Reaching five is an important milestone. A five year old in Southern California is off to school and starting to read and write. Children at age five show their precious personalities and potential, giving us a glimpse of who they will grow up to be. Reaching five is also an important milestone in child survival and yet more than seven million children will die this year before they reach their fifth birthday, largely by preventable causes.
In Rwanda, and all around the globe, Saddleback Church’s PEACE Plan is working with people in local churches everywhere - providing training and skills so that ordinary people are engaged in the task of helping children not only survive, but to thrive. For example, thousands of community health workers – they call themselves community peace servants - from churches in Rwanda have been trained to visit and help in their own communities.
We are all responsible for the survival of the world's children and we have made remarkable progress. Over the last 50 years child mortality has been reduced by 70 percent. Still, we must do more to bend the curve.
That is why we and our Saddleback Church colleagues are excited about the upcoming Child Survival Call to Action to be held June 14 and 15 in Washington, D.C., convened by the governments of The United States, Ethiopia and India, and organized in close collaboration with UNICEF. With a focus on ending preventable child death through the survival of newborns, children and mothers, the Child Survival Call to Action will convene 700 prominent leaders from government, the private sector, faith-based organizations and civil society to kick off a long-term, intensive effort to save children's lives.
The Child Survival Call to Action is an historic moment for the world to step up and renew its commitment to the children around the globe. Children dying from preventable causes have been a grim reality throughout human history but, for the first time, we have both the technology and the know-how to help the hardest to reach children with life-saving interventions where local church congregations are engaged, equipped and empowered.
Saddleback leadership believes every child should have the same opportunity to survive and grow. We want children around the world to thrive by giving them the best possible start in life and ensuring they’re being raised in loving families. Helping a child survive and thrive is the work of the faith community. Much has been done in the past that has missed the urgent need for children to have loving, lasting, life-long families. For example, helping children leave orphanages and reunite with their families or gain a family that lasts a life-time is a critical need that requiring faith communities to partner with governments in influencing radical change for good.
The faith community is a critical partner in global development. Empowered U.S. and national indigenous churches are connecting with each other and partnering with governments and other organizations to engage and equip ordinary people in local congregations to actively address development issues in the lives children, families, and communities everywhere.
Every member of an American church or faith community has a role to play in child survival. Engaging the time, resources, and expertise of “ordinary” church members in partnership with the global church is the core of the church’s message— to harness individual gifts for God’s purposes in the world.
Kay Warren is an evangelical leader, author, and founder of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddle-back Church; Elizabeth Styffe is the Director of Global Orphan Care Initiatives of the PEACE Plan at Saddleback Church; and Gil Odendaal is the Global Director for the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church.