Jessica, 15, and Brooke Latham, 18, perform to raise money for a trip they will be taking to Mexico to work in an orphanage. (Jess Heugel/ For the News-Leader)
Congregation holds a music festival to raise funds for trip.
Donna Baxter • News-Leader • June 8, 2008
Ash Grove -- A multicultural music festival, complete with American barbecue, celebrated the diversity of the Orthodox Church and raised money to aid poor children in Mexico.
The American Heritage Grassroots Music Festival, held Saturday at the Unexpected Joy Orthodox Church, also marked the 10th anniversary of the church.
Admission was free but donation jars were available, and proceeds went toward Project Mexico.
"We work with a church in Farr, Texas, that works with a church just across the border that has an orphanage and a food pantry," said event coordinator Cheryl Tuggle. Teens in the Ash Grove church are planning a mission trip to help there.
Father Moses Berry, pastor at Unexpected Joy, said it was important for the teens to understand that they're not the only people in the world.
"I want them to know that there are other children that suffer out there," Berry said. "I thought one of the ways that we could do that was go to the orphanage."
The youths are anticipating the trip.
Brooke Latham, 18, of Willard said all the young people in the church were involved.
"I think it'll be a very good experience to stay with other Orthodox Christians and help out," she said.
Emily Fenton, 12, of Mount Vernon said she thinks she'll probably understand more about how it is for children in Mexico after going on the trip.
Catherine Tuggle, 13, of Springfield said she was "looking forward to helping out with the kids and getting to stay in a monastery in another country."
Berry said the teens would have a lot to say when they return.
"In this society, we think about our lack but sometimes we don't consider the real lack in the world," he said. "When you get outside Mexico City or some resort area in Mexico, you actually enter the Third World."
Berry said he has been friends with the priest at the orphanage in Mexico since they were boys.
The Ash Grove teens will work at the orphanage in the daytime, but stay about 12 miles away on the U.S. side at night.
"This way they won't have to get passports for day visits," said Berry.
He explained this is the church's first such trip.
"When we first came here the children were babes ... 3 to 5 years old," he said. "We have a crop of people who weren't old enough until now to do this kind of venture."
Juli Fenton, who was in charge of a bake sale Saturday, said the trip is "all about sharing the Lord." "One way we can witness is to give to the food pantry," she said.
Nancy Thee -- a friend of Berry's -- said she and her husband were enjoying listening to the multicultural artists.
"I think the project is very much needed and it's a wonderful thing they're doing."
Berry's goddaughter Theodora Mureithi said she was looking forward to the trip: "I think it's great to get behind any mission trip. It's a big world out there with many different people."
The music at Saturday's event was coordinated by church member Brian Latham and included folk, bluegrass, blues and old time gospel music performed by mostly local performers.
Alexander Kofi of Springfield performed spiritual metaphysical music.
"I'm here with my family to support Father Moses," said Kofi who did a few songs from his album "African Diaspora."
"It means a scattering of the African people and a call for them to come home," he said.
Ian Taylor, 20, and his father Robert Taylor came up from Mobile, Ala., to visit relatives who are members of the church.
He and his father performed songs from his album "Satin Glass."
Willard teacher Brad Hornback was invited to the festival by fellow teacher Latham.
"My family and I are out here today to enjoy the festivities," said Hornback. "The kids are all face-painted up and we're listening to good music."