What comes to mind when you think of the country of Rwanda ? Genocide? Poverty? HIV/AIDS? Hopelessnes? In this land the world seemed to forget there is a powerful stirring of God's Spirit.
I have just returned from a visit to this small, landlocked East African nation. At the invitation of Rick Warren, pastor and author of Purpose Driven Life, I was invited to participate in launch of a national P.E.A.C.E. plan. This initiative came about through a remarkable set of circumstances.
President Kigami, the current leader of Rwanda , read Purpose Driven Life about a year ago and was deeply impacted by the biblical concepts presented by Warren . The president decided to write Pastor Warren, which lead to his visiting Saddleback Church in California and a team from Saddleback visiting Rwanda .
“We want our country to become a “purpose driven” nation” the president boldly declared requesting help from Rick and his team.
It just so happened that Rick had been developing a deeper a heart for the poor and had a growing commitment to impact the world. In response to the “giant” issues in the world Rick and Saddleback have been formulating a strategy for local churches to engage on the frontline of mission. This P.E.A.C.E. plan calls upon local congregations to:
P lant Churches in response to spiritual emptiness
E quip servant leaders
A ssist the poor
C are for the Sick (Particularly those impacted by HIV/AIDS)
E ducate the illiterate
In seeking to help Rwanda become the first purpose driven nation in the world, Saddleback sent “listening” teams to connect with church, business and government leaders. These teams are working with Rwandanese leaders to determine an appropriate strategy to respond to the most pressing needs of the country.
During the official launch of this national PEACE plan, in which I had the privilege to participate, key events were held to explain this strategy. These included:
- Meetings with the top business leaders in the country
- A gathering at the president's home with his cabinet
- A training conference for over 500 pastors
- A banquet which was attend by at least one third of parliament
To launch this national PEACE plan a rally (which was broadcast on national radio) was held at the Peace Stadium. The 20,000 attendees heard inspiring speeches from the president, Rick Warren and key Christian leaders.
One of the most poignant moments for me was to hear the story of reconciliation between a Hutu and Tutsi. I was moved to tears to learn about the forgiveness that had been extended by the young Tutsi man to Hutu who had killed a number of people in his family. Not only had forgiveness been extended but a friendship had been developed. I was thrilled to hear that this is not an isolated situation but rather a part of the emerging story in this land so decimated by human tragedy.
It is stories like this that demonstrate God's grace that give me a great sense of hope for the people of Rwanda .
I am also hopeful for the P.E.A.C.E plan in Rwanda because it is based upon an understanding that the local church is God's instrument for community transformation. While governments, business and NGO's all have a significant role, this missing ingredient has so often been the local church. This particular strategy seems to correct this short coming.
To truly impact the nation of Rwanda the PEACE plan will have to overcome some significant challenges and obstacles including:
- The potential that this is just another foreign plan that will be short-lived.
- The ability for the national churches in Rwanda to contextualize the plan that reflects their cultural reality.
- The development of mutually benefit partnerships between African and American churches that will be interdependent.
- To be seen as a non-partisan initiative and not tied to one political party.
- The effective engagement of Christian mission agencies/relief and development organizations who have many years of experience in the African context.
- Creating new maps where government, business and churches can work together in bringing national transformation.
These and other challenges are significant. However, if God's primary instrument for transformation in the world is the local church then through the power of His Spirit large faith based initiatives like the P.E.A.C.E plan must be embraced and attempted.
May God's will be done and PEACE come the nation of Rwanda and other nations.
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