The magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic weighs heavily on her daily and threatens to take her down, said Kay Warren in a special World AIDS Day webcast Wednesday.
She has not been the same since that fateful day seven years ago when she read that 12 million children were orphaned in Africa due to AIDS. At first she was paralyzed by the figure, but became mobilized when she realized that one day she will have to face God and give an answer as to what she did after learning about the pandemic.
"I just knew that Kay Warren, Christian, had to say yes to God," said Warren, executive director of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church in Southern California, during the church's special webcast. "From there I began to learn and study. God just broke my heart. He just wiped me out. There is not a day that goes by that I don't cry over what I've learned and what I've seen."
There are an estimated 15 million children worldwide orphaned by AIDS. The UNAIDS 2010 global report estimates 33.3 million people, including some 2.3 million children, were living with HIV at the end of 2009. Most of the people living with HIV are located in Africa.
Warren – whose husband is Rick Warren, the author of the bestseller Purpose Driven Life – said she became even more disturbed by the disease when she visited Africa and saw that churches were not responding even though people with HIV were all around them. But God convicted her about hypocrisy and reminded her that Saddleback Church was not doing anything to address HIV either.
Since 2005, Saddleback has held an annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church that has drawn presidential candidates, medical and scientific experts, AIDS activists, and pastors from around the world. The 2005 summit was the first time a church had hosted a global AIDS conference where attendees were pastors and church leaders.
Warren said she now lives in three worlds. The first world is one of a normal American wife and mom that goes grocery shopping, takes care of the family, and does ministry work. The second world she lives in is one where "she hears the cries, the sounds of babies abandoned in fields," sees the faces of orphans whose parents will not come home, and the bodies of people with AIDS wasting away.
"That's the world that threatens to take me down. But it's the third world that I live in that makes it all possible," said Warren, referring to the world with God, whom she experiences through the Holy Spirit. "It is being in communion with Him every day, being in His presence, drawing strength and love and sustenance to fight the evil that is in this world, to be His hands and feet."
Warren called on churches, which can reach people in the most rural places, to address HIV/AIDS using an acronym she and her husband came up with: CHURCH. The acronym stands for: care for and support those infected and affected; handle testing and counseling; unleash a volunteer labor force; reduce stigma; champion healthy behavior; and help with medication and nutrition.
"We live in those three worlds. Most of us as Americans are content to only live in two and I think He's asking us to live in three," said Warren.