Saddleback aims for zero orphans in Rwanda

In honour of World AIDS Day on 1 December, Saddleback Church is setting its own goal of reaching zero orphans throughout Rwanda by 2015.

The target is supplemental to UNAIDS' three-year strategy of "Getting to Zero", including zero babies born of HIV, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new HIV infections and zero stigma and discrimination.

"This is a very audacious goal - to help a country be the first to empty their orphanages, helping 3,000 children become part of permanent families, but we know with God all things are possible," said Kay Warren, founder of Saddleback Church's HIV&AIDS Initiative.

She added, "The church has the largest participation, widest distribution, simplest administration, fastest proliferation, longest continuation, strongest authorisation and highest motivation to help with this health crisis. For that reason, the local church is key to getting to zero."

Believing the worldwide church can be a solution to the HIV and AIDS pandemic, Saddleback is hosting Compassion Weekend on 1 and 2 December to bring awareness to the need for the Church to respond by caring for those infected and affected, including orphans, around the globe.

Warren will speak during each of Saddleback's weekend services. She will be joined by 13-year-old Cynthia Styffe, a former orphan from Kigali, Rwanda, who was adopted four years ago by a member family of Saddleback; Timothy Brown, the first individual cured of HIV, and a couple that decided to not let the strain of an HIV diagnosis tear their family apart.

In 2002, Warren became "seriously disturbed" by the suffering of the millions infected with or affected by HIV&AIDS.

She was instrumental in presenting Saddleback Church's first HIV and AIDS conference in 2005 and launching the HIV and AIDS Initiative, which is designed to equip pastors and church leaders to begin or strengthen existing HIV and AIDS ministries in their church. It also aims to encourage those living with HIV and AIDS with practical information from a spiritual point of view.

The church has since also founded the Saddleback Orphan Care ministry.

"The HIV and AIDS Initiative at Saddleback was born out of the conviction that God cares about sick people - He loves people who are living with HIV," Warren said in a news release.

She added, "A study of Scripture reveals a God who is passionate about the sick. If we link arms together, united in vision and purpose, we can bring healing and hope to millions of people living with HIV and AIDS as well as their families and friends. In fact, we can do even more than that: we can end AIDS."

For additional information about ways local churches can assist in "Getting to Zero" by 2015, go to hivaidsinitiative.com/gettingtozero

Saddleback Church, founded by Warren and her husband Rick in 1980, is located in Southern California.

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