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 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

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!