It was another exciting week for the Experience: AIDS exhibit, celebrating World AIDS Day last week in Long Beach, CA. We partnered with the Call2All Global Congress to advocate and educate future missionaries and their partners on the realities of HIV and AIDS around the world.  The conference was attended by current, future, and hopeful missionaries not only from the United States, but around the world.  It was a chance to share wisdom, opportunities and resources in reaching the world for Christ!

It was exciting to see peers on a “mission,” or on a mission to find the “mission.”  Ready, willing and open to whatever missions opportunity the Lord had prepared for them.  In life, many of us spend years searching for the right avenue to seek the Lord and the work that He has.  For our staff members, that’s the exciting part of World Vision.  Our mission is clear, to build a better world for children.

This is how we see it: to come along side and equip those in need to meet their needs, allowing them to look up, see Jesus, live in faith and be loved.  Meeting the physical, social, and spiritual needs of children and families around the world through child sponsorship is the passion of World Vision.  Collectively, through many different avenues, the “mission” is being carried out on a daily basis throughout the world.  From Burma to India, Brazil to Kenya, the Dominican Republic to Indonesia: life is being spread through simple “mission” partnerships.

During our time at Call2All, great conversation was made around “mission,” being Christ to those who need Him most.  We had a special time in Long Beach, stretching the exhibit to a new level, engaging with a whole new audience, and being apart of equipping the saints.  We wish all our new friends God’s faithful mercies in their new adventures, and extend many thank you’s for the lives of those changed last week through sponsorship!

The “mission” is ahead of us!  Keep running the race that is marked. God is our faithful partner running with us, pushing us to help meet the needs of millions around the world.

Partnering in the journey,

Dean, Kristin, Ange, and Trooper

August in Chicago, September in Austin & California and just as that cooler weather is beginning to set into areas such as the East Coast and the Pacific Northwest, Step into Africa headed to “warmer” breezes of Northern Florida.

Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators, a university the size of a small city in the US, and home to many retirees was our stop for the next week and a half. The night we arrived, we were welcomed by a wonderful planning team whose efforts of the past few months included spreading word to many businesses, local leaders, churches and residents alike in the community. Together we enjoyed a nice Italian meal and celebrated the beginning of what was to be a very fruitful week.

Andrew Pridgin, the motivator and missions director of Trinity UMC, put in his 40 and then some before and during the event. Throughout the week, we saw solid amounts of visitors and had a group to speak to about AIDS and poverty issues almost everyday!

On Sunday morning, the church had a special focus on the Experience and had local African drummers and dancers participate in the service! It’s not everyday you see dancing and drumming of this sort in American churches, and it was a pleasure to see.

Trinity UMC had decided to support one project in Malawi and by the end of the week, almost all the Malawi kids were sponsored!

Thank you to Trinity UMC, Andrew Pridgin, Pastor Dan, the Prayer team, and many others who were involved. It was a great week and we hope to come back to the area sometime in the future!

Home to about 750 students in Rocklin, California, this Christian University had been wanting to bring Step into Africa to their school for the better part of the last three years. Finally the time had come!

Staged in a massive auditorium, the Experience was open from September 25 to October 2nd. Bridgeway Church from just down the street had partnered with WJU to bring the exhibit and make it a wonderful experience for the students and the community of the Sacramento Valley region.

Sunny California weather blessed us throughout the week and it was nice to be in a college like environment. The younger generations need to be exposed to what sort of social dilemmas exist on the planet and bringing an experience like Step into Africa while they are in such a “learning” phase of their life will only expand their minds and strengthen their already existing passion for social justice.

Here’s a story for you. There was a couple that came to volunteer at the exhibit and had arrived late. Since their shift had started already, we had them walk through the exhibit first before coming to do their shift. Upon entering the chapel area, where there are two baskets of children available for sponsorship, they both looked in each basket. When the Husband looked at the first basket, the child from Uganda on the top of the stack of picture folders was the exact same birthday as his son. He took is as a sign and immediately picked up that child to sponsor. When the wife looked at the second basket, a child from Ethiopia on the top of the stack of the picture folders had the exact birthday of their second son! She took it as a sign and picked up the child to sponsor. When they both showed each other who they picked, they knew it was meant to be and sponsored both kids happily. Then they got to their volunteer shift.🙂
Overall we saw a couple thousand people through and many lives changed, both in Africa and here in the States.
Thank you William Jessup & Bridgeway Church!

From September 11 to 18, the Experience was open in Austin, Texas! Throughout the week we saw SO many people from the community walk through the story of either Kombo, Babirye, Emmanuel and Mathabo, the children’s stories  we display in the Experience.

Bethany United Methodist Church was the host and they had decided to bring focused assistance to the World Vision project in Matete, which is a region in Kenya. Already some of their staff had traveled to Matete and had seen the work in action and the needs of people met in this region. Bethany UMC desired to go deeper and to better educate their own church and community about the needs and realities of Matete, they brought Step into Africa.

It was a glorious week with many special events planned in addition to the exhibit being setup in the gymnasium. There was a Sara Hickman concert (the official “State of Texas Musician of the year.”) She was very moved by the exhibit and donated all her donations from the show to the Matete community and sponsored children after walking through herself.

Princess Zulu, a strong AIDS advocate and ambassador of World Vision, gave a touching talk about her life as an HIV positive individual from Zambia and encouraged a full audience in the Santucary about the reality of AIDS and the fight and hope we can have.

