Gospel king gets his hands dirty

LCGC founder, Bazil Meade, speaks with Kate Sharma about his visit to Tanzania to see firsthand the impact Christian charity Compassion International is having on children’s lives

Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross are just a few of the incredible artists with whom Bazil Meade, director of the world famous London Community Gospel Choir, has performed. Following a recent trip to Tanzania, Bazil can now add the children from the Mennonite Student Centre to this extensive list of performers.

They may not be international superstars with platinum-selling albums, but Bazil nevertheless describes the experience of singing with this bunch of kids – from one of Tanzania’s poorest communities – as “a great encouragement.” The trip shows a side of Bazil and the London Community Gospel Choir that is not always seen, but which is an integral part of their identity.

Christ at the heart

The London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC) has put UK gospel music firmly on the map, with their personal brand of funky, soulful gospel. Whilst the make-up of the Choir has changed over the course of their 30-year history, and their music has continually sought to break barriers, one thing has been constant: the committed faith of the Choir. Under Bazil’s leadership, LCGC has shunned the temptation to deviate from their Christian heritage, clinging firmly to Jesus whilst seeking to take their audiences on a spiritual journey through music. Bazil asserts: “The unity of the message is essential. I need to ensure that the lyrics come from the heart, and that the members connect with the message.”

The Choir has been built around Ephesians 2:10: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Faith is the rock on which the Choir is built, and the fabric that weaves it together. This foundation naturally entwines everything they do, and the Choir has always sought to make a real and tangible difference in both local and global communities. And Bazil has often been the first to get his hands dirty.

Face to face with poverty

Back in 2007, Bazil visited Uganda, where he saw some of Compassion’s child development programmes first hand, and helped to build a kitchen. “I hear too many stories of those who collect funds, and actually very little gets to those who need it,” says Bazil. “But I was so impressed by Compassion, and the way local people are the ones who are carrying out the work, listening carefully for the best ways to meet the needs of the communities.”

After this initial trip, Bazil travelled to India and then to Tanzania earlier this year, where he had the opportunity to meet the little girl he sponsors through the Organisation. “It was very emotional for me to meet Witness,” remembers Bazil. “When she saw me, I could see her little face light up and she didn’t leave my side.” Bazil had the opportunity to worship with the children at the church-based Mennonite Student Centre, where loving staff ensure that Witness is healthy, well-fed and clothed, and has an opportunity to go to school.

“I also had the privilege to meet her mother,” Bazil continues. “She was very sick and has since passed away. But the Project is there to give her a place of refuge and support through her loss. It was great for me to witness how the resources are being used, and to see the results not just in the children but in the whole family. That’s practical Christian love in action, and that’s very powerful. That was an awakening for me.”

Faith in action

Bazil is known for stirring emotions through his inspiring musical arrangements, but he has returned from Tanzania with a renewed desire to move hearts to respond to the needs of the poor. “We can spend many hours in prayer meetings and having our church meetings, singing about the love of God and how we want to spread His love,” Bazil stresses. “But all of that is just talk. I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but it’s just theatrical unless there’s action to support it.”

“What gives life is when we break out of the churches, out of the bricks and mortar, and connect with our communities. I think it’s particularly important for Black communities to do more, and not just for Africa.”

Bazil has a big vision to see many lives transformed in Jesus’ Name, but his challenge starts with a single child. “I’m new to sponsoring, but I would encourage others to get on board because it’s so fulfilling. When you give to a child, you can bring big change to a child’s life: health, clothing and education. You’ll set the child up for life, and that’s a remarkable achievement.”

For more information about Compassion’s work, visit www.compassionuk.org or call 01932 836490

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