Warren says her first thought was, "What do I say? I don't know what to say.' My faith did not prepare me to talk to a dying homeless woman under a tree. I mean, I know how to talk to women about how to lose the last 10 pounds, you know, that they can't seem to lose. And I know how to talk to parents about when they're having trouble with their kids … but to talk to a dying woman, homeless under a tree, I didn't have the faintest idea what to say."
For Warren, Gwana gave the disease a face and a name, and changed her life forever. "To me, the goal is to end AIDS," she said.
Within six months, her life changed again, when she discovered she had breast cancer.
"If anything, I think I am really grateful for cancer. I never want it again … but I am so grateful for what I have learned. Cancer clarifies. It is an extremely clarifying experience. … It stripped away the illusions that I have loads and loads of time to do all these things that I think are important. I always thought that, you know, Rick and I would grow old together, and we'd sit on the front porch in our rocking chairs, and I could see that day coming. I don't live with that illusion anymore. Because I don't know. I know I have today."
Within a year, Warren was back on the road, this time with her husband, as a full-fledged advocate for those with HIV/AIDS. They traveled to Rwanda, a country where more than 900,000 people were slaughtered in just 100 days. The trip was particularly powerful for Warren, who says that she does believe that there is the potential evil in everyone.
"I do [believe in the devil] because the Bible says there is an actual devil," she said. "Just like I believe there is an actual, literal God, I believe there is an actual, literal devil. I think there's an actual, literal heaven, and I think there's an actual literal hell, as well."
"The core of us, I don't think we're basically good. I'm sorry, I don't. … I don't know how anybody could. I don't know how anybody could look at some of the evil in the world and think that we are good. I think we have the capacity for both good and evil."
Warren's trips to Africa led to a seismic change in the church she and her husband both love. At Warren's urging, in the fall of 2005 they launched the Saddleback HIV AIDS Conference, attracting evangelicals from around the world to help. Warren has had to reconcile her work to combat HIV/AIDS with her own beliefs, not just about homosexuality but also about sex education.
She said while she believes, "Homosexuality is not the expression that God intended," she is committed to helping anyone with HIV/AIDS. "I believe the Bible very literally, and I know this will not sit well with people. I think the Bible says that he intended sexuality to be expressed in men and women in marriage for life. That is God's ideal."
While she also describes abstinence before marriage as the ideal, saying "Let's not throw away the ideal, just because it's difficult and hard to achieve," she said condoms should also be made available.
"Let's live in reality, but let's also live for the ideals."