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MAAS Executive Director Judy Warren is available for speaking engagements on the state and national level

Woman in the Wilderness -
The Story of MAAS

In 1987 Judy Warren lived a double life. She put on a cheerful "community face" at First Presbyterian Church, serving as president of a woman's group and as a Stephen Minister, trained in lay pastoral care.

But she wore another face at home - one of love and fear as she cared for her brother, Larry Yates, who had been diagnosed with AIDS. Warren kept the illness a secret. " I would hear about houses being burned and families of persons with AIDS being run out of town in other cities. I was told someone called the AIDS hotline in Odessa demanding the names of people with AIDS so they could kill them. I was scared to death."

But in 1989, when Warren had cancer surgery, she says she hit "rock bottom" and confided in one of her pastors, Dick Braun. Some church members and Stephen Ministers rallied around her and her brother, providing spiritual and emotional support.

Yates died in 1990. The following year Warren and Braun organized a small support group in the community for people with AIDS and their family members.

From that small beginning developed the Midland/Odessa Area AIDS Support (MAAS) ministry. The organization offers support groups for people with HIV/AIDS and separate groups for their families in Midland and Odessa; a program to teach AIDS awareness in the secondary schools; CARE Teams that provide spiritual and emotional support to people with AIDS in their homes; and grief recovery groups. It also brought the then reigning Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle, to speak about AIDS education to more than 3,000 high school students at two Midland high schools.

In 2015, Texas ranked third among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses. This translates to hundreds of family members and friends in the area touched by AIDS.

The road to acceptance has not been easy. Initially some church members and employees feared people with HIV/AIDS. "The custodians didn't want to touch their coffee cups," says Drew Anderson, business administrator. He decided it was time to offer AIDS education, and Warren presented an AIDS awareness seminar to the entire church staff.

It took the death of a high school friend to alter Mr. Anderson's own feelings about assisting people with AIDS. "It took a face that I loved to die of that disease," he says, "before it really hit home for me."

Braun, who is now retired, has witnessed the congregation moving from fear to compassion since the organization began in 1991. "There are still folks in the church who move away when they hear of AIDS, but now we have members volunteering to assist in many phases of the organization's work. Now we have an attitude that is more of compassion than of condemnation or saying that AIDS is God's judgement on people for doing the wrong things.

"Peoples' attitudes torwards others say something about the nature of the God we serve and worship. If God is a God of love, then that determines how we treat people."

"Ministering to people in the name of Jesus Christ is what our church is about," says First Presbyterian Church pastor Jerry Hilton. "Jesus Christ reached out to anyone in need."

"Our church has come a long way", Warren says, "but it has been a struggle." Other churches also initially "didn't want to have anything to do with an AIDS ministry," she says, but now many churches from different denominations have donated to MAAS. Other ministers have also participated in First Presbyterian's annual World AIDS Day memorial service.

"People come to us when they are ready to die and want to talk about God," Warren says. When they need spiritual guidance, MAAS and First Presbyterian will be there for them and their families...