps the children to develop confidence and boldness, as well as broadening their worldview.
Accompanied by a team of adults, the choir presents Watoto’s vision and mission by sharing personal stories, music and dance. While on the road, the children act as advocates for the millions of other African children who have experienced the same heartbreaking pain and suffering as them. Personally, I am honestly baffled at how strong these kids are. They believe and know that God has chosen them to represent the orphans, to shine a light in the darkness.
I know faith isn’t something each and every one of us have, or we believe in different faiths. But loving another human being, especially children, is something so pure and true.
Love a child, they were born without a scar or stain. As the older generation, let’s be responsible guides to them, and most importantly, to never abandon these little angels.
Oh and the choir is still touring Malaysia,
Head over to their website link if you want to see them live in all their bubbliness! :D
Words by Jemima Darma Raj
Photos by Kingdomcity KL Facebook page