November 2011


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