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Haitian orphans perform for Senior Life Center
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Members of the Haitian orphan choir wait backstage at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center Wednesday morning before a performance for Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center members. All but five of the choir members lost everything in the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

To learn more

To see the choir’s full schedule and learn more about Love Him Love Them, visit www.lovehimlovethem.org.

The happy children sang and danced in colorful dress, joyfully proclaiming God’s abundant and unending love for them.

“Who am I that you are mindful of me?” they sang before breaking into the chorus: “I am a friend of God … He calls me friend.”

It could have easily been vacation Bible school at any of the local churches in Gainesville. Instead, the lively revival took place Wednesday morning at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center, which is now the interim home of the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Center, while its Prior Street facility undergoes expansion and renovations.

The troupe of young children that performed at the center are from an orphanage in Haiti. They have been brought on visas to tour parts of the United States by the ministry Love Him Love Them headed by David and Linda Gunter and Troy and Macarena Poole.

The orphan girls performed in blue blouses with ankle-length white skirts emblazoned with the red, white and blue Haitian flag. The boys wore black pants, long-sleeve white shirts, black bowties and blue vests.

They all were barefoot.

Linda Gunter told the audience between songs of her first trip to Haiti in 2011. She said the home her family visited had none of the Christmas trimmings most are familiar with.

“There was no turkey, no ham, no Christmas tree,” Gunter recounted. “There was a stench in the place. The children were barefoot, they had nothing.”

Gunter said that what those children had at that Christian orphanage was a joy in their heart that came out when they sang.

From that experience, as well as their adoption of five Haitian children in 2007, Gunter and her husband expanded their Atlanta-area ministry of helping the poor and homeless to also focus on Haiti.

Macarena Poole, a Mexican who married an American businessman, said she and the Gunters expanded their Love Him Love Them outreach to include Ukraine after the Pooles adopted a son from an orphanage there. They offer jail ministry and an after-school program and provide for foster children and special-needs adults throughout Northeast Georgia. The ministry is based in Lavonia.

Among the songs in the children’s repertoire at the center Wednesday was a Chris Tomlin tune.

“This is not a professional choir, this is an orphanage that sings …,” Gunter said before introducing the song. “When you live in an orphanage, the words good, good father take on a whole new meaning.”

After performing about a half-dozen songs, the nine girls and 10 boys in the orphan choir went throughout the room to pray for someone. After praying, the children took a rubber bracelet with a Bible verse inscribed on it and gave it to the person they’d just prayed for.

Nancy Simpson, the senior programs coordinator for the city’s community services, jumped at the opportunity to have the children perform at the center. She took up an “act of kindness” collection for the orphans from those in attendance.

Poole said the visas for the orphan choir expire Oct. 10, but they will head back to Haiti Oct. 4. She said the Haitians are housed by local churches and private individuals wherever they go to perform. They recently stayed a few days in Charleston, S.C., and will stay busy with a packed schedule that will take them to areas of Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.

“We’re going to West Virginia and Virginia too,” Poole said. “We want to make it all the way to the White House.”

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