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GALLERY: Sounds of Praise

Ugandan children’s choir lights up the night at Nashua church

Press photos by Kate Hayden
Press photos by Kate Hayden

By Kate Hayden

Ronald couldn’t be much older than twelve or thirteen, inside those preteen years when boys stop saying much to adults beyond their parents. But last night at the Nashua Congregational Church, Ronald seemed pretty comfortable addressing the 70 to 80 adults in the room from the stage –– with the help from his friends Christine, Margaret and 15 other members of the Watoto Children’s Choir of Uganda. In a show full of color, lights and dancing, it was a church music experience unlike any other for the Iowan audience.

As it turns out, Ugandans think Americans can be a little odd, too.

“It’s eye-opening, and it’s actually a whole new level of flexibility, I would say, if you’re from a place where our worship is loud, it’s vibrant,” tour leader Richard Opio said. “The children sometimes find it strange, like ‘why aren’t they jumping? Why don’t they move around more?’ I tell them, not everyone is the same.”

Pastor Ben Scholl got a sneak peek early in the afternoon, as the ten-person Watoto crew did a soundcheck with the kids.

“At that point I’m just all over Facebook, telling people ‘you’ve got to come see this.’ I had no idea what to expect,” Scholl said. “It just shocked me how quickly, they just come in and they’re just like family.”

It took over a year before Scholl’s church was able to book the choir, which has three months left in a six-month Midwest tour. The choir stems from Watoto Ministries in Kampala, Uganda, which serves more than 3,000 orphans plus widows in their three care villages. Tuesday’s group is the 71st Watoto Children’s Choir to tour, Opio told the audience during the show.

“(We’re) raising them to become the leaders that God called them to be,” Opio said.

The church provided dinner for the kids and crew members, which quickly became a family meal, Scholl said. His family hosted twelve of the kids overnight and for breakfast at their home, before the choir and crew moved on to their next destination early Wednesday.

“These kids care, we care about them and we’re just having this loving, caring friendship with these people that we just met,” Scholl said. “We have very few hours with them, but everything we’ve accomplished in the hours is just amazing.”

“Our experience of the worship that’s done here is lovely. We love it,” Opio said.