Singing the gospel in Southern Africa
Twelve Gates made history during this General Conference (GC) Session, as it was the first musical group from Zambia that has been invited to bless participants of the Session and the larger world church through their ministry. Twelve Gates is a vocal ensemble from Emmasdale Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lusaka, Zambia. Beginning as a group of youth singing together in 1993, it has today grown into a 30-member choir made of “professional amateurs,” people who have devoted much time and effort into their craft but who all also have other careers. The members of Twelve Gatesare busy people. From firefighters to entrepreneurs, the singers work hard throughout the week, and on weekends most of the members can be seen serving as elders, deacons/deaconesses, clerks, and treasurers. Yet, they are faithful in attending rehearsals on Sundays to devote their time and energy in developing their musical skills to serve the Lord. Trusting in God, the vocal ensemble moves forward in spreading the message and fulfilling, in their own unique way, the mission of the church.
Chrispin Mubanga, vice chairperson of Twelve Gates, describes his involvement like this: “I need to do my own things to put bread on the table. On the other hand, I have to go rehearse and make sure that we sing better so that people can better enjoy and appreciate what we sing. It requires a lot from you—time, money, and everything—to continue singing. It requires you to pray so that God can encourage you to continue in it.”
Each member of the ensemble is aware of the impact that not only their music has but also their daily lives. “As singers we have a Levitical responsibility, like pastors,” says Mc Borg Musha, secretary of Twelve Gates, “to preach the Word of God. Therefore we need to maintain our lives as an open letter; we need to live what we preach.”
Both their commitment and their musical abilities led to the invitation to participate in the musical performances in San Antonio for the 60th General Conference session. Each of the 30 members received an individual invitation to come to the United States (U.S.), as required by the U.S. Embassy. To the disappointment of the entire group, 20 of the singers were denied visas. After much deliberation and prayer, it was decided that the remaining 10 who had been granted visas should come to represent their group and their country. Coming to the General Conference Session “has always been our desire and wish,” declared Musha. “This is the biggest gathering in our church; it is an honor to be part of the GC.”
With two-thirds of their group missing, Twelve Gates had to adjust their music to ensure all the parts were covered and could still display the kind of quality that was expected. Hearing them in the Alamodome for evening worship on July 8, it was obvious that they rose to the challenge and succeeded in honoring God by blessing His people.
The emphasis on mission at the Session has encouraged the group to take steps in brainstorming new ways to use their talents to spread the gospel to those around them. Twelve Gatesis seeking to acquire a public address system that could be set up in the crowded marketplaces of Lusaka to sing and minister to the people through music. “Music is a sermon,” says Mubanga. “We preach through music, knowing that people will be edified and will be invited to love God.”