Ugandan children's choir performs at Highpoint Baptist

The Ugandan Thunder, an African children's choir, performs at High Point Baptist Church in Covington on Sunday.

The Ugandan Thunder, an African children's choir, performs at High Point Baptist Church in Covington on Sunday.

The 22-member Ugandan Thunder will present an evening of musical worship this Sunday at Highpoint Baptist Church in Covington. Founded by Covington native and former resident Dr. Ted Moody, the children's choir is now in the second month of its 11-month tour across the U.S.

"We're all over America this time," Moody said. "This is a great ministry. The kids are just funny. They have so many 'aha' moments. The first pizza. The first ice cream. The first movie. We're taking them to see '(Finding) Nemo.' It just keeps life interesting."

It is certainly a different way of life for the children who range in age from 10 to 14 and come from the Royal Jr. School and Orphanage in Mityaha, Uganda. All 634 students enrolled at the Christian school live there and about half of them are orphans, according to Melinda Fowler, who helps Moody with the choir ministry.

Moody, a pastor, author and speaker who is called "Big Daddy" by the children, grew up in Covington and County Line Baptist Church. He graduated from Newton High School in 1967, and went to Middle Georgia College and Mercer University before beginning his ministry as a pastor.

Moody and his wife, Elaine now live in Zebulon and are the parents of Meredith Maddox and Michael Moody. They have three grandchildren, Jake, Mikayla and Michael Ted III.

Moody served as a pastor until he traveled to Uganda to visit the Royal Jr. School and Orphanage on a mission trip with the church he was serving at the time, Mt. Gilead Baptist of Griffin.

"I went to Uganda for the first time and that changed everything," he said. "Four years ago, I left the pastorate to do the African ministry full time. The children are absolutely incredible."

It was during that first mission trip to Africa that Moody heard a special plea from Pastor Bernard Monday from Bugiri, Uganda, that changed the focus of his ministry.

"The children in our school and orphanage are hungry," Bugiri told Moody. "Could you help us?"

Moody said his life has never been the same since that day and his passion has become feeding those hungry children. He founded the ministry Pennies for Posho and, in 2007, he began asking churches to give their Vacation Bible School offerings to help feed the children of Uganda.

Posho is the food staple the people of Uganda eat most of the time. It is ground cornmeal.

Through the Pennies for Posho ministry, 11 orphanages are now supplied with the staple.

The Ugandan Thunder children's choir performs in churches throughout the U.S., traveling just this past month through Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The choir has been signed to perform at Dollywood for a week next year, Moody said.

The Highpoint Baptist Church concert is free, but love offerings are taken and 100 percent of the money goes to the orphanage, Fowler said. Arts and crafts made in Uganda will be for sale at the concert and those proceeds help pay for the expenses of the tour.

"It's hard to put into words," Fowler said when asked how audiences respond to the children.

"It's amazing how much joy these children have. They don't have anything in Africa. They live in the orphanage. They don't have TVs, iPods, nothing that we think we have to have, but they are so happy all the time. They have an inner joy."

The children will sing songs in both English and the Ugandan language and sing and dance with drums as well as CD tracks. The concert lasts about 90 minutes and the community is invited to attend.

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.