Tag: Music For Life

Escape from the Rwandan Genocide. Alex’s story Part Three

By John Callister

Alex was grateful for the friendship of the chaperones who had become part of his life. He enjoyed finding out about them because their lives and upbringings were were very different from his. Each one had a unique, interesting story. They came from countries like Canada, America, England and Ireland. Spending so much time together meant that both the children in the choir and the chaperones had become like one big family. 

Alex knew that the chaperones’ motivation came from their Christian faith, and that their lives were a genuine expression of God’s love. They weren’t doing it for money since most of them had very little, and each one had had to raise their own financial support from family and friends. It was a long time since Alex had felt so loved and cared for. But that didn’t mean that all was well with him.

Having gone through the trauma of the Rwandan genocide, there were things that Alex hadn’t been able to talk about.  But because of the trust that had been built up with his chaperones, very gradually he began to open up to them about the fears and the heartache he was living with.

They were understanding, and encouraged him to turn to Jesus Christ and ask for his help to deal with the issues he was struggling with. As he did, he found himself being able to focus on the good – the miracles that he knew he had experienced in his life. He knew that God had preserved his life and had opened up the door for him to join the African Children’s Choir.

As he thanked God for what he had done, the healing process he had longed for, began.  
In Alex’s own words, “Those chaperones today are my mentors because God use them in such a powerful way to remind me I was loved and I was cared for, and it’s so beautiful. And I’m so grateful that God opened the door for me to join the African Children’s Choir, because at a time when I was vulnerable, he used the African Children’s Choir to remind me of his love. When I was looking for something to hold on to the African Children’s Choir introduced me to a greater love a greater hope that is found in Jesus Christ alone and that is why I’m able to be here today.” 

Interview filmed by Peter Wooding ASSIST News


People like Alex, and other members and former members of the African Children’s Choir, have stories of forgiveness and testimonies of God’s goodness in times of hardship. At a time when the world needs some good news more than ever before, we want to get these stories out to those who need it most. Please pray for Alex and others who have a message of hope to share, that the right avenues and doors for sharing will open. It would be a great encouragement to Alex to know that you have been touched by his message. If you have, would you take the time to drop him a line or two and let him know. You can reach him by email at info@friendsinthewest.com

Thank you.


Tonight @ 8.00pm (British Standard Time). Ray Barnett, interviewed about his life, work and vision for the future.

Ray Barnett, Founder of Friends In The West and The African Children’s Choir

It’s Ray Barnett’s 80th today!


Ray Barnett, March 2016, during a visit to his birthplace at Portstewart in Northern Ireland.

Today, Monday 26 September, 2016, Ray Barnett, founder of Friends In The West and the African Children’s Choir, celebrates his 80th birthday. The occasion is tinged with sadness, however, since just over three weeks ago, on 2nd September, Ray’s wife of more than 50 years, passed into the presence of the Lord.

Most people have long retired by their 80th birthday. Throughout his life, however, Ray has always prayed for ‘vision’ in line with God’s will. He firmly believes the Bible verse from Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision the people perish”.

The desire to be part of God’s answer to the problems that exist in this world have given Ray a ‘drive’ that is extraordinary by normal standards. Ray began with Friends In The West, helping Christians who had been imprisoned for their faith behind what was then called the ‘Iron Curtain’.

His vision to help led to trips to Africa when Christians were suffering and being slaughtered under the dictator, Idi Amin. He had a God-given vision to help the many thousands of African children who had been orphaned as a result of what became known as the Uganda Holocaust. This led to the formation of the very first African Children’s Choir in 1984.

More than thirty years later, choirs continue to tour today and the organisation can look back on incredible achievements. The African Children’s Choir, facilitated by parent organisation Music For Life, has provided an education for more than 52,000 children throughout Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. It has also directly impacted the lives of thousands of other vulnerable African children through music therapy and life skills training camps, Music For life centres, and container shipments of food, clothing and supplies.

Over the years, Ray has personally signed on as legal guardian to more than a thousand children who have gone through the Choir program and have been fully supported by the organization to adulthood. With the support and love of the Music For Life staff and Daddy Ray, as he as affectionately called, many of the Choir children have earned their college degrees and have gone on to become doctors, attorneys, engineers, pastors, church leaders, journalists, teachers and relief workers in Africa—realizing Ray’s full-circle vision of “Helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow.”

