Despite being blind, Mary Atieno Ominde has proven the power of the other senses, particularly through her rich singing voice.
The renowned African gospel vocalist from Kenya has released a series of successful records and has toured the world with her message of hope and prayer. She is bringing her music to Celebration Life Church in Newton on Saturday as part of a trip to help the International Gospel Centre Ministries (IGCM).
"I don't think she considers herself handicapped," said Pastor Gwen Dreger of the Celebration Life Church.
"We don't understand it as Canadians - we have a handicap and our lives shut down."
In 1961, Ominde was born without sight, growing up in the Nyanza province in the southwest part of the country. Her condition was caught early and her parents enrolled her in St. Oner, an elementary school for the blind. She later moved on to Thika High School, where she excelled in all her subjects and developed a love for music.
"She joined choirs, and through that she realized she had a talent, a gift for singing," said Ruthdol Ywaya of IGCM.
But Ominde did not pursue music professionally until she finished her postsecondary schooling at Kenyatta University.
In addition to her singing career, Ominde teaches Swahili, English and literature at Buruburu High School in Nairobi, and is a major part of the local ministry.
"They have a church in the slums of Nairobi," said Dreger, who met Ominde in the city during a missions trip. "It's quite an interesting place to be."
Dreger observed that, despite the country's poor living conditions, Ominde and other locals have never let that alter their faith.
Her confident spirit has taken her music and her message around the world, performing at hundreds of church services and telling her story to thousands upon thousands of listeners.
Dreger said she hopes Ominde's journey inspires others to overcome their own obstacles and not let any disabilities stand in their way.
Ominde's performance starts at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at Celebration Life Church, 13371 72nd Ave.