Seeing the AIDS Crisis Through God’s EyeDecember 7, 2006
Today on the broadcast, Rick and Kay Warren talk about the burden God has put on their hearts for churches to begin to address the worldwide AIDS crisis and about the recent Global AIDS Summit held at Saddleback Church.
Today on the broadcast, Rick and Kay Warren talk about the burden God has put on their hearts for churches to begin to address the worldwide AIDS crisis and about the recent Global AIDS Summit held at Saddleback Church.
Seeing the AIDS Crisis Through God’s Eye
Bob: Jesus instructed us to have a heart of compassion for those that He referred to as "the least of these." Not everyone does. Here's Kay Warren.
Kay: At the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, the closing session had a very dynamic speaker who went through and listed all the different takeaways of this five-day conference, and as he was listing them, people were standing up and cheering and shouting as their different ones that they really related to, and he talked about orphans that were left abandoned and alone, and there was silence.
And my friend and I who were there looked at each other and said, "They don't care. How can they not care?"
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 7th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Do we have a heart of compassion for those who are dying of AIDS and for the orphans they leave behind?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition – actually, a special edition of the program. We are taping these just a few days before our listeners will hear them. We are in Southern California. Tell our listeners what brought you out here.
Dennis: Well, Rick and Kay Warren, who join us on FamilyLife Today, brought me out here to speak on behalf of HIV-AIDS orphans, and it was a privilege to partner with them around the AIDS pandemic that encircles the globe, and I have to say, though, at the end of the broadcast, I don't think in 14 years of doing FamilyLife Today with you, Bob, we have ever interviewed a Christian leader who was not wearing socks.
Bob: I think you're right on that. I think that's …
Rick: Jesus never wore socks, and I always say, "What would Jesus do?"
Dennis: I almost – when I was speaking day before yesterday, I almost introduced myself – I said, "I'm Dennis Rainey. I'm from Arkansas, and I do wear shoes and socks."
Rick: Well, my mother was from Arkansas. She was from Bentonville, actually, but I wear socks because I subscribe to the Gilda Radner philosophy of fashion – I wear what doesn't itch.
So, you know, I dress for comfort.
Dennis: Kay, I also want to welcome you to the broadcast.
Dennis: You were actually the one that called me and invited me to come out here and speak, and we're thrilled you're here.
Kay: Thank you, thanks so much.
Dennis: This whole subject of HIV-AIDS – Rick is passionate about it, but he became passionate because first you felt the tug of God's spirit upon your heart.
Kay: I did. God just – He changed my world in a flash one day. I was reading a news magazine sitting in my living room in my nice, comfortable house, and read a news article on orphans in Africa, and I didn't know what to do, but it's as though a brand-new reality happened to me. I sat there and thought, "Do I even know a single orphan?" And the answer was "No." "Do I even know anybody who is HIV-positive?" "No."
And to think that there could be 12 million children orphaned in one place due to one cause was – it rocked my world. It just absolutely rocked my world. It became this intense internal dialog at first – "This just can't be true." I would know it if it were true, you know? And then it changed to, "Well, maybe if it's true, there's nothing I can do about it. That's too big. That's too big for one person.
Dennis: God not only tugged on your heart, you began to reorder your priorities around this cause.
Kay: God did turn my world upside down, and the plan that I had in place at that moment, which was to travel around the world, be a Bible teacher, speak to pastor's wives, missionaries' wives – that's what I was doing at the time, so I thought that that was just going to continue.
And there's nothing wrong with that plan, it just wasn't God's plan. God had a completely different plan.
Rick: Kay actually refers to herself as a seriously disturbed woman, and I would verify that – that she really has been disturbed by God – by God – since this happened.
Dennis: And that heart for the orphan around AIDS, and we need to mention there are somewhere around 14 to 15 million …
Kay: Just in Africa.
Dennis: Just in Africa?
Kay: Just in Africa – that doesn't count – they don't have good records for how many in India and China.
Rick: Actually, in the – there's 164 million orphans worldwide it was reported at this conference.
Dennis: That's right.
Kay: Those numbers vary, anywhere from 150 to 160, but around the world, yes.
Dennis: You took your disturbance across the pillow – to some pillow talk with the pastor of Saddleback.
Kay: Well, he was, at first – he was very supportive, and …
Dennis: Thought it was sweet for you.
Kay: He thought it was sweet. He was rather patronizing, very kindly, you know, that's pat me on the head, "That's great, honey."
Rick: I did not pat you on the head.
Kay: Well, it was a verbal ..
Rick: Kay was so supportive when I started Saddleback Church, and we were moving from Texas. I'd finished my degrees at seminary, and we moved to Southern California with no money, no members, no building. I'd never planted a church. So it's totally on faith, and I said, "Well, what do you think about it?" And she said, "It scares me to death, but I believe in God, and I believe in you, so let's go for it."
