Photo by Jeylin White
Ugandan Thunder performs at several churches across the United States and country all year long to raise money for 11 orphanages in Uganda.
RIVERDALE — Music was in the air, and the sound of harmonic vocals filled each corner of the room at First Macedonia Baptist Church in Riverdale, Tuesday night.
Ugandan Thunder, an African children’s choir, made a roaring sound that wowed the audience members.
“It is not a just a performance; it is a worship service,” said Ted Moody, founder and director for Pennies for Posho, a nonprofit organization in Griffin, who also spearheads the concert tours.
The 22-member choir danced, performed Christian contemporary and Ugandan drum songs, track songs in the Lugandan language as well as songs in English.
“This is just a taste of what Heaven is going to be like,” Moody, a tall white-haired man, told the audience.
Peering into the audience on Tuesday night, you can see several eyes welling with tears when the members from the choir walked out into the audience, and presented them with hugs and kisses, and prayers. They even handed out gifts from their native country and pulled men, women, and children in the front church to dance with them.
The choir is from the Royal School and Orphanage of Mityana, Uganda, which consists of 15 girls and seven boys, ages 10-14. The youngsters tour the United States and the country all year long. The tours help purchase food, water wells, transportation, and other supplies for 11 orphanages, or about 5,000 children, in Uganda, that are sponsored by his organization. In addition, it helps purchase fuel and plane tickets during concert tours.
“We do not charge for the concerts, but we do ask for donations,” said Moody. “The kids are thrilled to do it.”
“As you listen to these kids sing, you are listening to some voices that don’t know what it’s like to cry out, ‘Daddy!’ after falling down,” said Pastor Jay Sanders of Towaliga Baptist Church, in Jackson. “Each smile that you see is a reminder that there are millions of faces in our world that don’t know what it means to smile because of a mother’s embrace.”
“For many churches that we do visit when they hear these kids’ sweet little voices, it definitely change one’s life and brings them closer to God,” said Moody.
He added that was the experience he had when he visited Royal School eight years ago.
“When I heard those children come out and sing, I was just blown away,” he said. “Immediately, I started working on getting them over to the States so others could share the same experience I had.”
The rest, he said, is history. He said word began to spread about the choir and requests for concert appearances started coming in multitudes.
“We will be performing 15 concerts in December,” he said. Next year, the group will be performing at Dollywood in Tennessee March 22-29, and they will be paid $1,000 per day.
“This will help purchase many supplies for the orphanages and school,” Moody said. “The kids are really excited about that.”
To make sure each performance is presented with perfection, the dance routines are choreographed by Berna Nabatanzi, making sure the youngsters’ voices are in perfect pitch are Dalton Popala, choir trainer, and musician Moses Kaweesa.
Each show moody said runs about 90 minutes and there is a different dance routine for each song.
“These kids work really hard,” he said. “This choir doesn’t know how to half-heartedly do anything.”
However, behind all the glitz and glamour, there’s a bigger picture. It’s the organization’s commitment to feeding the hungry children of Africa, to share the gospel, and to help disciple them.
“Our driving verse is James 1:27, ‘take care of orphans in their distress,’” said Moody. “Some of these children have been disowned or abandoned by their parents.”
He recalled one orphan, 9-year-old Rose, who walked 6 miles to fetch water and fell into a water well and drowned. Another was Eric, a young boy who attended Royal School died, from Malaria because he couldn’t afford a $7 mosquito net.
“This is why we do what we do to help children who can’t help themselves,” Moody said while holding back tears. “No child should have to walk 6 miles for water or go without food.”
Moody added that what is taken for granted in America is a luxury to children in Africa. For instance, after the concert wrapped on Tuesday, Moody and his staff took the choir to Krispy Kreme Doughnut, on Upper Riverdale Road as a special treat.
“These kids have never eaten a Krispy Kreme doughnut in their life,” said Moody.
And to say they were excited would be an understatement. The youngsters could hardly sit still as they fidgeted in their seats, salivated, and fixated their eyes on the doughnuts in the display, waiting anxiously to indulge in those sweet, hot, and soft doughnuts.
Merisa Mbalyowere, 10, munched, licked her lips and fingers. “Mmmm,” said the little orphan girl.
The group sang thank you in their native tongue to Krispy Kreme staff after they donated two boxes of doughnuts to the choir.
“It was a perfect way to end our evening,” said Moody.
“The Ugandan Thunder concert changed my life and it changed my church. It can do the same for you. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn from a bunch of really cute kids with drums and nice voices,” said Sanders.
The children’s choir will travel back to Uganda in October. Those interested in donating or finding out how to sponsor a child can visit www.penniesforposho.org.