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First Presbyterian Church recreates rural African town

POSTED: January 31, 2015 1:00 a.m.
/For The Times

Zambia-born Aswell Banda will drum, sing and show off his cooking skills he used in his village with kids.

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Northeast Georgia children will be able to visit Africa without a passport or leaving the country.

The program “Life in an African Village” will be from from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. During the event at 800 S. Enota Drive, children may build makeshift huts, listen to African drumming and sing African tunes, all while learning about the culture and everyday life on the continent.

The featured guest speaker and performer will be Aswell Banda, a Zambia-born man who dedicated his life to following Christ.

Banda was born and grew up in Lusaka, Zambia. As the second to last in a family of 10 children, he remembers sitting around the fire as a child listening to his mother tell stories about God.

The fireside sessions are prominent memories for the now 33-year-old man who lives in Rome.

Banda also credits missionaries for shaping the course of his journey.

“I am a Christian because of missionaries,” he said. “They give hope to the hopeless.”

Banda recalls how one day he walked into a local missionary church and “gave my life to Jesus.”

“As a child I did not know much about Christ, but through the help of the missionaries I am where I am today,” he said.

Now a husband and a father, Banda moved to the United States in 2008. But his first introduction to America was when he toured the country as a child with a boys’ a capella choir from 1994 to 2008.

Music also is a staple in his life. Banda served as music and youth director at Highland Baptist Church in South Zambia. He is currently on the worship team at West Rome Baptist Church.

His faith leads him to serve, as missionaries served him. Banda works as a liaison to Zambia with John 4:14 Missions, an international missions organization.

Banda will put his musical talents and faith to use at the African-style event. He will sing, play drums and show off his cooking skills from his village with the children.

“It means a lot to me to be able to share my culture with people here,” Banda said.

In addition to teaching the children about what day-to-day life is like in the foreign country, “Life in an African Village” also shows children at least some of the reality of missionary work.

“The goal is to teach them about missionary work and what it takes to live in the village in Africa, how they live their lives, how they work and how the play and go to school,” said Ali Thompson, the children’s director at First Presbyterian.

Ryan Althaus, a missionary who has worked extensively in Africa, will be on hand, too.

Banda hopes the presentation will help American children realize how kids in other countries experience a different lifestyle, and how fortunate they are to live in the United States.

“It’s an honor for me to be a part of making a difference in the lives of the children, showing them the difference and how blessed they are to be here and have what they have,” he said.

When First Presbyterian put on the event for the first time last year, Banda was by far the most popular attendee.

“The kids really did seem to enjoy it,” Thompson said. “And Aswell, doing the African music with him and the dances and the songs, I think that was the most enjoyable part.”

 



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