I look back on that, and I go, "Well, what if she had said no. How would history be different? How many people would not know Jesus Christ?" You know, in the last 10 years here at Saddleback, we've baptized over 20,000 new believers. And so how would that be different if I'd – she'd said no, and I stayed. So when she supported me in my vision, when she started sharing the vision, I said, "I'll support you in it," and, honestly, I said, "It's not my vision, but I believe in what you're doing, and I'll support you."
Kay: And it grew from that acceptance and support to – it was still the dream in my heart, but over a period of months, as we talked, and I would bring videos and articles and say, "Read this, watch this, let's talk about that." It slowly began to – I mean, he's a very tenderhearted person. It's not like he was a hard-hearted person and I had to just beat down. It just took a while to shift his focus, to realize that it wasn't just something that I was passionate about, but that he needed to also be passionate about it, and, on top of that, our church needed to be passionate. It was just this little pebble in this pond that kept getting wider, and not only did our church need to be passionate about it, but the church of Christ around the world needed to be passionate about it.
Rick: The lesson about this is, "Pastors, listen to your wives. Husbands, listen to our wives," that they are in your life for a reason, and God wanted to speak to me. He spoke to Kay first, and then He spoke through Kay to me, and it grabbed my heart.
Bob: Do you remember a point in time where you said, "Okay, I've got to take this seriously?"
Rick: I really don't, Bob. I think that, as she just began to feed me information, I'd begun to realize, "How did I miss this?"
Kay: Well, the Africa experience for you …
Rick: It's such a big deal – well, the Africa experience, that's true …
Kay: Became a solidified moment.
Rick: That would be the turning point. As she had been talking to me about it, and she was – go ahead and explain that.
Kay: Well, I had gone to Africa. I went to Africa twice in about six weeks.
Dennis: By yourself?
Kay: Yes, I did.
Dennis: Without Rick?
Kay: The first trip was by myself, yes. And then about six weeks later I went again, and on that trip six weeks later, Rick went with me for part of it, and it was there in that trip for him that God took what we had been talking about, thinking about, praying about. But still, in my heart, and it changed for him in Africa.
Rick: The scales fell off my eyes, and I realized what a big deal this issue of orphans and particularly those orphaned by AIDS was. And it was a church – Kay went to learn from the churches how to deal with people who have HIV-AIDS, because Africans know so much more than we do about this.
So she went to learn from the churches, and I went to do what I do – I train leaders. And after it was over, I said, "Take me out to a village. I just want to see a typical church." And so we went out into the middle of nowhere. I mean, we're in the bush, and we go out, and we find this little church that – it's just a tent, that's all they've got. And it's 75 members, 50 adults and 25 kids orphaned by AIDS – growing a garden, feeding them, they're teaching them in the school in the tent, and they are sleeping in the tent at night. And I thought, "This church is doing more for orphans, and this church is doing more for people with AIDS than my mega church."
And it broke my heart. And the pastor – that young pastor walked around the building, and he saw me, and I didn't know him and, of course, he didn't know I was coming, and he looks at me, and he says, "I know who you are." I said, "How do you know who I am?" He said, "You're Pastor Rick." I said, "How do you know who I am?" He said, "I download your sermons every week." I said, "How do you do that?" I said, "You don't even have water or electricity in this village."
He said, "The South African government is putting the Internet in every post office." They're called PITs, Public Information Terminals. He said, "Once a week I walk an hour and a half to the nearest post office. I download your sermon, I walk an hour and a half back to my church, and I teach it to my people." He said, "You know, Pastor Rick, you're the only training I've ever had."
When I heard that, something inside me said, "I will give the rest of my life to guys like this who are working on the orphan issue and the AIDS issue and the poverty issue and the illiteracy issue and the things that are what we call 'the global giants.'"
Dennis: Rick, Kay, you have no way of knowing this, although I did allude to it briefly when I spoke here at Saddleback at the Global Summit, but just about the same time you guys were coming online around the HIV-AIDS issue, God was breaking Barbara's heart and mine around the issue of orphans as well.
And I referred to it in my message, but back about four years ago, God began to do a work around the need to create a coalition of orphan agencies, orphan foundations, Christian leaders who wanted to do something about the orphan crisis, and, frankly, the issue of HIV-AIDS has come later. It has been as we've come through the side door into this house of people who are poor, unhealthy, and dying of AIDS, but it was the orphan who brought us into the house.
Kay: And you can't talk about HIV without talking about orphans, and you can't talk about orphans without talking about HIV. They really are interrelated.
Dennis: But, Kay, you've mentioned that when you've spoken at HIV-AIDS conferences internationally, that the orphan is not even talked about.
Kay: Oh, no.
Rick: They're ignored.
Dennis: At these secular conferences.
