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South African Church Tops List Recognized For Helping People Affected by AIDS

First Annual 'Courageous Leadership Award' Focuses on AIDS – Joint Project of Willow Creek Association and World Vision


Contact: Dean R. Owen, World Vision, 253-815-2103, 253-906-8645 cell, dowen@worldvision.org; Lisa Hartman, Willow Creek Association, 847-765-0070, hartmanl@willowcreek.org


SOUTH BARRINGTON, Illinois, August 15 /Christian Newswire/ -- A church with 315 members helping people affected by AIDS in one of the nations hardest hit by the pandemic has been selected for the Courageous Leadership Award, a joint project of the Willow Creek Association and World Vision.


Known as "the church that cares," Fish Hoek Baptist Church in Cape Town, South Africa was selected among nearly 100 entries, and will receive $120,000 for its efforts.


In addition, there were two runners up: West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, and Rockland Community Church in Golden, Colorado.  They each will receive $40,000.  Moreover, there were 12 churches receiving honorable mention awards, including one each from Uganda and Swaziland.


"These churches are making their mark, applying resources at their disposal to the needs of the hurting, the diseased, and the poor," says Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.  "This award inspires leaders by honoring churches doing their part to help meet the holistic needs of those whose lives are devastated by AIDS."


Hybels and Richard E. Stearns, president of the U.S. offices of World Vision, presented the awards on August 10 during a plenary session of The Leadership Summit 2007 -- an annual training event for church leaders simulcast by the Willow Creek Association to more than 65,000 participants at 138 satellite host sites across North America.


"These churches have invested its members' lives in diligently delivering care and compassion to those who need it most," says Stearns.  "They have shined a light for others to follow as we seek to help address the greatest humanitarian crisis of out time."


Fish Hoek Baptist Church funded its AIDS ministry for the first two years, 1999-2001.  Since then, individuals and organizations have contributed, and now, "the church continues to give toward this ministry in a variety of significant ways, such as volunteers, paying chaplains' salaries, monthly operational expenses and other ways," according to Senior Pastor John V. Thomas.


The congregation, composed predominantly white South Africans, demonstrates an uncompromising commitment to caring for all affected by AIDS and continually "fights increasing HIV-IDS compassion fatigue, or worse, indifference," Thomas says.


In 2000, the church established Living Hope Community Centre, which serves those living with HIV and dying of AIDS.  Seven years later, the 147 paid staff of the center dwarf the 10 church staff.  Moreover, the work of Living Hope has expanded to six communities with their own facilities and hundreds of volunteers delivering hospice and home-based care, food distribution, HIV testing and counseling and spiritual nurture.


"When God's people do God's work in God's way, wonderful things happen," Thomas said after receiving the award.


For a complete listing of the winners and summaries of their programs, please visit www.willowcreek.com.