The Daily Southerner
When the Ugandan Orphanage Choir sang “Amazing Grace” Wednesday night at First Baptist Church in Tarboro, I realized at that moment I was in for a treat, but I didn’t know that treat would touch the center of my heart like it has never been touched before.
Coincidentally, “Amazing Grace” is one of my favorite hymns. I enjoy it in any genre including instrumental, a cappella, country and western, Primitive Baptist style, and even my grandmother, the late Mittie “MaMit” Adkins, humming the tune in her soprano voice. Until last night, my grandmother humming “Amazing Grace” was my favorite.
Sorry Mamit, the orphans’ version stole my heart. It wasn’t so much that the orphans sound better than the other genres, but they sang it with conviction. They made me feel as if they were singing from their personal experiences. Especially the words of third and fourth verses:
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
By the time they finished that song, those 22 orphans had captured the undivided attention of the diverse congregation that overfilled the sanctuary, but they didn’t stop there. They gave God praise through song and dance for about a hour and a half. It was an hour and a half of experiencing the best sermon in my life. The sermon was through song that told the congregation to love our neighbors, praise God for his mercy, and even if you are facing trying times, keep the faith and believe that tomorrow will be a better day. I don’t know if the most prominent of ministers could have preached a better sermon.
And from the response of the audience, I don’t believe the most prominent of ministers who preached the most prominent of sermons, could have touched as many souls as the orphans did. I witnessed grown men, including myself, fighting to hold back tears and I heard sniffles from women who gave in to the emotional moments.
My favorite moments, although there were quite a few, was when the lead singers walked out in the sanctuary and interacted with the audience. As they sang, they hugged necks and shook the hands of the parishioners. When the second soloist made her trip in the sanctuary, the parishioners had caught on. Everybody wanted to be touched by the orphans.
One lady, sitting near the middle of a row, stood up and summoned one of the orphans to give her a hug. Another orphan walked from one end of the row to the other passing out cheerful hugs. Another one hugged a boy and stuck something in his pocket. I questioned her after the show and she confessed that she gave him a monetary donation. I believe the children left that kind of impression on everybody that attended. It made us want to support the 5,000 kids who are in 11 orphanages in Uganda supported by Pennies for Posho, the group sponsoring the choir.
The orphans who visited Tarboro had the brightest of smiles, like children on Christmas day. There was no an indication they needed assistance. They have aspirations far beyond their counterparts in their native land. One said she wanted to be a lawyer, another a doctor and two wanted to be pastors. Their messages made the audience look beyond them and reflect on the hundreds of starving children in Uganda. That’s what brought the tears.
Pastor Ted “Big Daddy” Moody, the founder of Pennies for Posho, made an interesting observation. He said 100 years ago, Americans went to Africa to minister and teach them about God. Then, he asked, could it be that today, God is sending African children to teach us how to worship?
Wow! Now that’s Amazing Grace.
(Calvin Adkins is a staff writer for The Daily Southerner and may be contacted at 823-3106 or firstname.lastname@example.org)