Kay: Oh, at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto this year, the closing session had a very dynamic speaker who went through and listed all the different takeaways of this five-day conference, and as he was listing them, people were standing up and cheering and shouting as their different ones that they really related to, and it was interesting to me – it caught my attention really early on, is he had these 15 things he was listing. So I started keeping score, if you will, on my piece of paper, an applause meter. I wanted to see what people were reacting to the most enthusiastically.
And so issues about women and gender violence and how that was affecting the AIDS pandemic – people were standing up and cheering, and women having rights over their bodies, people standing up and cheering, and then the next one of the points was, "and children with HIV," and the applause kind of got to a medium level, and he talked about orphans that were left abandoned and alone, and there was silence in the room – silence.
Rick: Nobody clapped.
Kay: Nobody clapped. And then he moved on to other things, and the applause built again to this thunderous applause at the end where he again spoke about women.
And my friend and I who were there, looked at each other. She broke into tears, and I sat there with my mouth open, stunned, and we just looked at each other and said, "They don't care. They don't care. How can they not care?"
It's shocking, it's stunning, when children and orphans are on your radar screen. They truly are the most vulnerable – the most vulnerable person on the planet – it is a girl child. Children, as a class, are the most vulnerable, and then you move it to girl children – they are the most vulnerable to abuse, to exploitation, and to HIV.
Dennis: And the thing that excites me about what you two are doing is – and we're doing the same thing – is you're calling the church to step up and do something that is so clear biblically.
Kay: There is nothing ambiguous about it, as you say, Dennis. It's so clear in Scripture.
Dennis: James 1:27 – this is pure religion and, Rick, you've been a Christian leader for a while. There's a lot of Christianity out there, and, frankly, cynicism is sometimes – it gets a little tough to not become cynical at some of the things you and I have seen over the years among Christian leaders or among laymen that's labeled "Christianity." It's hard to debate this, though, isn't it? When it steps in and cares for the orphan.
Rick: It's undebatable, and you know, Dennis, that, in many ways, the church has lost credibility with a large segment of our society …
Dennis: … yes …
Rick: … because of many different issues. Sometimes it's been a political issue, sometimes the personal failures of religious leaders – there are many different reasons that have caused that credibility gap. We're not going to gain that credibility back with the world and earn a right to be heard by our words.
Look at what we're doing and judge what we're doing, and if what we're doing is right, then it ought to be followed. If not, then don't follow it. That's the Jesus approach.
And as you brilliantly pointed out in the message here at the Global Summit on AIDS in the Church, how many Scriptures talk about the fatherless, talk about the orphans, and, actually, I believe if you adopt an orphan into your home, you're getting a special child that God has said, "All right, I'm going to care about this one."
Bob: Let me ask all three of you – there are some who would look at this emphasis and say, "You know, 50, 60 years ago, the church got distracted with what became known as the "social gospel," and forgot evangelism, forgot the spiritual needs of people. Are we in danger of doing that again?
Rick: No, we're not in danger of doing that, and I think that's a great question, though. It was even earlier than that, at the beginning of the 20th century, Protestantism split into two wings, and there were certain theologians who came out that said, "We don't have to worry about redemption anymore. We don't have to worry about the cross and the atonement and personal salvation. What we need to do is redeem the social structures of society" and, basically, all it was was Marxism in Christian clothing. That's really what it was.
Well, what happened is the liberals took the social justice issues – racism, injustice, poverty, things like that – and the conservatives, Bible believers, took the personal issues of morality – family, homosexuality, personal morality, and salvation.
Well, who was right? I actually happen to believe they're both right – that Jesus cared about both the body and society. He cared about the spirit. He wanted people saved, but He also wanted us to act different in society. And, honestly, I would love to see a new reformation that brings those two back together that says, "Jesus cares about the poor, the sick, the lame, the hurting" – He clearly did – the orphans, the widows, without watering down the fact. And you know, in my heart, as an evangelist, everything I do has the motivation of sharing the good news.
Kay: Well, the Scripture says that it's the kindness of God that leads to repentance, and so to care for people's physical needs, for their bodies as well as their spirit, is those are not random things.
People sometimes ask us, "Do you have a hidden agenda?" Absolutely not. We're very up front, because we believe in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ as being the most important part of our lives. Why wouldn't we want every person we meet to know Him as well?
So when we are serving, when we are loving, when we are being His hands and feet, it's not that, oh, so that we can add another notch to our belt, it's just in the same way that God's kindness led me to repentance; when I am kind to someone else, it softens and tenderizes their heart so that Jesus Christ can kind of walk across that bridge. I want for them what I want for me, which is wholeness with my Savior.
Rick: You know, let me just share a personal experience. This is really fresh, because a year ago I met a man with AIDS in New York City, who is an AIDS activist and had been thrown in jail many times for civil disobedience, and he had a bad view of the church because he thought the church was simply judging, putting down, and all these kind of things.
