Creating a Purpose Driven Nation

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KIGALI, Rwanda - He's traveled more than 9,000 miles to help Rwanda become the first "purpose driven nation," but Rick Warren says it wasn't his idea to go there at first.

"We didn't choose Rwanda. They chose us," he said. Warren is the bestselling author of the Christian book "Purpose Driven Life."

"President Paul Kagame read the book. He wrote me a letter and said 'I am a man of purpose and I want you to come to Rwanda and help us rebuild our nation,'" he explained.

That was about three years ago.

Since then, Warren's Saddleback Church in California has sent nearly 8,000 members on short-term missionary trips to Rwanda.

They are training local pastors in the Purpose Driven Life curriculum.

"Rwanda came to us and said, 'We want to be the first nation to do 40 Days of Purpose,"' Warren said.

Bishop Enoch Dusingizimana was one of those pastors.

Looking at Pastor Enoch and his wife, Liberata, it's hard to believe fourteen years ago they were nearly killed in the horrific genocide and subsequent war of the country.

Most of their relatives did not survive.

"You wonder, if people knew what God's purpose is for their lives --the purpose of creation-- maybe we would not have had the genocide, all those people dying in 100 days because the Bible teaching wasn't very good," Dusingizimana said.

He and his are going through Warren's biblically based book.

"The Purpose Driven Life helps me to put God first and to be a better mother," Liberata said. "It also helps me to minister to other women."

And this family is not alone.

Warren recently headed to the Amhoro Stadium (which means "peace") to join more than 20,000 people from all over Rwanda.

It was the official kick off of a nationwide "40 days of purpose" campaign.

During that time, some 600 churches read through Warren's book together, seeking renewed vision and direction for their lives.

The celebration included a graduation ceremony for the first class of 200 pastors who had gone through an intensive three-year program

"I trust God that many Rwandans will be changed by reading the Purpose Driven Life," Enoch said.

And that's something Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, is hoping for.

"The critical stage at which we are our own transformation makes it imperative that in many things we do we have got to have that purpose," Kagame said.

Warren's book has been translated into several major languages in the country.

Saddleback has helped bring together public, private and faith community leaders to help tackle some of the country's biggest challenges: poverty, disease, corruption and spiritual emptiness.

Warren hopes other countries around the world will also become purpose driven nations.

In the meantime, Rwandan leaders hope to introduce the book in phases, 500 churches at a time.

"Over the period of the next several years, the entire nation will be trained in 'what on earth am I here for?' God's purposes in my life," said Warren. "And imagine if every person in the nation knew what God's purpose was for their life."

During this month of April, the nation also marks the fourteenth anniversary of the days of unspeakable terror.

With Warren's help, however, the Rwandan churches are looking forward, seeking God's best for their lives and teaching these biblical principles to their children.

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George Thomas and Sarah Pollak

George Thomas and Sarah Pollak

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