I arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, last night after 7 p.m. Flights were great all the way. No problems and my luggage arrived (55 minute connection in MSP made me nervous that I would be bag-less). Thankfully I left when I did as the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland has shut down some airports in northern Europe (I flew through the Netherlands). We just got to the hotel and rested.
On this trip, I’m in Rwanda with the Provost of Pepperdine, Dr. Darryl Tippens. This is Dr. Tippens first trip to Rwanda and first trip to Africa. Early this fall I said, “Want to come to Africa with me?” And he agreed. We now have so many projects going in Rwanda among all that schools that I wanted him to see, first-hand, the country and the strategic impact that Pepperdine is making. Over the course of the week, we are visiting with partner organizations, members of the government, and our students. I’m hoping that Dr. Tippens and the highest level of Pepperdine’s university administration catch a vision for Pepperdine in Africa. Needless to say, I’ve got lots of ideas!
Today we were up early to spend a day with our friends from Saddleback Church. Saddleback Church has been a wonderful partner to us in Rwanda. We go to know the church’s exemplary “Justice Task Force” a couple years ago and played a small role in their efforts to seek justice for those oppressed by violence in Rwanda. Since Saddleback, a pace-setting megachurch, is located in Orange Country, California, we’ve been able to work together locally and we’ve had the Justice Task Force with us on campus many times. I hope the example they set of lawyers (with traditional law jobs) seeking justice for “the least of these” in their free time is an example that our law students can strive to emulate.
Saddleback developed a unique relationship with the country of Rwanda after President Kagame read Pastor Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.” President Kagame decided Rwanda should be the Purpose Driven Country. With that mandate, Saddleback set to re-think develop and re-think missions, combining them into a new model for a church to follow. This model, the P.E.A.C.E. Plan is comprehensive, holistic, and strategic. The details of the Plan could take a long time to share, so I recommend you Google it if you’re interested. In short, the Plan utilizes the church as a tool to address the deepest problems in society—from spiritual emptiness, to reconciliation, to medical care and hygiene.
Early this morning, we were met by Eric and JP, two members of Saddleback’s impressive on-the-ground team. After breakfast with them, we toured their office and drove nearly three hours to the west side of the country. On the shores of Lake Kivu, we lunched with a pastor overseeing the PEACE Plan among regional churches and Saddleback member working on clean water projects.
After lunch, we visited a hospital where Saddleback was implementing a fascinating water purification system. We also visited the home a woman who had successfully completed the PEACE Plan. She testified as to how much her life improved—from personal happiness and well being, to her children’s health, to the relationships with her neighbors.
It was a full day with lots of driving across the country. Nonetheless, I think it was a good day for many reasons. It was good for Dr. Tippens to see the country (only seeing Kigali provides a skewed view of Rwanda) and being with people, seeing their lives, gives us rich context for our conversations coming over the course of the next few days.