And I met him at a conference in New York a year ago, and I apologized to him. I said, "I'd like to ask you to forgive me for all that has been done that hurt you in the name of Jesus Christ over the last 20 years, that was done in the name of Jesus that Jesus would disavow."
You would have thought I'd punched him in the gut. When I told this to him at the Global Health Summit by Bill Gates that I was the opening speaker at, it's like I had socked him, and he moved a foot back.
Well, I invited him out to the first AIDS Conference, and after it was over, he was just in awe, and I said, "Well, what was your impression?" He said, "Well, first, I've never seen so many people who don't have AIDS at a conference."
Kay: The HIV negative people coming to a conference on HIV.
Rick: Yeah, and he said, "The second thing – I've never seen such love." And at the end of last year's conference, I talked with him, and he said, "I've never felt such love," and he wept openly, and he said, "My problem is I've learned to hate," and he said, "How do I follow a Savior of love when you're so filled with hate."
Rick: And I talked with him, and I won't go into all the details on that, and I said, "I want you to think about your decision because I know that when you come to know Christ, you're going to become a Paul. It's going to be one of these – you were such a radical activist for 20 years, that when you make that decision, it will be a big turn."
Well, he came back this year and brought all kinds of AIDS activists with him to the conference, and this morning at breakfast he accepted Christ. And, in tears, just flowing freely, I heard the most authentic personal salvation prayer I've heard in 40 years of ministry, and it was just so touching, and I watched a man's heart turn. How? Because of kindness that opened a man's heart that Jesus Christ had come in.
Dennis: You know, as I listen to you two, I hear what was the essence of Christ's life. He addressed people's physical needs and their spiritual needs, and, Bob, I think today we have set before the church a global opportunity where 40 million people are dying right now with AIDS. More than 100 million orphans worldwide who need help and who need hope. And, yes, we need to give them a cup of water in the name of Christ. But we also need to give them the living water of Jesus Christ.
Bob: I know, at the conference, as you talked with folks about how the church can respond to this issue, you pointed them in the direction of the orphan, because that really is a very practical, tangible way that we can do something to show that we care about what's going on. I think there are other ways, but one easily accessible way for folks to respond to this issue of the AIDS crisis not only in Africa but in other parts of the world, is by caring for the orphans, some of whom are infected with AIDS and some of whom are abandoned because one or both of their parents have died from AIDS.
Our team has put together a resource that we're calling "A Home for Every Child" kit. It gives you very practical things you can do in your church or as a family to respond to the issue of orphans around the world. There's a book called "Launching an Orphan's Ministry in Your Church," a DVD where Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about how Christians ought to be responding to the needs of the fatherless. There's a book called "Welcome Home" that gives you the eight steps toward adoption, and then 10 things every Christian can do to care for the orphan and the waiting child.
And this week we wanted to make these resources available to any of our listeners who can make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We are nearing the end of the year, and I know many of our listeners consider making a year-end contribution to FamilyLife Today. If you can do that this week, we would love to send you these resources as a way of saying thank you for your financial support for this ministry and, by the way, your donation this week will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis thanks to a matching gift that has been made available to us here at FamilyLife up to a total of $500,000.
So if we can hear from you this week with a donation of any amount either online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the orphan resources, or if you're donating online, when you come to the keycode box, just type in the word "orphan," and we'll know to send these resources to you, again, as our way of saying thank you for your support of this ministry and also as our way of trying to get these resources in more hands so that more people might reach out with compassion and kindness and care for orphans and waiting children all around the world.
Dennis: Bob, I decided to speak at Saddleback because of FamilyLife's mission to effectively develop godly marriages and families, both here in America and around the world. We are all about helping every family have a godly family.
And I just want to step in and speak to our listeners and to those who have partnered with us financially in the past, and just say right now would be a very good time for you to make a financial gift, a financial investment in FamilyLife. It costs money to establish kits like this, and I just want to put in my word for this kit. It's a fantastic kit – four different pieces including a DVD of Barbara and me giving a message about the need for churches to start Orphan Care ministries.
I just want to challenge our listeners – if you've benefited from the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and you believe in what we're doing here, just pick up the phone and call the 800 number or go online, as Bob has said, and make a generous gift and say, "You know what? I believe in what you guys are doing, and I stand with you financially."
Bob: Now, once again, you can do that online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. If you call, mentioned that you'd like the orphan kit. And if you donate online, when you come to the keycode box, just type in the word "hope," and that will let us know that you'd like to have this resource sent to you and, again, thanks for your financial support of FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow we're going to get to some of the questions we weren't able to get to today about some of the controversial stuff that was in the news last week …
Dennis: … no doubt …
Bob: … to this conference on AIDS. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Wally, from here at Saddleback, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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