A fundraising concert for the Christian Life Orphanage in Mwanza, Tanzania, ‘See Amid the Winter’s Snow’, is coming to the College Heights Church in Lacombe on Dec. 9 with an additional Wetaskiwin performance on Dec. 10.
Featuring the Central Alberta Homeschool Choir directed by Debbie Zepick, and the Rosedale Valley Strings (under the direction of Naomi Delafield), the Lacombe performance begins at 7 p.m.
The Wetaskiwin concert runs at the Wetaskiwin Mission Church, starting at 6 p.m.
A free-will offering will be taken at both events.
The concerts have been held for several years as a fundraiser for various projects at the orphanage which was founded in 2005 by Patrick and Beatrice Mwafute.
Zepick’s son had later come across the orphanage during a mission trip in Tanzania and had learned that key sources of support at that time for the organization had ended.
“Our son came home and said, ‘Mom, can we do something’?”
Zepick, a gifted singer in her own right, had recorded a Christmas album a few years earlier, and it was decided that a Christmas concert would be held to help raise funds for the orphanage.
“Honestly, the response was overwhelming,” she recalled.
“We ended up being able to purchase some land for the orphanage, and construct a building for them outside the city of Mwanza as well.”
Ultimately, it’s been heartwarming to see how local support has helped to transform lives at the orphanage, she said.
“These boys have grown up, they’ve moved out, and they’ve established homes, businesses, and families of their own,” she said, adding that currently 15 boys are housed at the orphanage.
”It’s an amazing thing.”
As to See Amid the Winter’s Snow, Zepick said it’s been a partnership with the Rosedale Valley Strings Orchestra from the start.
”We had done concerts together in support of (Lacombe charity) A Better World, and then we took this on,” she said.
For the concert, the choir and the orchestra each perform selections, and they will also join forces for a few numbers as well.
Zepick said the concert changes from year to year in terms of material, as she’s always on the lookout for fresh tunes. She has also written a few more Christmas songs herself since the release of her project in the early 2000s.
For Zepick, directing the choir — which she also formed — brings a constant sense of joy and fulfillment.
And that shines bright during the festive season as well, when she sees the enthusiasm the young people have for the material they are rehearsing for See Amid the Winter’s Snow, she said.
‘That is my goal — that they would love the music, and they would love singing together, and that they would develop skills and develop a sense of community.
“I also want them to develop an understanding that you can do things through artistic endeavours that will help other people,” she explained.
There are 100 members in the junior choir, and the senior choir has about 130 members.
“These are the greatest kids in the world! It’s a privilege to work with them, and to be able to work with their wonderful families,” she said, adding it’s also a vehicle through which to communicate her Christian faith, too.
“I feel more and more passionate about the gospel, and I can invest in these kids’ lives — reaffirming what their families are teaching them. But I can also share that with the audiences, too.”
These days, the choir members actually do most of the talking and most of the introductions to the pieces during the performance, she added.
“It’s not just my ministry, it’s also the ministry of these kids,” she said, adding that the concert’s music is intrinsically hopeful. That’s important because the holiday season can be a hard time for some folks, she said.
“There is such a power in that music, and there is such a message of hope. Not to mention all those voices singing in harmony — it’s so lovely.”