By Traci Chapman
The heart and soul of Uganda and its children came to Mustang Saturday, as the Imani Milele Children’s Choir took the stage in a special Freedom Fellowship Church concert.
The choir tells the story of Africa – and Uganda in particular. It’s a place of deep contrasts – crippling poverty and overwhelming numbers of orphaned and underprivileged children living in a society also rich in culture and heritage, faith and joy, things expressed by young choir members through song and dance.
It was a message that appealed to the small Mustang church’s leaders and a message those leaders share with Imani Milele founder Rev. Moses Ssemanda Mbuga and his team, they said.
“Our church has made a strong push toward spreading the Gospel around the world,” Freedom Fellowship youth pastor Caleb Tribble said. “Opportunities to open doors in many African, Muslim and Asian nations have come available to us – it’s important to get out of our culture box and share in each others lives as all God’s children.”
Members did just that during Saturday’s concert. Electrified by a choir dressed in colorful traditional garb who filled the church hall with music, pastor Ren Schuffman led several in the audience dancing and high-fiving the young performers as energetically as they intently listened to the choir’s underlying message.
“We knew this was going to be something amazing, but it just totally, totally took all of us by surprise to feel the depth of it all – even expecting that it would be something I know many of us will never forget,” Schuffman said. “To think these children can come here to Mustang, Oklahoma, to this small church and spread the kind of feelings and inspiration they have means the world to us.”
That, according to Imani Milele officials, is the group’s primary mission – to spread the joy that can be found in Uganda, but also share word about the needs of children living in a kind of world unfathomable to many of the people sitting in the choir’s audiences. More than 3 million children are estimated to be orphans in the African nation; since 1989, Mbuga’s Sebastian, Florida-based nonprofit has worked to help more than 4,000 of them get an education, medical care, clean water, families and a future, officials said.
The choir has toured the United States, playing since 2013 at churches, festivals, schools and other events.
As Imani Milele’s outreach has continually expanded, so too has Freedom Fellowship’s efforts to build a meaningful home in Mustang, officials said. Newer than many local congregations, the nondenominational church is preparing to celebrate its first year in its current quarters and expecting further growth soon; Saturday’s concert was a way to showcase that effort and leaders’ wish for a bigger meaning, while bringing together two very different cultures and illuminating the faith that binds both, Tribble said.
“We don’t want the love of Christ hidden in the four walls of the church,” he said.