A children’s event on the weekend gave youth a chance to be “Hands on with Africa” by building a clay hut, tasting African cuisine and playing on drums and instruments from Africa. The kids all had fun and all learned how others can live in other parts of the world.

Thank you to Bethany UMC for all your hard work. Kerry Stevens especially was instrumental in bringing Step into Africa to town and we thank him for his unrelentness passion that was displayed before, during and after the exhibit was in town.

See you next year Austin!

“This is the best thing this church has ever done.” — Deborah Coe, visitor

Through the partnership of three churches, the Cornerstone Church, River Valley Christian Fellowship and Calvary Bible Church, Step into Africa was hosted!

Already, the Cornerstone church had partnered with World Vision in a community called Marafa in Kenya. Their existing relationship was already strong, but they wanted to take it farther and show their congregation a bit about the needs of their community and to deepen the relationship by sponsoring more children in the Marafa community.

The event was kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony, where the Mayor of Bourbonnais came and gave a short speech and officially opened up the event. Local media was present and we had a strong presence the first day opening.

Throughout the week, people learned about how AIDS affects communities like Marafa and how they could get involved in helping those who need care and compassion. Cornerstone church sacrificed their own sanctuary to host the exhibit and had their services outside!

Marafa was definitely assisted in this time and since it is part of the region that is suffering from the Horn of Africa famine, the need to help them was that much more increased. We created a Horn of Africa stall special for this site to give people an option to help those in the region.

Many children got sponsored this week — praise God!  It was great to see a strong partnership amongst these three churches and to have them walk together in partnering with Marafa.

Big thank you to the planning teams and the Bourbonnais community. Next stop Austin!

What an AMAZING week in Greenwich, Connecticut!

In 2005, the Step into Africa’s very first event was in Grand Central Station in New York City. It was more of a prototype version back then, but it inspired some individuals from Greenwich and finally five years later, the Experience came to Christ Church in their Parish Hall. Christ Church Greenwich partnered with Trinity Church and Stanwich Church to support bringing the Experience into town.

Thank you to our amazing church planning team for all the efforts in spreading the word and getting people to help the children who suffer most from the AIDS crisis. God really moved this week in small and big ways and I would like to share with you some of these stories about how God involves himself in the small ways about our daily lives.

One story was of a woman who was inspired to sponsor a child, but was indecisive about a boy from Rwanda and a boy from Zambia. She asked me about World Visions work in Zambia and after some short thought, she put the children back on “the wall” as she had to leave with friends, but she said she would come back in a few hours.

As she was back looking at these two boys on the wall of over 100 children, she prayed for God to reveal to her who she should sponsor. As she looked, a lady who was next to her picked the Zambian boy to sponsor and walked out with it! She knew that she was to sponsor the Rwandan boy and was overjoyed as she left the Experience.

Another story actually involved me and it still stirs my spirit as I tell you this story.

For a year and half now I have sponsored a boy from Uganda. As this week moved on and hundreds of people came through everyday and children were being sponsored and love was felt all around, I felt led to sponsor another child from the community that Trinity Church had been partnering with for years now. The people from Trinity church had such a strong love for the people of Rwanda and this was evident in the first hand stories of many of them visiting their sponsored kids and World Visions projects in the field. Maybe it was partly their committment to Rwanda that inspired me, maybe it was the spirit moving me, maybe it was just a way to remember how special this week really was. In any event, I decided to sponsor a boy named Emmanuel.

I carefully looked through the many children available for sponsorship and read their stories. Emmanuel lived with his grandmother and 2 brothers and 1 sister. If he lives with his Grandmother, then one thing can be certain: He lost his parents, and he lost them likely to AIDS. His picture was echoing sadness and hurt. I felt it and I sponsored him, looking forward to the love I could give him in the form of gifts, writing and a potential visit like many of the community members of Greenwich, CT had done.

Well, our volunteer coordinator Wendy had noticed I had sponsored Emmanuel and was excited to tell me some news. At the end of our Experience, people write prayers and notes of encouragment to the children and families that are affected by AIDS. Wendy’s son Peter had written a special prayer for a child that was on the prayer wall and this is what it read:

“Emmanuel,

You will find that special person waiting to take care of you very soon!  Much love, From Peter  I hope you get this!”

As Wendy looked at the boy I sponsored, she realized it was the same boy Peter had prayed for. I was very moved. To think that in all the craziness and vastness of the world, our God still answers the simple prayer of a boy to another boy in a small Parish hall in Connecticut. Thank you God. Your heart breaks for Emmanuel and you love the children.

I am going to be sending this letter along with a picture of Peter to Emmanuel. Peter gave some stickers of animals to be included as well. I told Wendy if Peter ever wanted to send anything else, he could.

Together, we saw so many visitors this week and hundreds of children sponsored (check out our sponsorship thermometer below!)  Thank you God! Many hearts were touched and moved. Thank you again to the planning team of Greenwich for all your hard work and efforts. Brian, Chris, Wendy, Ray, Mary, Louisa, Drew, Ruth, and the many others — God Bless you.

In addtion, many special events happened including a Women of Vision dinner, An AIDS panel luncheon, an evening with Maya Angelou and a childrens choir from Tanzania. It was a full week and I leave making lifelong friends.

Next stop: Bourbonnais, IL in August!  Stay tuned for more updates!

Much Love,

Shawn

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