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East Africa culture explored at Elfinwild church camp

By Bethany Hofstetter
Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Participants of the inaugural Cultural Discovery in Christ Camp at Elfinwild Presbyterian Church took a trip to the other side of the world last week to discover music, food and worship in Africa.

Elfinwild Presbyterian Church hosted the new camp to give children in grades one through six the opportunity to explore different cultures, which this year focused on countries in East Africa.

Participants learned songs in the native languages of Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malawi as well as tried foods traditional to each country. They also learned how drumming is incorporated into worship services in the region's churches.

“There are different ways to worship, so in order to find those ways we're focusing on East Africa,” said Bethany Harbaugh, children's pastor at Elfinwild Presbyterian. “It doesn't always look like it does at our church on Sunday mornings.”

Anna Meyer, 11, of Fox Chapel said she learned that in East Africa worship can include song, yelling or drumming — even during funerals.

Camp participants had the opportunity to try their hand at playing African drums when Bryan Fazio, of New Brighton, visited the camp last week to introduce conga and djembe drums as well as facilitate a drum circle. Throughout the week, the camp participants also worked to create and decorate their own djembe style drum.

Native East Africans or people who have lived in one of the East African countries came each day to talk to the camp participants about life in Africa and to share some of the traditional foods.

“The Kenyan pancake things (chipati mayai) were really good,” said Peter Lesnett, 10, of Shaler Township, as he looked for seconds of the biscuits served from Zimbabwe.

Elfinwild staff is working to expand the camp by bringing in local professionals to lead camp sessions and hopes next year it will attract more participants to explore cultural aspects in a Christian environment.

At the conclusion of the camp, participants shared their lessons with the Elfinwild congregation last Sunday by sharing the African songs they learned and leading the service with a drum circle while inviting churchgoers to join them on musical shakers participants made during the camp.

“There are different people in Africa that worship different ways than us,” Virginia Lesnett, 10, of Shaler. “We're doing the same thing, but they're doing it differently.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or


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