Victorious Life Church hosts concert and women’s conference
By Sarah Whitman
Senior staff writer
WESLEY CHAPEL — The Watoto Children’s Choir travels the world singing to inspire change in Africa’s most war-torn and disease-affected countries. The group, made up of Ugandan orphans aged 8 to 12, will perform Jan. 29 at Victorious Life Church.
The performance is part of the Reflections Women’s Conference, a two-day event to address the plight of children in the developing world. Marilyn Skinner, co-founder of Watoto, and Lisa Bevere, author and child rights activist, will speak.
“Reflections is about letting women know what’s going on in other parts of the world and what they can do to help,” Victorious Life co-pastor Janis Russo said. “We invite them to come be inspired.”
Founded in 1994 by Marilyn and Gary Skinner, Watoto Children’s Ministries rescues kids affected by the AIDS epidemic and war atrocities. The ministry currently provides more than 1,700 children in Uganda with housing, holistic care, schooling and spiritual guidance. The choir serves to spread the word and show children a life outside their villages. Each year auditions are held and different children are given an opportunity to go on tour.
Sherri Hanson, U.S. tour coordinator, contacted Victorious Life with the idea for Reflections, a concert complimented by great speakers.
“Lisa (Bevere) has been involved with Watoto and she has done a lot of work in the fight against child sex trafficking,” Hanson said. “I thought her and Marilyn together at one event would be exciting.”
Bevere’s latest book “Nurture” focuses on the nature of women and their willingness to help others. In it, the author says God predestined women to be caregivers to people in need.
Russo agrees with the message.
“When women see people suffering, they become passionate about making a difference,” Russo said. “They will get behind a cause with all the time and energy they have.”
Victorious Life member Toni Barsness said she is excited to learn more about Watoto and what role she can play in saving lives.
“It’s amazing what they do at Watoto,” she said. “They literally raise these children to be future African leaders.”
Hanson remembers the first time she traveled to Uganda.
“I went expecting to go and bless some children,” she said. “When I arrived, I realized it was them who would bless me. They have suffered so much but they are so humble and grateful. The rest of us can learn a lot from them.”
The music of the Watoto Choir brings Russo to tears.
“I saw them perform a couple years ago and they were so incredibly dynamic,” she said. “Their energy was contagious, so contagious that our church sent a missions group to Uganda last summer. I jumped at the chance to bring the children here.”
Russo hopes conference attendees will walk away feeling more connected to people in the third world.
“People hear stories about what’s going on over there but that’s as far as it goes,” she said. “When you meet people face-to-face, the message really hits home.”
Skinner, having lived in Uganda for more than fifteen years, plans to speak candidly about her experiences with pregnant AIDS victims, starving children and children victimized by widespread violence. Some of the stories are difficult to share, but Skinner does so in hopes of creating a better world.
“She will speak about faith, justice and humanity,” Hanson said. “I truly believe this conference was God ordained. Women need to be made aware.”
The Reflections Conference is open to all women. Registration can be done on-line at www.maximizedwomanhood.com or at the church.
- WHAT Reflections Women’s Conference
- WHEN doors open 6:30 p.m. Jan 29 8:30 a.m. Jan 30
- WHERE Victorious Life Church, 6224 Old Pasco Road
- HOW MUCH $39 for both days $29 for one day
- MORE INFORMATION (813) 973-2230