'Hope of Maasai' comes to Bandera
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
After a stunning performance at Shepherd's Gate Community Church, members of the En-Kata Maasai Choir gave an equally impressive impromptu concert for officials and staff at the Bandera County Courthouse.
On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the group performed at the church in Polly Peak, according to Pastor Bob Devora.
The following day, the group of three women and four men visited the courthouse, turning the front hall into a stage.
"This was a blessing," said Marcia Short, administrative assistant to County Judge Richard Evans. "We never expected to see anything like this here."
Not coincidentally, the En-Kata Choir's inaugural tour of the United States, "Faces of Change," had kicked off at Shepherd's Gate Community Church three years ago. At that time the tour was designed as a fundraiser for what eventually became a school for Maasai children in Simanjiro, Tanzania - or Maasailand, as it is called.
As author Jeremy Stephenson wrote online, "Three years ago, the isolated Maasai-run school was only a vision, which the community of Bandera embraced and helped turn into reality. Today, a framed picture gifted by the Bandera church to the choir hangs on one of the school's walls. It was a privilege for the choir to share how their generosity is providing Maasai children with an education."
As the website www.en-kata.com noted, for community development, the En-Kata project had successfully combined the strength and faith of the Maasai people with the resources of the West.
To give back to the Shepherd's Gate Community Church and its generous congregation, the En-kata Choir returned during this year's "Hope of the Maasai" tour for another concert.
The 2012 "Hope of the Maasai" tour began in Florida in September and will conclude in Ontario, Canada, next month. All events in the ministry tour were presented free of charge.
In partnership with Kahawa Records; MAPED Music, a nongovernmental organization; and Pamoja Ministries, the En-Kata Maasai Choir was formed in 2007. Using music, dance and evangelism, the group addresses problems that their society faces.
The performers' original songs, couple with traditional African dance movements, underscore global complications that include HIV-AIDS, a lack of sanitary water, non-existent rights for women and a struggle for educational opportunities.
The core of the En-Kata project remains the compelling choir and the authentic African music being written by its members. En-Kata's music reveals the Maasai messages of hope and transformation,
Their first album, Sauti Ya WaMaasai - The Sound of the Maasai - was released in Tanzania in 2007 and internationally in 2009. The choir's second album, Matumaini Ya WaMaasai -The Hope of the Maasai - was released in 2011.
In addition to the CDs, Pamoja Ministries and MAPED have published the "En-kata, A Time for Singing," a book of photos that highlight images celebrating the color and life of the Maasai communities.
"En-Kata, A Time for Singing" depicts the world of the Maasai and the beauty - and faith - of Africa. Over 1,500 copies of the book have already been sold with 60 percent of the profits earmarked for the construction of more schools in Simanjiro.
According to author Jeremy Feser, kindergarten began at the En-Kata English Medium Primary School in Orbili, Tanzania, in May. On the first day, 22 children had registered for kindergarten. By the second week, there were 28. "At last check, there were 32. Very soon, the classroom will be full, and children will have to wait until next year," he wrote.
The En-Kata English Medium Primary School is not a mission school, but rather a Maasai school, Feser wrote, "The 15 members of MAPED, comprised of eight Maasai men and seven Maasai women, form the governing body. A Maasai, Asnath Maliaki serves as head teacher for the Maasai children."
Feser indicated that ground is about to be broken for a second classroom block and construction is nearly complete on the first teachers' housing block.
"God is good, and his people have generously done what just a few short years ago had been deemed to be impossible," he wrote.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, Devora and the congregation of Shepherd's Gate Community Church will host a free Christian rock concert, beginning at 6 pm and featuring four bands, at the pavilion at Mansfield Park off Highway 16 North. Funds raised will be earmarked for youth Bible camps and a love offering will benefit the Pure Water Project for the Maasai people in Tanzania.
"The funds raised will construct a water filtering system to bring purified water to the village," Devora said. "The cost of drilling a well is prohibitive and likely to fail, but previously, an engineer had designed a purification system that could be built for about $5,000."
As Devora explained, "It only rains about 19 inches a year in Tanzania, but, with the use of gutters, rainwater can be captured off the roofs of the buildings in the village. This water will be filtered and purified before being used."
The alternative, he added, is a six-mile trek by donkey to a river to collect red clay water in five-gallon cans. An added danger is the constant presence of crocodiles. This year, crocodiles killed a small Maasai boy. "When dry season comes, the villagers will use the purification system to filter contaminated river water," Devora said.
He hopes the Bandera community will turn out on Oct. 27 and assist with the worthy global cause.
Pictured: Three women - the youngest of whom is 13 - and four men make up the En-Kata Maasai Choir. A Saturday, Oct. 27, concert, hosted by Shepherd's Gate Community Church, will raise money to construct a water filtering system in the choir's village of Simanjiro, Tanzania.
Photos by Judith Pannebaker
Bandera County Judge Richard Evans welcomed the En-Kata Maasai Choir to the courthouse on Sept. 18.
Photos by Judith Pannebaker
Yona Olopejo serves as director of the En-Kata Maasai Choir, that is based in Simanjiro, Tanzania.
Photos by Judith Pannebaker
Last month, after performing at Shepherd's Gate Community Church, the men and women of the En-Kata Maasai Choir gave an impromptu concert at the Bandera County Courthouse.