Story by Salena Featherstone
On July 5, 2018, Potomac Conference's Takoma Academy (TA) Chorale flew to Tshwane, South Africa, to participate in the 10th anniversary World Choir Games (WCG), not knowing they would make a huge impact in the lives of others, and, in return, be impacted themselves.
Choirs from around the world gathered at the WCG to worship and express their specialties in music. As Julius Caesar once said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” And that is exactly what they did, winning in three categories: two silver medals in Mixed Youth and Jazz, and gold medal in Spirituals.
Simean Sagboje, choir member and upcoming Class of 2019 graduate, says, “Winning the gold was something very special to me. I didn’t originally go to TA the beginning of the school year, but coming there halfway through the year and putting in the work, while having friends and our Choir Director Lulu Mupfumbu by my side, really made it special for me.”
In addition to a great win, the choir continued their service to God by sharing their music ministry during divine service at the Orland West church in Soweto. They also visited the Orlando Children’s Home, where they provided supplies to the orphanage and shared encouraging stories with the children. The kids were so delighted by the visit, they returned the blessing by teaching the choir a few of their favorite South African songs.
Members also had the pleasure of meeting Jeofrey Hlongo, a local choir leader and Netflix hero in the series Diepsloot for the work he has done in his community. The 800,000 populated town of Diepsloot has a lack of infrastructure, a high unemployment rate and very few surrounding government support. In the trailer, Hlongo passionately explains, “I help young people discover their potential so that they can live their dream—the dream of a peaceful home, the dream of developing [their] talents, being educated, building healthy families, getting jobs and being free. That’s our African dream.”
Upon the choir’s return home, family gave them a huge welcome. Students shared the new and improved spiritual outlook on life they gained as a result of the trip. “The World Choir Games for me was the most emotional and spiritual trip that I have ever had in my life,” says recent graduate Ci-Arra Dottin (’18). “I really was on a journey of faith through this entire trip. I realize that, first we minister, then we receive worldly gifts. I appreciated the gold and silver medals we got from Tshwane, South Africa.”
Jared Allen (’20) choir member, adds, “For me it was the biggest achievement of my life, because we won a gold medal, and I know all the work we put in, the hours in rehearsal; it all paid off winning the gold.”
Mupfumbu exclaims, “We praise God for leading us through this unforgettable journey of faith and transformation. We entered this competition as underdogs, with not much competition experience and no international competition experience. We also didn’t have the funds or know where they would come from, but we believed. We asked God early on to allow all of us to see His hand in all aspects of this trip so that our faith may be strengthened and so that we would have a story to tell.”
She continues, “To see how it all came together, how all our needs were met, how our souls were fed by the experiences, the people, the country, and how we got to our musical victory, it’s truly a production God orchestrated.”
*Pictured above: Choir members gather with (sitting, left to right) Paul Graham, pastor of Potomac Conference’s Restoration Praise Center in Bowie, Md.; Dave Weigley, Columbia Union Conference president; Carla Thrower, TA principal; Lulu Mupfumbu, TA choir director; and Bill Miller, Potomac Conference president.