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On a gray winter's day in Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine, I walked the halls of a monastery-turned-hospital, its tile floors smoothed down by the footsteps of monks.

People newly diagnosed with HIV come to this hospital for further tests. In one room, a man sat aloof, barely acknowledging our presence. Another man angrily denounced his government's weak response to people with HIV. Anatoly, a local pastor, invited me to this hospital and we listened as the angry man talked about his two-year-old boy with HIV. (This means the mother in the family is almost certainly HIV-positive.) In silence, we grieved together over the uncertain future of this family.

In the next room, two young women sat on neatly made metal beds, apprehensive at our unannounced arrival. One pretty blonde, 23, told us she had been diagnosed for a month. To look at her, you would never know she was ill.

But the 20-year-old in the bed next to her was visibly very sick. Her emaciated body clearly communicated serious illness. My attention shifted to this woman's weeping mother sitting across from her. Mother and daughter had come to the big city from a rural area and were alone to face death. No family. No friends. Not even kind strangers.

That is, until Pastor Anatoly's passionate voice spoke—reassuring them that they were not alone. He promised he and the members of his church would be back to visit them and support them. In that moment, I saw faith become real.

I frequently hear criticism that evangelicals are more interested in talking about their faith than in actually doing anything tangible. Like all Christians, we often use our mouths more than our hands and feet. I too plead guilty.

But my recent trip to Ukraine underscored how Christians, far from American ...

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Seriously Disturbed
Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick, is an international speaker and Bible teacher especially known for her work with those living with HIV and AIDS. She is the author of several books, including Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough and Dangerous Surrender (revised and republished as Say Yes to God). Her column on international social issues ran from 2008 to 2009.
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June 2008

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