Women That Inspire: Kay Warren
By Alanna Klapp
Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California with her husband, Rick, is passionate about helping others to make a difference, and she leads by example. She’s an international speaker, best-selling author, a Bible teacher, a mother, and a grandmother. For the past 10 years, she’s advocated for people who live with HIV and AIDS and the children left orphaned and vulnerable as a result. Her work in this area has taken her to 19 countries, as she calls the faith community and the private and public sectors to respond with prevention, care, treatment, and support of those who are infected.
As to how she became involved with this cause, Warren says, “Like so many things in my life, unexpectedly.” She sat in her living room 10 years ago and read a news magazine with a story about AIDS in Africa. “I wasn’t particularly interested,” she says. “I didn’t know anybody who was HIV positive, and I carried the same myths and misperceptions and prejudices a lot of folks do.” The graphic pictures were difficult to look at, so she tried to just read, but then a box in the middle of the article caught her attention: 12 million children have been orphaned in Africa due to AIDS.
“That blew me away,” Warren says. “Like I said, I didn’t know anybody who was HIV positive, and I didn’t know the name of a single orphan.” It troubled Warren the pandemic affected “millions and millions and millions and millions of people,” and it didn’t touch her life at all. It “rattled her cage” there were so many kids orphaned in one place for one reason.
She thought about it for a month, and felt like God hounded her. “He wouldn’t let me go,” Warren says. Once she’d read the article she couldn’t get away from it. “I kept telling Him He was making a mistake in talking to me about this, because I didn’t know anything about it, and I had a good plan for my life laid out and it didn’t include HIV or orphans. After about a month, it became crystal clear that’s exactly what God was doing. He was calling me to be a voice for those who didn’t have much of a voice.”
Warren began to educate herself on the subject. She read, studied, and talked to experts. She says she quickly realized the call wasn’t for her alone. “I really believed, and still believe, it’s a call to His church, to care for the most vulnerable, to care for those who are stigmatized by an illness, and it’s a call to believers everywhere to care for the sick, and to care for orphans and vulnerable children,” Warren says.
Along with her work to impact the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS, Warren is the author of several books, which includes her newest release, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough (Revell, April 2012), which we reviewed. Warren says joy is a choice and possible for everyone, no matter how bleak the circumstance. She writes from her experiences with low-level depression, and hopes her book will spark a conversation about mental illness in The Church. She says it’s important to talk about mental illness as freely and easily as other diseases. “It should be a goal,” Warren says. “When we don’t, it leaves millions of people suffering in silence, and feeling ashamed, and feeling alone.”
She adds the biggest taboo of all is to talk about suicide. “Suicide in itself is a tragedy, but to leave families carrying on by themselves, it’s such a sadness,” Warren says. “The Church should be the place we bring our whole selves, our whole broken selves, and find community, healing, support, prayer, and encouragement.” She adds if Choose Joy gets people to begin these discussions, the book will achieve her goal. “I’ll be very pleased. I’ll feel like the book has done what I wanted it to do, which was open up some of those conversations, and give hope to people, like me, for whom joy doesn’t come naturally, but who has found that even as I struggle with depression, I can be joyful,” she says.
To learn more about Kay Warren, her initiatives, and how you can get involved, visit her website at www.kaywarren.com. You can also find inspiration on her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KayWarren1/. Check out her free iPhone app for motivation and encouragement, and learn how to be a light in your part of the world.
Alanna Klapp is a freelance writer and regular contributor for Hope for Women Magazine. Her articles have been published in Profiles in Diversity Journal, The Suburbanite, and the Cuyahoga Falls Patch. She blogs at The Chipper Writer (www.alannaklapp.com) and contributes to the Cleveland Browns blog Bitter Orange and Brown (www.bitterorangeandbrown.com).