(Photo: Saddleback Church/Don Haynes)
Saddleback Church, the California evangelical megachurch headed by Pastor Rick Warren, will be holding a "Compassion Weekend" as part of its effort to help Rwandan orphans whose parents died from HIV-AIDS.
Set to coincide with World AIDS Day, Compassion Weekend will take place this coming Saturday and Sunday and is part of the goal to give all Rwandan orphans a home by 2015. Kay Warren, founder of Saddleback Church's HIV&AIDS Initiative, said in a statement that it could be done, especially with the Church helping the endeavor.
"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 Warren.
"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."
Elizabeth Styffe, the director of the HIV/AIDS and Orphan Care Initiatives at Saddleback, told The Christian Post that Compassion Weekend was operating under the "getting to zero" idea from UNAIDS.
According to UNAIDS' website, the "getting to zero" strategy involves "Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths."
Styffe also explained that Rwanda was the focus of Saddleback's efforts due to the California church's strong ties to the country, with the stated goal being "zero children in orphanages in Rwanda."
"We have had a multiple year partnership with Rwanda," said Styffe, "in the churches alone, the churches have trained 7,000 volunteers for the health services."
"So there is a lot of different activities in Rwanda that the churches in Rwanda are involved in that" are connected to Saddleback, added Styffe.
World AIDS Day 2012 will take place on Dec. 1. Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a statement that "we have moved from distress to hope."
"25 countries have reduced new infections by more than 50%. I want these results in every country," said Sidibé. "The pace of progress is quickening. It is unprecedented-what used to take a decade is now being achieved in just 24 months."
According to Melissa Tiffin of Saddleback Church's "Community blog," during the Compassion Weekend the church will be offering several services to "in the fight to end HIV&AIDS."
"We will offer free on-site HIV testing, and during the weekend service, we'll show you how you can get involved in the fight to end HIV&AIDS," wrote Tiffin.
"Christmas is all about compassion – God's compassion for us and our compassion for others."