This week our church has had the amazing opportunity of hosting World Vision's Step Into Africa Experience.
When I first heard about the Experience coming, I really didn't know what it was all about; I for sure wanted to go and check it out, but I was clueless. As the week got closer and closer, though, I just felt God prodding me with this opportunity....so I signed up to volunteer for a couple of shifts, working in the Experience. I will never forget what I have heard and seen. If you are in the Springfield area, I encourage you to get there this week and walk through; take your kids, and walk through with them. I actually took Jacob through tonight, hoping to foster a seed of awareness in him, hopefully, one that will grow. If you live in other parts of the country, don't despair; the Experience travels around, and it could be coming to a city near you. Read on to find out more....I'll give information about how to find out at the bottom of this post. Believe me, when I say that this walk in a child's shoes will change your life.
So, who is World Vision, and what is Step Into Africa? World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Many people think that World Vision is just about child sponsorship, and that is a huge part of what they do, but it's so much more. They work in disaster relief around the globe; they work against the heinous act of human trafficking; help to provide clean water and nutritious food; help to provide basic health care needs; help to provide educational needs; and help men and women start their own businesses, so their communities can grow and thrive. My focus in this post, though, is Step Into Africa.
Step Into Africa is an interactive, walk-through exhibit; it takes you through the lives of four children: Kombo, Emmanuel, Mathabo, and Babirye.....any of which could have "the big disease," or AIDS. As you walk through this exhibit and sit where they have sat, you feel as if you are actually in Africa. AIDS is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. They say that ignorance is bliss, and I'm beginning to think that sadly, it is true in many people's lives here in America. As I walked through three of the children's journeys, I couldn't help but become emotional and wonder at each one's courage. Kombo's eyes drew me in from the very beginning, as I walked his journey of lying beside his mother as she was dying of AIDS, of the fear he experienced, living near the truckstop, where many, many children are kidnapped and exploited....of the fear and horrible gut feeling that came when that red positive stamp was pressed onto my hand, signifying that I had AIDS.
As I became Babirye, tears came to my eyes when I saw the precious little shoes that were worn....those precious little shoes signified a child that I just wanted to hug and tell her that everything was going to be ok. The tiny shorts and baggy shirt that Emmanuel wore, as he and his brother buried their mother in the banana grove....they were orphaned by AIDS. The stories could go on and on. After leaving the Health Clinic portion of the Experience, I walked into a chapel filled with faces and pictures of so many people affected by AIDS and its awful devastation. Many of their faces had that red positive stamp stamped over them, signifying that they had AIDS or had died of AIDS. Many of them were children, precious little children.
The chapel room is the room that affected me the most, seeing all of the real faces behind the crisis, seeing the reality of what is, day in and day out, in Africa. One statistic that I have read lately is that 740 children die daily of AIDS; that's 1 child every 2 minutes. Not to downplay H1N1, but why aren't we raising such a fuss over AIDS? As I watched Jacob write his prayer for the children tonight and hang it on the wall, I realized that he got it....the seed is planted; now to water it and help it to grow.
As a result of living the Experience this week, we have taken up the call to sponsor a child; I'll be sharing more about that in the coming days and weeks. I'm so excited about this opportunity, because in sponsoring a child with World Vision, you get to watch your child grow up; you get to write them letters, as well as receive letters from them. My children will get to know another child clear across the globe, and I can only hope and pray that this makes a difference in not only her life, but in theirs as well. With sponsorship, the child you choose will gain assistance with food, school, or healthcare needs. Your sponsorship helps the child, but it also helps the community around that child because World Vision aims to educate communities about how AIDS is spread and target prevention and care programs to those communities. They aim for physical and spiritual well-being in each child that is sponsored. I keep looking at the picture of our child, and I already just love her. I can't wait to get to know her. If you truly know me, you know that adoption is very much in my heart for the future, and this is just one step closer to a dream.
Is God calling you to reach out and sponsor a child? Maybe He wants you to foster awareness in your own community even. I learned that in my county alone, there are 350 people living with AIDS. That hit close to home. No matter where you live, no matter your situation, there is something you can do. Don't let ignorance be your bliss. Find your bliss by stepping out and taking action. Step Into Africa to Step Into Action.
To find out when the Experience might be coming to a city near you, click here to find a location. You can also find World Vision on Facebook.
Would you be willing to spread the word about this experience on your own blog? Maybe you have a different opportunity to share about. Link up with Mr. Linky below, making sure to link back to Real Heart Prints in your post. Together, let's shine our light.