What more can be said about the World Vision Experience: AIDS tour stop in Bolingbrook that hasn’t already been said about deep dish Chicago-style pizza? “It was delicious,” “fun to share,” “great for the whole family,” and “enjoyed by people from all walks of life.”

Actually, much more can be said!

Our week at Living Water Community Church in Bolingbrook, IL got off to an unusual start as we scheduled several extra days for repairs and overhauling before we officially opened the World Vision Experience: AIDS exhibit. We couldn’t have partnered with a better group of host churches from the Bolingbrook Clergy Association that allowed us this extra time and space to give the exhibit some attention before being visitor-ready. The fixes and changes were made with long hours, yet relatively no problems and we were well prepared for Sunday morning’s guests.

Throughout the week various organizations, clubs, and school groups reserved large blocks of time to bring 30-40 visitors through each half-hour, and the few time slots where there weren’t as many guests (say, because of a random ice-storm and other interesting weather events), we were blessed as a staff to be in the company of wonderful volunteers, getting to know many great Bolingbrook-ians.

One thing that stands out is the effect the exhibit had on the many school groups that went through. Typically they arrive by bus and are rowdy and loud with the excitement of being on a field-trip of sorts. However, when standing in the market place (the conclusion or wrap-up to someone’s visit) there was a solemn calmness as the teens exited one-by-one, obviously surprised by what they had just learned, if not moved, and regrouped to begin processing the information.

As a tour staff we quickly felt like we were amongst old friends as the planning committee and church staff were so welcoming and warm. Most of the time a church staff will suggest cool restaurants to try and things to see in the area. However, at this stop, I found myself taking home wonderful leftovers that church members had prepared, enjoying them a second time, and didn’t explore as much as sites in the past!

After such a wonderful time, we, the tour staff, left feeling incredibly encouraged, blessed, and thankful; encouraged by the Bolingbrook Clergy Association and their willingness to help World Vision reach out to children suffering as a result of the AIDS pandemic; blessed to have be in the generous company of the visitors and volunteers from the area; and thankful that God had allowed us to accomplish so much in just two weeks time.

Thanks again! In the weeks and months ahead we’re excited to share and hear stories about the changing of hearts and lives, from Tanzania to Illinois, as a result of our time together.  Next stop: Christ Church in Greenwich, CT! If you’re in the area make sure to stop by, if you know someone in the area tell them to come by and step into Africa!

“Whether ye eat, drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” -1 Cor 10:31

-Chris

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Our next stop is in February of 2011 — if you’re in the Chicago area, make sure to stop by and check us out!  We will be at Living Water Community Church in Bolingbrook, IL.

Click HERE for more info.

Click HERE to volunteer.

Click HERE to find out about more events in your area!

Hope you have a great Christmas!

— Ange

Just when you thought the warm Summer weather was over, think again! Our team was happy to come down to sunny Orlando, Florida to bring the Experience to Northland Church!

Besides hosting the Experience, Northland committed to building and sending 850 Caregiver Kits to Africa. These are kits that contain basic medical supplies for World Vision’s 80,000 caregivers that bring help to those who have HIV or AIDS. Many people from the community were able to participate in building one of these kits.

We also had multiple opportunities to engage the greater Orlando area through speaking engagements, media interviews and offering sponsorship at the Sunday services.

One family had come to volunteer and has lost a daughter to AIDS. They were able to share their story to many people and when asked why they came to serve, the response was simple; “People need to know.”

It’s true. People need to know how AIDS affects our world. Our country. Our city. Our town. Our block. Our family.

Thank you Northland for hosting the Experience this week. And thank you to all the churches and conferences that hosted the Experience this year. Thank you for all the people who supported World Vision’s work in the field, and being the hands and feet to our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer from AIDS.

We on the tourstaff are taking a holiday break now. We are all very grateful to everyone who provided us hospitality, laughter and encouragement.  Keep checking here to see if the Experience is coming to a town near you!

God Bless~

Shawn

Sadly, it has come to an end of another great week for the World Vision Experience. We got to spend our week between Yosemite National Park and the Sequoias in the wonderful city of Fresno, CA. The week started off when our large truck was noticed at a local truck stop, and some people ran up and got all excited to see the exhibit coming to their town.  Apparently our 54-ft trailer is famous!

This was a fun-filled week of youth groups, school groups, Bible studies and a whole lot more. Not only were we able to bring help to many kids in Swaziland (through child sponsorship) but also had two special guest from Swaziland visit the World Vision Experience.  They traveled all this way to help answer questions about the communities that World Vision works alongside, and to thank churches that have been giving support (read more about World Vision’s work in Swaziland here.)  We didn’t only work with one church but eight churches in the community that have come together to bring hope to a community on the other side of the world.

But like every good thing, this week had to come to an end and this one came just like it started.  A gathering of new and old friends, around a family dinner, at the local Dog House Diner.

