Like me, you probably spent Thanksgiving enjoying a turkey and all the trimmings. We ate in a nice, warm dining room, surrounded by family, friends—and football.
We thanked God for our blessings, of course. But a few days ago I heard about a group of kids who have had terrible things happen to them—and yet model their thankfulness to God in song and dance.
The children are members of the Mwamba Children’s Choir of Uganda. Tragically, AIDS has taken the life of one or both of their parents. They grew up in an orphanage begun in 1998 by a Ugandan pastor, the Rev. Ponsiano Rwakatale. This pastor felt called to do something about the number of children being orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
Sadly, the pastor died a few years ago, putting the future of the orphanage in jeopardy. His son, Daniel Mugerwa, and Daniel’s older brother, Stephen Sekitende, were scarcely out of high school; they had no idea how they could keep the orphanage going. But as Daniel told my colleague Stephen Reed, a family friend who attended his father’s funeral heard the orphans singing a tribute to their late founder.
“If you can get more people to hear these children’s voices,” the friend said, “that could help save the orphanage.”
So that’s what Daniel did and Stephen did. As Stephen Reed writes in the HuntingtonNews.net, the brightly-dressed children sing “with a sound and a beat that grabs the audience.” The choreography comes directly out of Ugandan culture. In a song titled “You Are Everything,” the children sing:
“You are everything to me/ My soul rejoices in you/ Your goodness, mercy and joy / All the world’s so in love with you!”
The song expresses their joy for God’s mercy in their lives: Mercy in the form of loving adults to care for them now that their own parents are gone. Unlike many American children’s choirs, these kids don’t have to be reminded to smile as they sing: Their faces and bodies are bursting with joy.
Their music is indeed helping keep the orphanage open. The choir is currently touring the United States. They have made two CDs of their songs, and are about to release a third. If you want to support the Mwamba choir, see and hear them perform online, or purchase a CD, come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll tell you how you can.
Sometimes at Thanksgiving, our thanks can be a bit perfunctory. How often do we thank God for what for much of the world would be considered great blessings? Plenty of food. A home. The means to keep warm in winter. Top-notch medical care. Freedom to worship God.
The children of Uganda have so much less—and they’ve endured great loss—and yet their lives are a musical praise to God for His blessings. As Stephen Reed notes, “In this season of Thanksgiving, no group has more to teach Americans about gratitude and thanks than this potent, joyful, Christian group that holds nothing back in their praises to God.”
Thanksgiving is over for this year. But as we fill our plates with leftover turkey in the coming days, we should continue to offer praise and thanks to God—and do so as fervently as those joy-filled Ugandan orphans.