Ray is now looking at ways to help Christians in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East who are facing imprisonment, torture and death by beheading because of their faith. Friends in the West has also embarked on a new project, currently being piloted in South Africa, that provides youth mentoring and leadership training. The program complements the work Friends in the West is already involved in, adding another dimension to its work of raising awareness of Christians under threat, and encouraging prayer and practical support for the persecuted and displaced.

Would you pray for Ray at this difficult time as he copes with bereavement along with other challenges that he’s facing? Would you go a step further and send him a message of encouragement? Maybe you have a Bible verse or other words of comfort. Even if you don’t know Ray personally, it would be lovely to know that people out there ‘care’ enough to get in touch.


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Below you can view Esther Rantzen’s, ‘Hearts of Gold’ programme featuring Ray barnett, founder of the African Children’s Choir.

Treehaven3: Africans love to sing

Africans love to sing! Here at Treehaven, South Africa, during the three day African Odyssey leadership and mentoring course, singing was part of a daily routine in the glorious sunshine and peaceful atmosphere. Here’s a flavour.

Leadership does not come from lists, formulas, prescriptions, etc. Leadership is INSPIRING OTHERS. Taking a course or reading a book will not make you a leader. To crack the code on leadership, you need to realize that you must INSPIRE others to follow you. Your direct example is the first place to look. Are you showing people the way, or are you telling them what to do? Hard work and determination have made many leaders; barking orders alone has not.

From the Bible, we can learn about the greatest inspirational leader who ever lived, Jesus Christ. Crowds flocked to hear him speak and even if he went into the desert, thousands followed him there. Today 2000 years later, His words inspired through the Holy Bible, continue to act as guideposts for how we should live our lives.

Treehaven 2: Induction

In the second of a series of short videos shot on location at the Treehaven retreat centre in South Africa, it’s just a few hours after arrival and leader, Jennifer Marino, welcomes the students and give them some guidance with regard to the program over the next three days. They’re here to take the Friends In The West, leadership and mentorship course, African Odyssey, which has been specially adapted for these young African students. She explains that the overriding theme and an important leadership principle is, “Life is a Team Event”.


This is the motto of African Odyssey. Working well as a team will be the path to success in many areas of your life. Sharing ideas and strengths with one another will make any task easier and more successful.

Even our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t attempt to fulfil His Father’s plan by just working by Himself. He chose a team of twelve. They weren’t ‘perfect’ by any means, but rather than walk away or get rid of them, Jesus worked at helping them develop, teaching them to pray and showing them how to face life’s challenges with an attitude of faith.

In this course, our students will learn the importance of operating as part of a team, and how that team is only as strong as the weakest link. They will have the opportunity to partake in practical demonstrations that will show how one person not pulling their weight, can let the whole team down.

“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things. Yet still, they began their journeys.” — Mike Dooley, author of Infinite Possibilities

Treehaven 1. Arrival and greeting by Daddy Ray.

In the first of a series of short videos, Daddy Ray (Ray Barnett) greets South African Music For Life students as they arrive at Treehaven, a former bird park, now operating as a ‘retreat’ facility, in an initiative run by Music For Life and Friends In The West.

The students have come to Treehaven to undertake the Friends In The West, leadership and mentoring training programme, ‘African Odyssey’ – a course that promotes personal and spiritual development with an emphasis on leadership and teamwork. Friends In The West and Music For Life have sponsored this course as well as the normal academic education program for these students. This is because they regard an investment in their education as the most effective way to help them achieve their God-given potential in the long term.

These students have the potential to become leaders in their country, even though most have come from a background of poverty. In a world where too many children are being trained to kill and spread terror, our aim is to develop young leaders that will positively influence their generation for good. But we can only help them if people like you help us. In the first instance would you consider picking a student from the video and committing to praying for him/her.

Our aim is to see these students become self sufficient in the not too distant future, but for now they’re not in a position to pay for their education and development programs like African Odyssey. Therefore, we have to find ways to raise funds to cover these costs. Please help us if you can. You can donate via Paypal through this website. And please drop a line to Daddy Ray at ray@friendsinthewest.org and let him know if you are praying or giving. He loves to encourage the students and would love to pass on your messages, and he will request that they pray for you. Also please get in touch if you’d like to explore if Treehaven might be a suitable venue for your group to hold a retreat or conference, etc. Hiring out the facility helps pay for its upkeep and development.

Please return to the website for further videos and updates in the near future.