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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren Makes Private Pain Public as a Family Health Crisis Prompts a Public Outpouring from the Leader of one of the Country’s Biggest Churches

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

LAKE FOREST, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- Pastor Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life and leader of the 20,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has gone public with the source of some personal and private pain.

Rick Warren on the cover of TIME magazine.

According to reporters Greg Hardesty and Kelli Hart of The Orange County Register newspaper, as members of Saddleback Church settled into their seats Sunday to hear the weekly sermon from Warren, he was not present in church on Sunday morning.

The Orange County Register reports that fellow pastors had convinced the founder and leader of the mega-church in Lake Forest to take the day off. They filled in for him by preaching about an ongoing campaign, "40 Days of Love."

Hardesty and Hart write: "For Warren, one of the most influential ministers in the nation, the forced break was nothing to celebrate. It came at the end of a harrowing week in which he and his family were whipsawed by a health crisis.

"Usually, the 20,000-plus members of Saddleback Church lean on Warren for his Bible-based teachings about love and tolerance, hope and faith, service and sacrifice. Now, Warren needed them."

AN E-MAIL ABOUT FAITH

The newspaper says that although Warren and church officials declined to comment Monday on the family's health crisis, Warren used e-mail to keep Saddleback Church members updated about a health-crisis faced by his daughter-in-law.

On Friday, a long note from Warren offered stark details about her struggles, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper reports that Jaime Warren, 25, has had two medical emergencies in as many months. She and her husband, Joshua, 27, live in Mission Viejo with their 2-month-old son, Cole.

In his e-mail, Warren quoted a Bible verse after each diary-like entry of her daily obstacles, providing insight into the private struggle of a public figure -- a man who recently hosted a presidential forum and appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the newspaper said.

"You might want to save these verses for when you need them," wrote Warren, whose best-seller, "The Purpose Driven Life," rocketed him to national prominence.

The Register said the verses, hand picked by Warren, softened the blow of the countless medical dilemmas mentioned before them. They painted a vivid image of the man who so often comforts others through Bible teachings turning to the Bible to comfort his family and himself.

ANOTHER TEST

According to the newspaper, Jaime Warren, suffering from blurred vision, headaches and a feeling of "instability," checked into a hospital Oct. 11.

A CAT scan revealed a massive tumor at the base of her brain, according to Warren's e-mail.

"Lord," Warren wrote, quoting the Bible, "when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer."

Less than two months earlier, Jaime Warren had survived another life-threatening health crisis after going into labor five weeks earl, the newspaper said.

"They discovered (Cole) was in the breech position and an emergency C-section was ordered because the baby's heart rate began to drop," Rick Warren wrote.

"Cole was not breathing when he was born, and it took great skill from the medical personnel to resuscitate him," Warren wrote.

The Oct. 20 newspaper article says tests last Monday revealed that Jaime Warren had a "very serious and complex" vascular tumor and hydrocephalus.

"God will shield you with his wings!" Warren wrote, citing another biblical verse.

The newspaper says that after getting three professional opinions on the nature of the tumor, the Warren family moved Jaime to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The UCLA chief of neurosurgery took her case "because of its risk and complexity," Warren wrote.

Doctors were unable to perform a procedure they hoped to do before the surgery. In response, Warren wrote from the Bible once more: "The righteous do not fear bad news."

On Wednesday of last week, Jaime Warren was rolled into surgery.

Warren wrote that the premature birth of Cole via an emergency C-section "likely saved (her) life. She could have died pushing in a normal delivery. What we often think is a problem (at that moment) is often a protection."

Jaime Warren's nearly 20-hour surgery started Wednesday night and continued into Thursday morning.

About 4˝ hours after the surgery Warren wrote this: "VERY BAD NEWS."

SECOND SURGERY

On Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m., post-operation scans revealed that Jaime was bleeding internally and pressure was building on her brain. Doctors rushed her back into the operation room, the newspaper reported.

"We do not know what to do," Warren said in another Bible reference, "but we are looking to you for help."

Doctors reopened the wound, found the cause of bleeding, and stopped it.

Later in the day, Warren writes "The doctor frankly discusses the possible long term damage."

Warren ends the entry with another verse: "Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them."

The two reporters say Rick Warren's son Josh got to see his wife around 5 p.m. Thursday. It was his first visit with her in 32 hours.

"It was only 30 seconds but she opened her eyes," Pastor Warren wrote. "She is on a breathing machine and can't speak but can move all four of her extremities.The next 24 hours will be extremely critical. Our family is all worn out, too."

Warren's e-mail ends with an entry from Friday morning, asking for the prayers of his loyal congregation: "Please pray that Jaime will have a full recovery, with no long-term complications. Pray that her life will be an example of the truth that God's purpose for our lives is greater than any problem we face. Pray the doctors and nurses will be touched by the witness of her life."

IMPROVEMENT

By late Sunday, Jaime's medical condition had improved, the newspaper said.

Anne Krumm, Pastor Warren's personal assistant, reported Monday that Jaime was "alive and well… She is progressing as well as can be expected at this point."

Upon hearing the news, Warren's congregation began offering support online and through prayer, the two reporters say.

One of them, Elizabeth Mersch, has been attending Saddleback Church for 15 years. She said that when she received Warren's e-mail, her heart went out to her pastor.

"I broke into tears," Mersch said. "I was heartbroken for him. I got down on my knees and prayed."


** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel,and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael's involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International.

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