Forty Days for Rwanda
This month, Rwandans by the tens of thousands in hundreds of churches around the East African nation are taking part in Forty Days of Purpose, a campaign Saddleback Church's Rick Warren kicked off with 19,000 people in Kigali on Sunday, March 30.
Forty Days of Purpose, a discipleship and evangelism program, has been featured in thousands of North American churches. It's tied to Warren's global best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life. There have been city-wide campaigns before, but this is the first time a nation, including its president and other top leaders, has taken part in the program.
In 2005 Warren announced his global PEACE plan, which in its current formulation stands for: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping servant leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation. The Forty Days of Purpose program is to correspond with church-based PEACE-plan projects in Rwanda.
On Sunday, traditional Rwandan music, dance, and bunting colored the event in Kigali's Amahoro Stadium. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini were among the prominent people taking part. Kagame said, "The PEACE plan combines the talent and energy from three sectors of society public, private, and faith."
President Kagame affirmed Saddleback Church's Western Rwanda HIV/AIDS Healthcare Initiative. This program uses church facilities as local medical clinics. "This model can be replicated in other parts of our country," Kagame said. "More importantly, more Rwandans of faith need to adopt this mindset."
During his remarks, Warren touched on the key concepts in his book. Two Scriptures that he chose to support his message were "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20) and "Overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Close to half the stadium stood up when he concluded by asking if they were ready to live for Christ and begin a life of new purpose.
The service also recognized nearly 200 pastors, each wearing a cap and gown. The pastors had completed two years of training in the principles of the Purpose Driven program.
Fifty volunteers from Saddleback also attended the event. Since 2005, nearly 1,000 volunteers from the church have been involved orphan care, law enforcement, and other social services in Rwanda.
In Kigali the next day, Warren met with Kagame, health experts, and officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to discuss the HIV epidemic.
"Never sacrifice sustainability for speed," Warren said to U.S. business, government, and development agency representatives. "This conference is about partnership, not paternalism. The number one problem in international development is not lack of money, but lack of trust in local leaders to know what to do."
Forty Days of Purpose will overlap with Rwanda's annual observance of the 100 days of genocide that began on April 6, 1994.
Alex Garcia, a newspaper photojournalist from the Midwest, traveled with the Saddleback team to Rwanda as a ministry volunteer. He is a former member of Saddleback Church in Southern California.
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