News & Views 7/26/13

07/26/2013 .
Pastor Rick

Dear Saddleback Family,

This weekend, Kay and I will return to speak for the first time since mental illness took the life of our youngest son, Matthew 16 weeks ago.

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I hope you are bringing all your neighbors and friends.

There has been a lot of media interest about this weekend and three TV news networks have asked permission to send trucks to broadcast part of the service.

Below is an interview by Erika Ritchie of the Orange County Register that you can share with friends that you are inviting to this weekend.

We can’t wait to see you!



Interview of Rick and Kay Warren

By Erika Ritchie

July 27, 2013

What will be the hardest thing about returning to the church for the first time after Matthew's death?

Rick: For me, it will be two things: First, Saddleback church is filled with the most loving people on the planet. They have stood with us through thick and thin for 33 years, and since Matthew died, they have overwhelmed us with their expressions of kindness and love. My emotions are still raw and I tear-up easily, so seeing these people that I love so much face-to-face for the first time, will be very emotional for me. I’ve given my life for these friends. Second, I began preaching in small churches when I was a teenager. In over 40 years of ministry, I’ve never gone this long, 16 weeks, without preaching. Returning to preaching will also be quite emotional for me.

Kay: Like Rick, seeing people I love deeply will be very emotional. In the past few weeks I have attempted to attend a service with limited success. I have always felt comfortable sitting in the crowds at Saddleback surrounded by people I love but at this point in my grieving process I am easily overwhelmed in public settings because I never know when a wave of intense grief will come crashing over me. It is difficult to grieve publicly, not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed of my grief, because I’m not at all embarrassed. It’s just that the feelings are so intense. I feel both strong and fragile.

You have announced that you intend to start a mental health ministry. What will that look like?

Rick: We already have support groups at Saddleback church for bi-polar disorder, depression, eating disorders, ADHD, and severe mental illness. Also NAMI (National Association for the Mentally Ill) offers a 12-week class for families at our Lake Forest campus. But watching our son struggle since childhood with mental illness, Kay and I have always known that one day we’d become advocates for those who suffer with mental illness and also for those who love someone with mental illness. But we felt it was Matthew’s story to tell, and to protect his dignity, we were waiting until he was well enough to tell his story.

We believe God never wastes a hurt and your greatest ministry to others often arises out of your greatest pain. Saddleback offers a class about this concept every month. When Matthew died, Kay and I thought of several things we’d like to do, both short-term and long-term, but decided we’d spend a year learning more about mental illness before launching any programs. But we do know this: America’s mental health system is irreparably broken and inadequate. In many ways, it failed Matthew with misdiagnosis and wrong treatments his entire life. (For years, Matthew was diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder when he actually had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and major depression (MDD). America’s mental health system needs far more than repair. It needs to be reinvented and revolutionized.

What do you want people to know most about your son?

Kay: I want people to know that Matthew was a compassionate warrior. He fought long and hard for himself, but he also had deep empathy for others who struggled in life. Some of his very last conversations were emails reaching out to offer comfort and solace to people desperate in their pain. Matthew was kind, hilariously funny, creative and artistic, and he had a strong sense of justice. He deeply cared about children, especially orphans, and those vulnerable to sex trafficking. He often traveled on PEACE trips with me, or with Rick, or other teams. He loved his brother and sister, their spouses, and adored his nieces and nephews, playing with them and reading to them, and they loved his goofy sense of humor. He hated the chaos his mental illness created in relationships. 

Rick:  I want people to know that Matthew’s illness was not his identity; that his chemical imbalance was not his character. He had a tortured mind but a very tender heart. He was no saint, but he did have a deep compassion for people in pain, for those depressed, and for those who felt like outcasts who didn’t fit in.  As a high school student, he helped start the teen depression support group at Saddleback. Our entire family, Amy and Tommy, Josh and Jaime, Kay and I, regret what the world will miss because his life was cut short. I think he would have made a great counselor because he was both insightful and sympathetic to people in pain.

How will Matthew's struggle with mental illness and his death affect your ministry?

Kay:  It has already changed our ministry. As Matthew’s story has gotten out, both Rick and I have been inundated with stories from moms, dads, husbands, wives, siblings, and friends who had loved ones take their own lives, or currently live with that threat. While each story is unique, there are also strong similarities – they all experience fear, stigma, shame, helplessness, and the sense that “We’ve tried everything and nothing helps.” I have a passion for equipping familieswith better resources to respond with both compassion and skill. And since Matthew was depressed from childhood, I intend to encourage more research into the causes of mental illness in children so they can receive effective interventions at an earlier age.

Rick: First, Matthew’s struggle sensitized me to an enormous body of pain that our culture teaches us to ignore. Mental illness is the last taboo. Sixty million Americans suffer with mental illness and everyone knows someone struggling with it but few are willing to talk about it.  There’s no stigma if your heart or lungs or kidneys don’t work properly, but if your brain gets sick, people feel ashamed. But it’s not a sin to be sick! Ten years ago, God called Kay, and then me, to help remove the stigma attached to HIV&AIDS. Now, it looks like we’re being called to help remove the stigma for a much bigger disease. 34 million people have HIV&AIDS but 400 million battle mental illness worldwide.

Second, I’ve recommitted the rest of my life to battling hopelessness. I think hopelessness is the most widespread epidemic on earth, and I believe the Good News of Jesus is the cure. That conviction is the motivation behind all we do at Saddleback, whether at our eight Orange County campuses, or our international campuses, or through the PEACE plan. If people are in pain, we want them at Saddleback church.