Next stop: Orlando, FL!  Click here for more info, and make sure to pass it along to all your Florida friends!

— Trooper

What a joy it was to spend a week at Springcreek Church in Glarland, Texas. It’s been a while since I’ve been out on the road with the tour and I can’t explain how wonderful it was to come out and work alongside God’s servants at Springcreek.

Springcreek has an unbelievable passion for Katito, a World Vision community in Kenya. Their passion is infectious and their hearts are big. Many of our volunteers who served in our child sponsorship area this week had been to Katito and had seen the devastating poverty: the lack of access to clean water, food, health care, education and opportunity. But they’ve also seen and believe because they’ve seen with their own eyes, the hope that World Vision provides by addressing each of those issues, enabling their sponsored children to have access to each of those things. I loved hearing their stories about meeting their sponsored kids and the transformational impact their trip had on their lives. The joy they took in helping more of these Katito kids find sponsors served as such a blessing. Yet another week of lives changed, both here and in the community of Katito, Kenya.

Since coming off the road, I have had the pleasure to support the World Vision Experience: AIDS tour from the office in Seattle, WA. I work with churches just like Springcreek who are interested in hosting the Experience and guide them through the on-boarding process. We are currently looking for churches like Springcreek who have a heart for serving God’s children around the world, especially those impacted by the AIDS pandemic. If you are interested, please e-mail experience@worldvision.org or call us at 1.800.473.7282. We would love to hear from you and learn why you have a passion to turn the tides on the HIV and AIDS pandemic!

— Kristin

This past month, I had the privilege of being in Spokane at the NorthTown Mall as part of World Vision’s Count on Spokane campaign (to learn more about it click here.) It was a unique experience for me, and all together as well.  I normally travel as a tour staff with the Experience: AIDS tour, we stay in cities for 10 days at a time — I was in Spokane, WA for an entire month!  Another unique thing was that we were able to create ‘The Village: A World Vision Experience’ and were able to utilize suggestions that we’ve heard from past visitor and volunteers of the Experience: AIDS tour and other events we’ve been a part of.

One of the stories that sticks out in my mind from The Village is from a single father, in his late 20’s. One day he came through with a friend (who was also a single father.) After watching the video, he decided to sponsor a child. The next day, he came back again, this time with his sister who, after seeing the picture of his sponsored child in his car, decided she wanted to sponsor. The next day (for the third day in a row) he came back, this time with his two children. It was precious seeing him lead his kids through The Village and show them the differences between what their new sister has and what they have.

We have officially taken down The Village from the mall, it was bittersweet to see it all done.  As you’ve read in the past few blogposts, we’ve had 4 former interns join our Count on Spokane team, which was fun and we really became a family during our time together. We’ll miss them, especially as we go to our next stop for the Experience: AIDS tour in Fresno, CA.

— Michelle

PS: I also got to celebrate my birthday, and wore this fantastic sash all day!

Hello, my name is Ryan and I am one of the lucky new staff challenging the city of Spokane to make a difference in the lives of 2600 children for the city-wide campaign called Count on Spokane. We have been showing this community about the realities of many who live in Africa, and giving the opportunity to be a part of the work World Vision is doing with an exhibit called The Village. The Village is designed to be interactive so visitors can see, touch, and feel the need to tackle poverty one child sponsorship at a time. As we are nearing the end of our time here at the NorthTown Mall (today!), I can’t help but reflect on one activity that has brought a lot of life to the exhibit.

Ryan!

Drums! For better or worse, the colorful sound of African drums (jimbay’s) continue to bounce off the walls near Sears and Mrs. Fields filling the NorthTown Mall with curiosity. Drawn by the sound of the drums, curious mall walkers approach The Village and beg the question, “What are you doing here?” Curious store owners beg the question, “What are you still doing here?”

One thing is for certain, and that is drums bring excitement and a curious fascination to the Village. We have seen the same group of wandering after-school teens make multiple visits to gather around and pound on the drums together. Young children’s reaction to the drums always seem to be different – they will sometimes run up and unabashedly swing at the drum. Other times an invitation to play will only warrant ear muffs and a quick retreat to the safety of mom and dad. However, the most curious encounter yet has not been from the youth, but the elderly. We had an unexpected visit from an assisted living community in Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho. As they made their way through The Village, the 70+ year old tenants insisted on gathering around the drum circle and getting pictures as they all gave the animal-skin drumheads a workout. The most ferocious of them all was a 97-year-old woman insistent on playing from her wheelchair.

Although our courteous neighbors in the mall might no longer share the same excitement as this 97-year-old about the drums, all the commotion has certainly been advancing our goal of 2600 lives changed around the world. We always need to remember why we are here at the NorthTown mall and that is to give children a hope and a future. We have seen many children’s lives changed as a result so far and if drums continue to help us in achieving that goal, then by all means… Boom, Boom, Pow!

— Ryan