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WATERLOO — Near the top of Celeste Bembry’s bucket list is her dream to visit Africa.

She hopes that wish will come true in August, when she joins Antioch Baptist Church as a delegate on their mission trip to Kenya. Sponsored by Children of Hope Ministries, the trip will include visits to two orphanages in the East African country. But first she must raise the funds to make the trip.

Bembry, a University of Northern Iowa School of Music alumna, will perform a concert of jazz standards on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

“That’s my hook – that I’ll be singing songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and composers like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein that people haven’t heard sung live in a while. It’s fun to do, and it’s exciting,” says Bembry, who is a student recruitment and retention coordinator at UNI.

She’ll be accompanied by Pantera Roxa, a jazz combo from the UNI School of Music.

A group of Antioch Baptist Church members, including the Rev. Michael E. Coleman, traveled to Kenya in 2015 to engage children living in the Children of Hope orphanages. On the upcoming trip, the missionaries will play games, do musical activities, crafts and story time with the children, says Bernice Richard of Antioch.

“We want to reach out to the staff who works with the children to see if they have specific needs that are not being met. These children will see that they have aunties in America who look like them. ‘Aunties’ is what the children call the females who take care of them at the homes,” Richard explains.

Bembry missed that mission trip. “I said ‘If you do it again, I vow to you will be joining you,’” she recalls. “It’s always been my heart’s desire to go to that continent. I’ve traveled all over the world, and now it’s imminent that I will visit Kenya. I couldn’t be more delighted or content,” Bembry says.

She plans to take along plenty of board and other games to play with the children, as well as being open to opportunities for music. “I want to take in and be gifted by their culture, including hearing their spirit through music. I want to be open to experiences, look and learn and receive the children in their joy.

The first mission project in Kenya involving Antioch members was providing gas burner stoves and lamps for people who lived in rural areas for three years. The Rev. Coleman participated in a medical mission trip and witnessed the poverty and displacement of small children who were left to fend for themselves. The church was invited to partner with the Coors family in supporting a home for orphaned children, which has grown into two homes.

Bembry will perform such songs as “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Summertime,” “You Go To my Head,” “Blue Skies,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Stairway to the Stars” and “It Might as Well Be Spring.”

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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