Fox show highlights Warren's partnership with Rwanda

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)--Either he’ll mobilize the world’s Christians to tackle global giants like spiritual emptiness, ego-centric leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy or Rick Warren will die trying, the Southern Baptist pastor told Fox News Aug. 21.

“Throwing money at it is not the answer,” Warren told Fox interviewer David Asman. “These are the problems that the United States has failed to solve. The United Nations has failed to solve. The only thing big enough to solve them actually is the church.”

Warren shared his global P.E.A.C.E Plan, a purpose driven vision to tackle global evils in the world, during the hour-long documentary on Fox News.

Three days earlier, Warren appeared on Fox News' "DaySide." Host Mike Jerrick asked, "Can Rick Warren save the world?"

"No," Warren responded, "Rick Warren can't, but Jesus can."

During the one-hour special Aug. 21 on the fourth-generation Southern Baptist pastor, Fox News told the often repeated story of Saddleback’s rise from a small group meeting in his house in 1980 to more than 23,000 meeting on the church’s 120-acre campus 26 years later. The show also highlighted Warren’s best-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life," and how that book had given him a growing influence among world leaders, such as President George W. Bush and Microsoft's Bill Gates.

Yet much of the documentary focused on Warren’s special relationship with the war-torn country of Rwanda, a mountainous country that’s only 12 years removed from one of the worst cases of genocide in human history. More than a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during 100 horrific days in 1994.

In 2003, Warren friend and Chicago multi-millionaire Joe Ritchie handed a copy of "The Purpose Driven Life," to Rwandan President Paul Kagame. According to the documentary, the title of the book appealed to the Rwandan leader who almost a decade earlier led a resistance movement that toppled the then genocidal Rwandan government.

After reading the book, Kagame wrote a letter to Warren calling himself “a man of purpose” and inviting the pastor and his church to Rwanda to help the country.

The letter coincided with stirrings in Warren’s own household, according to the Fox show. That year, Warren’s wife, Kay, picked up a magazine article detailing the horrific growth of HIV/AIDS in Africa, an issue that had been far off the radar screen of the self-described Orange County, Calif., soccer mom. There was one particular stat that helped her see the devastation AIDS had made on the continent of Africa -- 12 million orphaned children, a number that has since grown.

“That [statistic] absolutely rocked my world,” Kay Warren told Fox News.

While Warren was happy for his wife’s new passion to help minister to those with HIV/AIDS, at first he didn’t see that it connected with his mission or the mission of Saddleback Church. That all changed with a trip in 2003 to South Africa, where he met a rural pastor who didn’t have electricity or running water but was being trained by Warren through his sermons delivered over the Internet.

“When I heard that, something broke in my heart,” Warren told Fox News. “Tears came to my eyes and I said, ‘I’ll spend the rest of my life helping guys like that.’”

Through that meeting and his wife’s growing passion to battle HIV/AIDS, God crystallized a new vision within Warren -- a vision that would network churches around the world in an effort to tackle spiritual emptiness, ego-centric leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy.

According to Warren, the plan would mobilize lay people in churches all across the world to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick and educate “the next generation.”

“The church has 2.6 billion people in it, around the world,” Warren told Fox News. “It’s bigger than any other organization. I can take you to 10 million villages around the world that don’t have a hospital and never will. They don’t have a school and never will. But they have a church. What if we were able to network these churches to take on the global giants?”

That ambitious vision for Christianity appealed to Rwanda’s president. According to the show, Kagame knew that it would take a massive rebuilding effort to fix the country’s infrastructure enough to begin to grow the fledgling economy and fight the overwhelming AIDS crisis in the country. Still, it was the spiritual needs that concerned Kagame the most, the Fox report said. Because many of the predominantly Catholic country’s religious leaders had been complicit in the genocide a decade earlier, Kagame believed many people questioned where God was during the horrors of the nation’s recent past.

Kay, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 just after her husband announced the P.E.A.C.E. Plan at Saddleback, didn’t want to wait any longer to implement the plan. She urged her husband to accept Kagame’s invitation to visit Rwanda.

“I have a new awareness [of] the brevity of life, of the shortness of life, how fragile it is, how none of us have guarantees,” Kay told Fox. “What I’ve found is a new kind of identification, a new identification with suffering with people.”

In 2004 the Warrens traveled to Rwanda to take a look at the country for themselves. What they found, according to the show, was a country that had great potential.

“I’ve never seen a country so ready to grow, ready to take on the world,” Warren told Fox.

In July 2005 Warren formalized an agreement with Kagame that would, in time, make Rwanda the first "purpose driven nation" in the world, the show reported. The country would become a pilot nation to see how the P.E.A.C.E. Plan could work.

The show followed Warren on one of his whirlwind follow-up trips to the country in 2006, as he began to meet with political, business and church leaders in the country.

The Fox News show also shared the long list of challenges facing Warren and Saddleback Church as they mobilize the global church to fight some of the most difficult problems facing humanity in the 21st century.

“Has he bitten off more than he can chew? Probably, but he’s done that all of his life,” Ritchie said in an interview for the program. “It has stood him pretty well so far, so I wouldn’t bet against him.”

Warren himself acknowledged on the program that the effort to mobilize Christians around the world will be the greatest challenge of his life, but it’s a challenge he is committed to until the very end.

“I may not reach all of my goals in my lifetime –- I probably won’t -– but I’ll die trying,” Warren said. “But I’ve always said I wanted four words written on my tombstone: ‘At least he tried.’”

For more information about the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, visit

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