Saddleback Church Kicks Off Effort to Get to Zero Orphans in Rwanda on World AIDS Day 2012

The Orange County, Calif., megachurch challenges local churches to join UNAIDS in “Getting to Zero” by 2015

LAKE FOREST,Calif.—In honor of World AIDS Day Dec. 1, 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. “The church has the largest participation, widest distribution, simplest administration, fastest proliferation, longest continuation, strongest authorization 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 Dec. 1 and 2 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 a message of encouragement and challenge during each of Saddleback’s weekend services and 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 discordant couple that decided to not let the strain of an HIV diagnosis tear their family apart. Each service will be available to watch live online via Saddleback’s Internet Campus.

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In 2002, Warren became, in her words, “seriously disturbed” by the suffering of the millions infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS. She was instrumental in presenting

Saddleback Church’s first HIV and AIDS conference in 2005 and launching the HIV&AIDS Initiative, which is designed to equip pastors and church leaders to begin or strengthen existing HIV and AIDS ministries in their church and 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&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 explains. “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, click here.

Saddleback Church, founded by Warren and her husband, Rick, in 1980, is located in Southern California. The main campus is in Lake Forest, Calif., and nine additional campuses are in the cities of Anaheim, Corona, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Woods, Orange, San Clemente and Rancho Capistrano. With an average weekly attendance of more than 22,000 across the 10 campuses, it is among the 10 largest churches in America. It is No. 8 on the 2012 Outreach 100 list of the Largest Churches in America.

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