Yesterday, President of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame, joined Pastor Rick Warren for Kwibuka 20, a special service at Saddleback Church to honor the victims of the Rwandan genocide 20 years later and celebrate the partnership and efforts of The PEACE Plan in Rwanda over the past 10 years.
Kwibuka means 20 in Kinyarwanda. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which began April 7, 1994. The genocide took the lives of 1 million Rwandans and left 1 million children orphaned over the course of 100 days before it ended in July 1994.
“This moment is important for me, personally, and for Rwanda because it brings us to remember the more than 1 million individuals who lost their life and honor the strength of survival and resilience of Rwanda that has kept our nation alive,” said President Kagame. “During the genocide, almost every church betrayed its divine mission. Rwandans sought refuge in the church only to be betrayed. But today, things are different. Thank you, Saddleback members, for providing a meaningful partnership. Faith in God is once again a sense of comfort for many Rwandans.”
Eleven years ago, President Kagame, after reading Pastor Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Church,” invited Saddleback to start sending members to help make Rwanda the first Purpose-Driven nation and the first national model of The PEACE Plan. The church responded and has today sent more than 1,2000 Saddleback members to serve in Rwanda.
The PEACE Plan works worldwide to Promote reconciliations, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation. It is a massive effort to mobilize millions of Christians to attack the five global evil giants of spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and illiteracy/education. Since its founding in 2003, Saddleback has sent over 21,000 members to implement The PEACE Plan in 197 nations.
“God tells us to remember the past,” said Pastor Warren. “More than 2,000 years ago, another nation by the name of Israel was torn by war and everyone thoughts its days were over. But God raised up a business leader, government leader and spiritual leaders to restore the country. God knew it would take all three sectors to rebuild the nation. In this same way, Rwanda has been rebuilt.”
Through The PEACE Plan in Rwanda, Saddleback Church has worked together with the public, private and faith sectors of Rwanda – what it calls the three-legged stool of churches, government and businesses – to help lower the poverty rate, empty orphanages, provide healthcare, train pastors and provide education.
“When we first visited Rwanda, we had no idea what we were doing or what we had to give, but we brought what we knew, which was the love of Christ,” said Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church.
The Saddleback leadership saw the magnitude of churches in Rwanda where healthcare facilities were lacking and envisioned a model of training church members to provide care. Today, just over 9,000 trained health workers volunteer to make house calls and serve families in villages that will never have a doctor.
Additionally, Saddleback has seen the number of people living below the poverty rate in Rwanda drop 11 percent and has used local churches to work toward the goal of emptying every orphanage and place every orphan in a family by the end of 2014. Currently, there are only 1,400 orphans left in orphanages.
Over 3,200 pastors have completed a three-year intensive training in the purpose-driven PEACE Plan. These churches now offer everything from micro-savings clubs to preschools to programs training farmers how to double their crops on the same amount of land.
“The mission of Rwanda to not create a dependency on others is why The PEACE Plan has thrived so well in this nation,” Pastor Warren said. “The PEACE Plan is built on the Great Commandment that says, ‘Go and teach them,” not do for them. People need trade, not aid. They don’t need a hand out, they need a hand up.
During the service, Pastor Warren announced that in 2015, Saddleback will host the first continent-wide Purpose Driven leadership training in Rwanda, bringing in more than 1,000 leaders from 54 African countries.
“Our relationship with Saddleback has contributed to the renewal of our country,” President Kagame said. “We continue to work together with friends to ensure our future no longer holds fear but opportunity.”
Fifty percent of Rwanda is under the age of 20, and 71 percent are under 30. President Kagame shared during the service of Rwanda’s efforts to remember its past and educate a new generation of the past so they don’t take things for granted.
Throughout the evening, Pastor Warren spoke favorably about Rwanda’s exponential growth over the last 20 years, saying God has blessed Rwanda because they have chosen to forgive, are willing to work together, have trusted God, understand they cannot repeat the past, and refuse to give up.