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Purpose-Driven Wife

Kay Warren used to be a "soccer mom." Now she's fighting AIDS globally and caring for those with HIV locally. What shook up her comfortable suburban world?

It took a magazine article in 2002 to completely change the trajectory of Kay Warren's comfortable suburban life. Then 48 and the wife of Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Southern California's megachurch, Saddleback, Kay was a busy "soccer mom" of three who dreamed, once their nest was empty, of sharing a platform with Rick and ministering to pastors' wives.

Then one day Kay picked up a news magazine and was arrested by an article on AIDS. When she read that 12 million children were orphaned in Africa due to AIDS, "I realized I didn't know even one orphan. I couldn't imagine millions of them anywhere," she admits. "That number haunted me. My life's never been the same."

Since that "divine appointment," Kay, now 52, has become a woman on a mission. Despite being treated for breast cancer in 2003, in the last four years Kay has visited Africa five times plus six other countries. Rick, with whom she celebrates their 31st wedding anniversary this June, caught Kay's passion for HIV/AIDS ministry, and together they, along with lay teams from Saddleback and other Purpose-Driven churches, travel overseas to work with local church, business, and political leaders to combat the AIDS pandemic. Their hope is for more churches and individuals to become personally involved.

But Kay's mission isn't only global; she's equally passionate about ministering to HIV-positive people in her community. To this end, last November, Kay initiated the first annual Saddleback-sponsored international HIV/AIDS conference, Disturbing Voices, to create awareness within the church body about the pressing local needs to minister to those with HIV.

TCW caught up with Kay to discover why she changed from soccer mom to social activist—and what we can learn from her transformation.

Did you ever wonder if you could even make a dent in an issue as big as AIDS?

Of course. But the day I read that article on Africa, I had my own Damascus Road experience. I was blinded by a reality outside my own. After that, I went to sleep thinking about those 12 million children; I woke up thinking about them. The Lord and I began this internal dialogue. I said, This just can't be true. Because if it were, then I'd have to do something about it. But there's nothing I can do!

After a month, I realized I had to decide either to go on with my plans or to let my heart become engaged. I sensed I couldn't face God when he asked me, "What did you do about those 12 million children I told you about?" How could I possibly respond, "Oh, that was so sad. But I had so many other good things on my agenda. I'm really sorry I wasn't able to get around to that. I hope that's OK"? The truth is, it wasn't OK—not for me, not for anybody. I decided to get involved. That's when God shattered my heart into a million pieces, and I became what I call a "seriously disturbed" woman.

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