Purpose Driven in Rwanda
In 2002, God dropped a pebble into the pond of Kay Warren's life in the form of a magazine article about HIV/AIDS in Africa. Three years later, the ripple effect has reached all the way from her home in Orange County, California, to Africa.
It's still gaining strength through the PEACE plan, a bold ministry vision from Kay's influential husband, Saddleback Church's Rick Warren. I traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, with the Warrens and 42 other American evangelicals in July, where they joined 9,000 Rwandan Christians in launching the first "Purpose-Driven Nation" initiative to harness businesspeople, politicians, and pastors against the nation's biggest social problems.
Kay told Christianity Today seeing that article was "an appointment with God he intended to grab my attention." The news photos were so graphic that she covered her eyes and peeked through just enough to read the words. There was a quote box in the middle of the article that read: "12 million children orphaned in Africa due to AIDS."
"It was as if I fell off the donkey on the Damascus road because I had no clue. I didn't know one single orphan." For days afterward, she was haunted by that fact: 12 million orphans.
Unable to block it from her mind, Kay began to get mad at God, praying, "Leave me alone. Even if it is true, what can I do about it? I'm a white, suburban soccer mom. There is nothing I can do." But that did no good.
After weeks, then months of anguish, she realized she faced a fateful choice. She could either pretend she did not know about the HIV/AIDS pandemic or she could become personally involved.
"I made a conscious choice to say, 'Yes.' I had a pretty good suspicion that I was saying yes to a bucket load of pain. In that moment, God shattered my heart. He just took my heart and put it through a woodchip machine. My heart came out on the other side in more pieces than I could gather back up in my arms.
"It changed the direction of my life. I will never be the same. Never. I can never go back. I became a seriously disturbed woman."
Through this period, Kay said nothing to her husband. Warren's 2002 book, The Purpose-Driven Life, had in a matter of months skyrocketed into national bestseller status. Selling at up to 1 million copies per month, it has been the best-selling new book in the world since 2003. With that title and his earlier one, The Purpose-Driven Church, Warren has sold 26 million books.
Warren says when his wife finally told him God was calling her to the front lines of ministry against HIV/AIDS in Africa, he responded, saying, "That's great, honey. I'm going to support you. It's not my vision."
"But nothing is as strong as pillow talk," he added. "God used my wife to grab my heart."
Because of the millions in book sales, the Warrens all of a sudden had become wealthy. Warren's celebrity also sprang forward, and he is ranked as the second most influential evangelical after evangelist Billy Graham among surveyed pastors.
With this newfound affluence and influence, the couple says they made five decisions: They did not upgrade their lifestyle. Warren stopped taking a paycheck from Saddleback. He repaid 25 years of his salary to the church he founded in 1980. They created three charitable foundations. They started "reverse tithing," meaning they live on 10 percent of their income and give away 90 percent.
In 2003, Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez author now ministering in Johannesburg, South Africa, invited the Warrens to help lead an HIV/AIDS conference with his own wife, Darlene. The Warrens agreed to go. He led a Purpose Driven conference for 90,000 African pastors, using digital satellite downlinks.