By Guy Leonard, County Times
SAYSF Bible Church Rodney Spade, right, and church member Colin Wilkinson look out over their churchs gym which will be transformed in June by a exhibit of an African village detailing the scourge of AIDS in that continent, particularly for children. Below is Chad Laird, associate pastor. (Photo: Guy Leonard)
LEXINGTON PARK, Md. (May 15, 2008)—At the SAYSF (Seek and Ye Shall Find) Bible Church in Lexington Park, the gymnasium is about to transform from a place where their youth and congregation play sports and experience fellowship to something with a much graver tone.
Come June 7 a replica of an African village will spring up within its walls to give visitors a chance to look into the lives of four young children who live under the threat of the AIDS virus.
The project, called World Vision Experience: AIDS, allows visitors to take an interactive tour of the village and trace the lives of the four children; Babirye, Mathabo, Kombo and Emmanuel; in dealing with the impacts of the disease and the fear of whether or not they will survive.
World Vision, an international Christian-based humanitarian group, has operated the interactive exhibit since 2005 and more than 30,000 people in 14 cities throughout the nation have experienced it.
Lexington Park and the SAYSF Bible Church is the exhibits latest stop. World Vision partners with churches to help improve the life of those suffering from the impact of AIDS in Africa, and elsewhere, so they can survive the disease longer and hopefully stem the tide of its spread.
Projects like providing wells for clean water, helping the infected get access to lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs and sponsoring children who have been orphaned by the disease are among the efforts.
SAYSF Pastor Rodney Spade said the suffering of the people in Africa, plus his own experience helping people in the foreign field, swayed his congregation to support the World Vision drive for help.
Its also a chance to preach the Christian Gospel.
I served among primitive people in New Guinea for 10 years, Spade said. To see the day-to-day going without
you begin to meet their needs and they see you are genuinely helping them.
That leads to sharing the love of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Steve Krentel, senior area director of World Vision, said AIDS is perhaps the single greatest humanitarian crisis facing Africa.
The exhibit was designed to enlighten and embolden people who have much to help those who have nothing.
There are 6,000 children orphaned every day because of the HIV/AIDS virus, Krentel said. [The exhibit] is not designed to manipulate but it will stir your emotions.
We want [children in Africa] to reach their fifth birthday.
According to World Vision, every 15 seconds someone dies from AIDS somewhere in the world.
The exhibit offers not only a glimpse into the squalor and disease children must endure in an African village impacted by AIDS, but visitors will also be able to hear audio recordings detailing their plight.
Visitors are asked the questions Will I survive at a truck stop on the AIDS highway? Will you survive my journey?
Quotes from the young children are written on the walls of the rooms in village. One says Mother, do I have the big disease?
Colin Wilkinson, project coordinator and congregation member at SAYSF, said volunteers are still needed from among the seven churches involved in the project to get it completed.
Were now into the final moments, Wilkinson said. We need 300 volunteers and weve about 35 percent signed up
We need to keep on telling people.
The six other local churches involved in the project are Faith Bible Church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, South Point Church, Patuxent River Presbyterian Church, Patuxent River Assembly of God and St. Pauls United Methodist Church.
Chad Laird, associate pastor at SAYSF, said hopes were high that the exhibit would stir believers and non-believers alike to help ease the suffering of those in Africa so that souls might be saved.
Church leadership hopes thousands will come to visit while the exhibit is open from June 8 to June 13.
Showing the love of Jesus in a practical way can open their hearts, Laird said of those suffering.
For more information about the project visit the Web site at http://www.worldvisionexperience.org/ .