Kay Warren is an evangelical leader, author, and founder of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church. Elizabeth Styffe is the Director of Global Orphan Care Initiatives of the PEACE Plan at Saddleback Church. Gil Odendaal is the Global Director for the HIV/AIDS initiative at Saddleback Church. Below is an excerpt from their contribution to the Frontiers in Development essays.

Engaging, Equipping, and Mobilizing Untapped Resources

Celeste doesn’t know much about for­eign aid or development, but she’s an expert on hunger, stigma, and disease. Sitting alone on a hand-woven mat in the African sun, Celeste is covered with lesions, having been expelled from her village due to her HIV-positive status and waiting for death.

Down the road, a local church resonates with the sound of 50 people singing, clapping, and dancing. The pastor preaches passionately to his small congregation about Jesus’ call to care for the poor and hurting in His name. A church member leaves the exuberant worship service and makes her way toward Celeste’s mat under a tree. Soon, Celeste will feel the volunteer’s soothing touch, receive needed medications from a church-based clinic or a government hospital linked to the local congregation, and begin to rebuild her life.

This church member does not have a medical degree—in fact, she is just learning to read
and write—but she understands community ­development because her church has provided extensive, yet simple, training in how to be a volun­teer community health worker. The humble church member calls herself a “Community PEACE Servant.” She represents more than 3,000 volun­teers in the Western Province of Rwanda who are improving health, inluencing development, reduc­ing poverty, and changing the world, one family at a time. More than 22,000 home-health visits will be made in this rural region this month because churches are taking the lead. Empowered U.S. and indigenous churches are connecting with each other and partnering with governments and other organizations to engage and equip ordinary people in local churches to actively address development issues in the lives of real people everywhere.

Read the complete article in USAID’s Frontiers in Development publication.