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 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

We had a great time in Brentwood this past week at Otter Creek Church of Christ.  I must say upfront though, that the weather was considerably warmer here, than in TacomaOtter Creek had a great team of volunteers led by David and Sarah Wilson, they truly did a great job preparing the week and getting people there excited for the Experience.  We focused on two main area of Kenya – Soweto and Motumo…both areas in great need.  World Vision has been active in these areas for some time and it was excited to partner with a church that too reaches out to these areas in Kenya.  Many children were sponsored as a result of bringing the Experience to Otter Creek!

As always, it was exciting to see families come through the exhibit together and sponsor children.  Many times we’d walk around the corner and see a group of folks gathered around the “Connect” table–writing letters to their new sponsor child.  Michelle (one of our awesome tour staff) was just in Zambia visiting her sponsor child and she recalled the incredible, community wide celebration that occurred upon her arrival.  I’ve been working with World Vision for two years, and over this time I’ve heard many stories about children in the World Vision sponsorship program who have celebrations when they receive the news: “you’ve been sponsored!”  Joy and more joy, probably overflowing, and I suppose it’s hard for the kids to focus the next day in school, they just can’t stop talking about their new “family.”

Well, the team is off to Spokane, WA to join in the “Count on Spokane” events for the month of September (click here for more information.)  We will be in the NorthTown mall for 31 days, sharing an interactive, multimedia Village that focuses on the benefits of community development.  It’s a large undertaking, and major “props” to Ange for pulling it all together.  If you have family or know people in the area, we would love for them to visit The Village and volunteer if they have availability.

Thanks, Brentwood!  See you soon, Spokane.

-dean

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We had a great week with some incredible people in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The Church in Mountain Home is a representation of numerous churches within the Mountain Home area that all partnered to host the Experience. It was such a blessing to work alongside so many different congregations in being a voice for these children. This entire community is incredibly engaged with World Vision and many families within the area have had the chance to go over to Kenya and meet their sponsored children. We had such a great time hearing these stories and looking at the pictures of the work World Vision is doing through sponsors like you all! It is such a joy to hear the first-hand stories of those that have gotten the chance to hug their sponsored children, have seen the wells built through your donations and have seen the children and families whose lives have been transformed through sponsorship.

The community is hosting a Marathon in November to raise money for Kenya. If you happen to find yourself in the Mountain Home area November 21st be a part of the incredible work this community is doing and show your support!