"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)
The above-mentioned verse came to my mind after I saw the powerful hand of the Lord in the lives of the Watoto Children's Choir. This choir comprises of the children belonging to Uganda, Africa who are either orphans or abandoned by their parents. Filled with the love of Jesus Christ, their worship, testimonies and prayers left the audience in tears.
Watoto was founded by Gary Skinner in 1982, after he moved with his family to Uganda and founded the Watoto Church. He wanted to help the women and children affected by the war waged by the rulers, and which had claimed the lives of one million people. The Watoto choir was started in 1994 to help the child soldiers used for the purpose of war.
Besides this, Watoto has various sustainability projects like goat farms and vocational trainings in carpentry, mechanics and metalwork. "There is so much potential in Africa. Young leaders like Watoto children are being raised in a manner so that they will bring change in Africa," says Skinner. He also envisages expanding Watoto in other parts of Africa.
The Watoto children's talent is a testament to all the expectations the founder has have from these children. During a worship service at a local church in California, wearing colorful traditional costumes, dancing energetically, worshipping loudly with big smiles on their faces, the Wototo children never give anyone the impression of their past for a moment until they start to share their testimonies.
Gifted not only with beautiful voices but charming personalities, these children captivated the hearts and minds of everyone in the church.
Not only that, their way of worship was a clear manifestation of their love for God. Skillful not only in singing but dancing as well, these children worshipped both in their native language and the English language. They involved the audience as well to partake in their singing and dancing.
Some of the children, not knowing who their parents were and some abandoned either by a single parent or a close relative, uplifted the faith of many while singing, "I am not forgotten, God knows my name."
"I don't know who are my parents. I only know that I am raised by my aunt, who was not in the position to look after me anymore," one child said.
Another girl shared how she used to cry and weep while longing for parents and a cozy bed before coming to Watoto: "I slept hungry many times and wanted someone by my side. Then I would pray and I knew I was not alone as Jesus was with me."
All the time, I and others sitting in the church werethinking how strong these children were, who despite their lost childhood and the deprivation of parents' affection, were filled with the love of Jesus, their country and the continent of Africa.
Their vision is to bring change in Africa. "I want to bring change in my country. For this we need good leaders who are free of corruption," said one child.
Each one of them was praising and saying nothing other than thanking God for changing their lives and giving them a family in the form of Watoto and a foster mother.
Having a good life now, they want to bring good news to the lives of many African children who are abandoned.
"I learn how to reach out to others. I will pass it onto others. My life would be miserable, had I not become the part of Watoto," said one child.
Some of the children also had innocent yet powerful ambitions. One little girl held the mic so confidently and said: "I want to be an actress." The other one also spoke very boldly about her passion to become a teacher. One boy came with a different professional urge: "One day I will become a lawyer."
Their energy and demeanor exhibited the confidence they carried of one day becoming the successful individuals they are dreaming for. Looking at such confidence and positive attitude, no one would ever get an inkling that these children had had a tumultuous past. Surely their journey with Watoto has empowered them and already made them distinctive from other children of their age.
If the worship of the Watoto children had made even the silent lips sing then their stories brought the hope and light in the lives of many who are in better conditions than these children were, yet have become weak in the midst of crisis.
The message that their worship conveyed was about the plans of God in our lives. All we need is just to have faith and patience just like they did and now they are in a better position, doing almost everything the children of their age do: they go to school, have a mother, siblings and friends and more importantly the Watoto bond which will make them a unique person and enable them to work for the betterment of their societies who need individuals like them. Africa is blessed to have these children who one day will make it a dreamland with the unshakable faith they have in the Lord.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1(ESV)