Transformation: Change in Rwanda

Lisa Fontaine

In 1994, genocide turned neighbors, friends, and even families in Rwanda against one another in a horrifically brutal civil war. Within three short months, the lives of more than 800,000 people—10 percent of the Rwandan population—had been claimed, and the country was left in economic and social ruin without much hope for recovery.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame invited Pastor Rick to come to Rwanda in 2005 and help make his country the first Purpose Driven nation. For the past eight years, The PEACE Plan has been working with the Rwandan government, local churches, and everyday citizens to rebuild the nation that genocide nearly destroyed. As the 20-year anniversary of the genocide approaches, Rwanda continues to build on the past and move forward in their incredible ongoing journey of transformation.

When Saddleback Church invited artist Andrew James Abajian to travel to Rwanda for a PEACE trip last year, he instantly knew God was calling him to serve. An established Southern California photographer and cinematographer, Andrew was amazed how God orchestrated the opportunity for him to leave his business for three weeks and shift his focus to living his purpose. With a passion for telling stories through photographic art, Andrew gives voice and feeling to the powerful moments he captured on film while in Rwanda.

A special collection of Andrew’s impassioned pictures will be showcased in Saddleback Art Gallery’s newest exhibit, Transformed. Each photo in the exhibit was expressly chosen to illustrate one of the different types of transformation from Pastor Rick’s new series. In addition, personal journal entries based on Andrew’s vision of the portrait will accompany each photo. One of his favorite pieces, a picture of Pastor Rick in Rwanda, will be a show highlight. “The photo so perfectly captures the true spirit of Pastor Rick.” Andrew explains. “At the end of the day, he is just a regular guy who has an enthusiasm and love for his greater calling of sharing Christ with the world.”

The artistic portrayals in the exhibit bring to life the extraordinary emotion and heart of transformed lives in Rwanda. They translate the immeasurable impact of The PEACE Plan in communities once filled with need that are now overflowing with vitality. In the face of exceptionally difficult circumstances, it was the love, resiliency, and courage of the people that won out and created lasting change. “I hope gallery visitors will feel a connection with the Rwandan people and walk away inspired and reminded that we can be more and do more—both for ourselves and the world.”  

Opening night for the Transformed exhibit is this Sunday, January 12 at 7:15 p.m. in the lobby of the Lake Forest Worship Center. The exhibit will run through March 2, concurrently with the 50 Days of Transformation series. Take time to stop and reflect on these images that will inspire you and create in you a lasting impact that moves you forward on your own personal journey of transformation. After the show opens, portrait copies from the exhibit will be available for purchase online at Andrew will donate 50 percent of all sale proceeds directly to The PEACE Plan in Rwanda.