The Journey Church, a 175-member church in San Jose, California, is a small church making a big difference for orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. It all began when The Journey’s pastor joined a fellow church member on a trip led by World Vision to the rural community of Limpopo. Returning to their home church, the men shared what they had seen: heartbreaking loss due to poverty and HIV/AIDS, as well as life-saving work being done to address the issue. The Journey was inspired to take action and begin raising both awareness and support.
The Journey decided to partner with World Vision’s “Church to Child, Church and Community” initiative. Working with an experienced international organization has provided their church with the resources and tools to scale up their efforts, while fostering their ongoing connection to the community of Limpopo through vision trips, field reports, and child sponsorship. Most of The Journey’s members, including the Children’s Ministry as a group, sponsor children. Their monthly contributions provide ongoing support to orphans, vulnerable children, and their families, and the community group that supports them.
Every year, The Journey Church holds an event called Celebrate Hope. On a Sunday morning church and community members come together to raise awareness about the needs of children in Limpopo, raise money, and build kits that contain supplies for caregivers ministering to people who are living with AIDS and other illnesses. Youth seeking community service hours from nearby schools are invited, as well as local politicians and other members of the community. The church band provides entertainment as volunteers put together caregiver kits. Then everyone gathers to watch a video and hear a guest speaker.
Celebrate Hope has grown with each year, attracting more participants and drawing community members to the church. The first year, 200 caregiver kits were assembled. The next year this number rose to 400, and by the fifth year over $70,000 was raised, supporting 1,000 kits and providing the funds to finish a school building.
Every other year, a new team from The Journey accompanies World Vision on a vision trip to Limpopo. The church members go as ambassadors, rather than to do a project. They meet local World Vision staff and community volunteers, visit the families of the sponsored children, and share their stories back in San Jose.
Shel Virden, one of the current leaders of The Journey’s partnership with World Vision, remembers the tremendous sense of family he felt while visiting Limpopo in 2010:
“While many of the children we visited had lost one or both parents, they were surrounded by their families who were caring for them. We witnessed a spirit of hope. Sponsorship does not just impact one child, it provides hope to a whole family and opportunity for a child to be educated and break the cycle of poverty.”
(Journeys of Faith, page 12)