Major Contest to Bolster Church's AIDS Fight

The Willow Creek Association and World Vision for the second year in a row are inviting churches around the world to enter a contest that will award $100,000 to the church that best demonstrates "outstanding" involvement and effectiveness in the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

The Courageous Leadership Award will in total honor three churches with the two runner-up churches receiving $40,000 each. In total, $180,000 in award money will be given out by the contest.

"AIDS demands an active response from those who are called to be followers of Jesus Christ," said Bill Hybels, chairman of Willow Creek Association's board and founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, in a statement.

Hybels had co-hosted the first Global Summit on AIDS and the Church with fellow megachurch pastor Rick Warren in 2005. The summit was the world's first major church conference on AIDS

"If we truly wish to represent Christ in the world today, we must seek out those who are poor and sick and forgotten, offering both eternal hope and practical help," Hybels stated.

According to the latest U.N. report, there are more than three million people worldwide that have HIV – the virus which can lead to AIDS. Over two million people have died of AIDS this year alone, including 330,000 children.

Every day, some 1,000 babies are born with HIV – 90 percent of which are babies born in Africa, according to UNAIDS. Half of all new HIV infections in the world occur in children and youth. In total, 2.5 million children under the age of 15 are infected in the world.

"The goal of the award is not only to honor those churches already involved in fighting HIV and AIDS, but also to be a catalyst, encouraging other churches to explore how they might get involved in what God is doing through His Church to have an impact," explained Richard E. Stearns, president of World Vision, U.S.

Stearns added, "Regardless of the churches' size or budget, the recipients of The Courageous Leadership Award will be selected based on how they have leveraged their God-given vision, gifts and resources to help address AIDS."

Last year's first winner was Fish Hoek Baptist Church in Cape Town, South Africa. The runner-ups were Rockland Community Church in Golden, Colo., and West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles.

Contest organizers say the award is open to any Christian church that affirms a historic, orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity.

Other qualifications include: proven, measurable results; ministries targeting the hardest-hit, under-resourced regions of the world; sustainable initiatives.

The deadline to apply is Apr. 1 and the winners will be announced in August at the Willow Creek Association's Leadership Summit in South Barrington, Ill.

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