I have to be honest, me writing about World AIDS Day feels a bit selfish. I guess that's because the first thing that comes to mind is an awesome trip I got to go on two years ago (and I'm not one of those people who uses the word "awesome" all the time). I was living in Maryland at the time, a full-time Mom with an almost three-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. It had been about six months since we'd lost what would have been kiddo number three and I was finally starting to feel like maybe I could survive that loss.
We were at our pastor' house for someone's party in late October when Shannon, the pastor's wife, began telling me about a trip she was going on in a few weeks. There was a conference being held at Saddleback, Rick Warren's church, dealing with AIDS in Africa (well it wasn't just Africa, but that's what I remember hearing at the time). I'd been on a mission trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe in college and I told Shannon about how we'd visited an orphanage and seen babies who'd been born with HIV. I don't know if Shannon had me in mind prior to this conversation or if it simply fell into place then and there, but she told me she'd been praying for God to give her opportunities to share some of her travels with other people. Shannon said she'd ended up mentoring a high school girl on her last assignment and it opened her eyes to other facets of ministry that might come from her job. Did I mention Shannon was a writer for Baptist Press and the local sbc office?
I really didn't have an interest in journalism, but I'd really enjoyed talking about writing with Shannon and we'd become pretty good friends that year. So I was really excited when she asked me to come along on the trip. The church would pay for my participation in the conference and all I had to come up with was plane fare. My wonderful husband John made it happen. He'd been on a Wild at Heart retreat the year before and he said it was my turn for a retreat. And boy was it ever! Traveling to the opposite coast, for four days, without kids or housework, and getting to pretend I was a writer -- it couldn't get any better!
I will never forget driving to the beach in our rental car. I 'm originally from Arkansas and I'd just gotten used to living on the East Coast and my Maryland view of the ocean. California was like another planet. It was late November, and we were walking barefoot in the sand! There's no way I can describe how blue the water was, but watching the sun set over the ocean that evening -- it was the most beautiful thing I'd seen in a long time.
We spent three days worshiping with people from all over the country, plus many who had traveled from several other countries across the globe. I heard dynamic speakers like Gary Haugen and Bishop Charles Blake . I listened to heart breaking passionate talks from Kay Warren and Jim Towey. But of all the beauty I saw and all the stories I heard, as well as the rest and healing that came from this trip; the most important thing I brought home are the lessons I learned, and am still learning, about myself, prejudice and loving hurting people.