My name is Ange, and this is my story.
The first time I stepped into Africa was in 2004. It was in Kitale, Kenya, on a mission trip. I met a young boy named Andrew. He captured my heart and my soul, and I still think about him often.
The first time I “Stepped into Africa” was in 2007. It was at my church in Southern California. I met a boy named Kombo. He captured my heart and my soul, and I think about him often.
I know both of these kids’ stories. I've seen where they live. I've seen their families. I've learned their stories. And I feel a strong connection and compassion for both of them.
But what's the difference between these two children? Andrew has seen my face. Kombo has not.
In Kenya, 8-year old Kombo tests HIV-positive. © Robert Coronado/World Vision
That’s because I met Kombo at an exhibit -- the World Vision Experience: AIDS. It's a national tour that stops in cities all around the United States, setting up stage mainly in churches and universities. This interactive, walk-through exhibit features stirring audio and captivating photography that allows visitors to "step into Africa" and experience the life of a child affected by HIV & AIDS.
When the exhibit came to my church in November 2007, I immediately fell in love with the tour and the concept of giving people an opportunity to experience a country they may never see with their own two eyes. The World Vision Experience is filled with pictures of children -- you see where they sleep, you walk in their shoes, and you experience their life as your own.
Toward the end of your walk through the child's story, you learn the fate of that one child -- whether or not he or she is HIV-positive. It's in that moment that the AIDS pandemic has a face. And for me, that face is Kombo's.
The World Vision Experience: AIDS Tour team (L-R) Dean, Kristin, Ange, and Shawn.
Some 33 million people are living with HIV right now.
No longer does this statistic seem foreign to me, because I've met one of those 33 million.
I started traveling with the Experience exhibit in February 2009. Our team took the tour up and down the West Coast, visiting some amazing church partners of World Vision and universities.
At each tour stop, I’m continually amazed at how God uses this 2,500-square-foot exhibit to change the lives of people in the United States and the lives of children in Africa. I’ve heard over and over from exhibit visitors and volunteers how the tour has changed the trajectory of the missions and compassion within a church. And I know it has certainly changed the trajectory of my life!
That's what working at World Vision means to me.
This fall, the I'll be touring with the Experience exhibit in Bourbonnais, Illinois; Austin, Texas; Sacramento, California; and Gainesville, Florida. Come and stop by if you’re in the area!