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Ugandan childrens choir to praise Jesus at Highlands church
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The Watoto Children’s Choir will perform May 1 at The Highlands Church in Gainesville. Members of the choir are former orphans from Uganda who are spreading the gospel in six-month tour. - photo by For The Times

From the upbeat music and happy lyrics of the Watoto Children’s Choir you quickly realize that they love the Lord.

The 22 children from Uganda, ages 6 to 12, will make 180 stops throughout the United States during their six month tour.

"These kids have an amazing story," said Elizabeth Jones, children’s and family minister at The Highlands Church. "I’ve seen them in concert before ... they are just an amazing group of kids. They are so full of energy and each of them has a story to tell. They all tell about their life before they were taken in by the Watoto orphanage, whether it was losing both of their parents to HIV/AIDS or being taken in by the army or rescued from the army."

Jones said the children share with the audience their personal relationship with Jesus.

"Throughout the concert they share about how Jesus has given them a second chance and having a new life," she said. "It’s really cool and it’s something that little bitty kids enjoy seeing, hearing and watching and older people as well. It’s not a kids thing and it’s not an adult thing."

The next stop locally for the choir will be at The Highlands Church on May 1 in Gainesville.

The "Concerts of Hope" rally interest for the Watoto organization’s work to help some of Africa’s most needy children, the web site said.

Jones said she heard of Watoto several years ago while at a church in St. Simon’s Island.

"Just to see them come out of that and to see what God is doing in their lives and working in their lives," she said. "They want to make a difference for other kids in their community and in the world."

Watoto Child Care Ministries was founded by the Revs. Gary and Marilyn Skinner, which was created from the Watoto Church in Kampala, Uganda. The organization offers homes, education and spiritual care for Ugandan children. Currently there are about 2,000 children at the organization with hopes to rescue 10,000 children by 2023.

"The concerts are pretty lively, it’s a mix of African revival, gospel and contemporary music, and the concert is choreographed, so the entire time the kids are singing and dancing they also give testimonies," said Eugene Stutzman, executive director of Watoto U.S.A. based in Lutz, Fla. "These are children that we are caring for, we are a holistic ministry so we’re not just an orphanage, not a dormitory, but we have children’s villages where these children live in family environments.

"They live in homes with eight children in each home and a foster mother. They live just like any family would, and we believe it is the best environment for the children to develop socially, physically and spiritually."

Stutzman said the children train for about five months to prepare for their international tour.

"They are remarkable kids for sure," he said. "And what they’ve gone through losing their parents and still have such joy, it’s really inspiring."

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