The Day My Heart Broke

By Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon

"Was there a moment that gave you a passion for the world?" Jo Anne Lyon recalls the catalytic moment when this became true.

I am often asked, "Was there a moment that gave you a passion for the world?" I am sure there were many moments and of course the words of Scripture continually ring through our hearts and minds. But perhaps for me there was a catalytic moment in Ethiopia.

I was invited to go with an ABC news team in 1985 to do a report on the famine claiming thousands of lives. As a faith leader, I was to give my view of all this. We entered one of the first feeding stations at a center where there were already 250,000 people on the edge of starvation. I had heard stories of mothers burying their children and people dying at the gate unable to take the next step inside.

A nurse asked me to go with her "out to the field" to a place were people in extreme condition were waiting to be served. I was overwhelmed by the crowd and immediately thought of Jesus' words, "The harvest is plenty." Then I realized how few workers there were who were capable of helping the thousands sitting in the field. I was not counted "capable" as I had no medical training. Jesus' words came to me again, "The laborers are few."

I watched a woman die in my presence. My heart broke. A mother just like me, and I could do nothing! Then it was that I grasped in some measure the meaning of the Bible revealing that Jesus saw the crowd and “had compassion on them.” This was farbeyond a moment of emotion. It was an experience that continues to guide my soul.

Compassion is more than just feeling bad at the moment. It is the very heart of God. It calls for things to change. It calls for redemption. It calls for healing. It calls us to reach a broken world that can only be redeemed through Jesus Christ.

A verse in the great song, “Rescue the Perishing” by Fanny Crosby continues to challenge me:

“Deep in the human heart, crushed by the Tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore. Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that were broken will vibrate once more.”

May we live this daily.