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

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

Hello, from sunny and beautiful Spokane, WA.  Leading up to this past holiday week, we hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day and hopefully a great time with family or friends.  As for the team, we were on day 10 of a 6-week effort in Spokane, WA called “Count on Spokane.”  It’s an effort to sponsor 2,600 kids in the Spokane area through a variety of World Vision events.  Beyond the experiential portion, (which I’ll explain more below,) other activities include a Kenny Rodgers concert, Art Walk, Caregiver kit build, and viewings of the much anticipated ‘Journey to Jamaa.’  As for our team, we are perched between a Mrs. Fields Cookies and a Champ Sports at the NorthTown Mall.  Yes, indeed, I’ve been at a mall more in the past 10 days, than in the past 10 years.

We have set up The Village: A World Vision Experience in the space normally taken by cell phone kiosks, Super Shammy demonstrators, Santa Claus, or hand-woven beads (sunglasses, rugs, calendars, DirectTV – you name it, it has been sold in these areas!)  Our exhibit truly does surprise those who walk by, whether they are at the mall to window shop or go directly to buy the latest Air Jordans.  The Village shares the reality of life for many families living in Africa and other parts of the developing world by focusing on the core necessities needed for sustainable development: clean water, food and nutrition, education, healthcare, and economic development.

As you can imagine, it has been a unique time to visit with people not familiar with the work of World Vision.  As a humanitarian organization, we strive to end the realities of poverty and hunger.  We aim to stop the 26,000 children who die each day from lack of nutrition.  We want to eliminate the walk many children and parents make each day for water, and replace that with an education, or an economic opportunity that provides for their families.  This is what sponsorship provides: the tools necessary to develop and maintain self-sustaining communities, rich and motivated by opportunity.

As our 2nd week continues, please lift up in prayer the community of Spokane, the team, and all we connect with.  Whether they are jamming in the drum circle, or learning how WV distributes food, this truly can be a time used by the Lord.  For kids needing sponsorship, it’s time to Count on Spokane, but also, the time Spokane can count on us.

Half of our tour staff will be staying in Spokane for the month of September while the other half travel to the next tour stop in a week: Springcreek Church in Garland, TX!  Click here for more info!

Until next week, thank you.

-dean

Ange St. Hilaire

Ange St. Hilaire

 

Everyday I step into Africa.  Working with the World Vision Experience: AIDS tour I look at pictures of Africa all day long — mostly Uganda, Lesotho, and Kenya. I see beautiful sunsets, stark acacia trees, the thatch huts; I see unpaved roads and the primitive way Africans prepare meals.  I also see sadness and desperation in the beautiful faces. There is so much poverty, sadness, and hopelessness in the countries residing on this continent, yet there is such a clear vision and pathway to hope.

Everyday I recite statistics that are shocking and terrifying: 33 million people are infected with HIV or AIDS around the globe, 2/3rd’s of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, every 6 seconds a child is infected with the virus — these type of statistics used to frighten me. Now I seem to be numb to them. …I know what you’re thinking: “Ange — how can you be so insensitive? These stats are heartbreaking, how could you not care?” Normally, when we hear these type of facts our gut reaction is shock — I’m not shocked anymore.  I still care for Africa, I will always love Africa, but at one point we have to start asking the question: how do these statistics apply to my life? 

The worst thing we could do after hearing numbers, statistics, and stories is become so overwhelmed that we feel paralyzed from taking action!

When I went to Africa I met many people who I think about and pray for on a daily basis. I care about what happens to Africa, because I love and care for the people who live there.  I’ve heard hundreds of people say the same thing after visiting the continent, “the people are amazing!” and whenever the question “What was your favorite part about Africa?” is asked, the answer is (usually) “the people.”  It’s these people who I have a connection with.  It’s these people who keep me from remaining paralyzed.

I have another connection with Africa; their names are Lonah from Kenya and Eric from Rwanda.  These are the kids I sponsor through World Vision.  I’ve never met them…I’ve never heard their voice…I’ve never seen where they live or where they go to school…but they own a piece of my heart.  It’s hard to describe the joy I feel when I see the blue air mail envelope in the mailbox – a letter from them!  Lonah and Eric know my name, they know I care for them, and that’s my reminder to step back into Africa (pun intended!)

What moves you back into the heart of Africa?  What reminds you to keep moving forward?  One person cannot help the entire continent – but together, through the simple act of sponsorship, we can change one life and one community at a time.  Sponsorship is the pathway to hope for children.  It’s something I can do.  It’s something you can do.  It’s something we all can do to keep us moving forward and reminding us to Step back into Africa.

– Ange St. Hilaire