Go Somewhere That Breaks Your Heart

In Giving, We're The Ones Who Receive

Go somewhere that breaks your heart at least once a year.

— Andrew Scott, CEO of Overseas Missionary Fellowship (USA)

Just yesterday, I returned from a place that breaks my heart.  In fact, that’s partly why I went.

Crowded homes with metal roofs and beautiful mountains off in the distance.

I’m not sure about you, but every day my heart gets crusty.  Indifferent towards God, the people around me, and their physical and spiritual condition.

Can you identify?

Do you ever ‘know’ that Jesus left heaven and died a brutal death on your behalf… and yet feel unmoved toward your neighbor?

I wrestle with that kind of dullness in my heart every day.

The bigger question is, ‘What can we do about it?’  Just hearing more facts and figures about how badly other people have it isn’t enough.

We need to go and experience it ourselves.  Today, I want to challenge you to go somewhere that will break your heart.

Entering Another World

As we walked across the main road near our medical clinic, we entered another world.

Our friend and host began to tell us what life is like.

‘People who live here don’t have running water’, he said.  ‘They try to store up water during the rainy season, but it’s not enough for the other 4-5 months.  So they have to buy it from the water trucks, often at prices they can’t really afford.’

Toilets are holes in the ground, and new ones need to be dug every few years.

People who become sick have very limited access to quality healthcare.

Gangs fight for territory and young men.  Kidnappings and murders are not uncommon. Buses that travel major routes must pay extortion money.

The country is still recovering from a brutal civil war that has left deep scars. One pastor watched his parents get shot as he peered through an outhouse door, covered waist high in human waste.

I can’t even begin to say I understand.  I – and everyone on our team – cried more that week than we have in a loooong time.

God’s Heart Breaks, Too

And that’s precisely why God had us there.

Yes, we were there to provide important healthcare services.  And to assist our national partners in sharing the hope that Christ provides.

But God also fought for our hearts, chiseling away at the stony plaque that can accumulate when we live without obvious need.  He wants us to look more like him.

And his heart is torn in two when people he created live without justice and basic necessities.

  • ‘Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,’ says the LORD.  (Psalm 12:5)
  • For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  (Psalm 72:12-13)
  • [Jesus] said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.’  (Luke 6:20, 21)
  • If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17)

And these are just a few examples.  Although injustice and poverty are everywhere, this is not the way it’s supposed to be!

God cares, and he is honored when we care, too.

Grieving For Our Own Culture

So far, most of what of what I’ve shared might be pretty obvious.  What you were expecting.

But seeing – and caring about – the brokenness of the culture we visit is only half the equation.

Because when we return, we come to see the deep deficiencies of our own culture, too.

Truth is, the country we visited is an absolutely beautiful place.  Not only in its lush array of fruits, birds and plants we don’t have here.  But also (mainly) because of its people.

They know they have physical and spiritual needs.  They can’t hide them, so they don’t really try to.  Relationships matter way more than stuff.  We were welcomed warmly – without exception – by everyone we met.

And our partners gave me gifts as a token of their love and hope of future partnership.

At least where I live, all these beautiful gifts are in seriously short supply.  Going somewhere they are common has opened my eyes, and now I’m in mourning for my own culture and heart, too.

And yet, not without hope.  God is equally at work there, and here, where I live.  And wherever you live, too.  His aim is ‘to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of [Christ’s] name among all the nations’ (Romans 1:5).

Three Ways To Go Somewhere That Breaks Your Heart

It’s time to begin our final descent.  Here are three ways to get your own heart broken.

1 – Take a trip somewhere in the developing world.  While it’s not about us, and we should only go somewhere we’re wanted, if we go with the right heart we are transformed.

2 – Visit a place of need near you.  You don’t need to raise money or jump on a plane to have your heart broken.  Places of need exist all around us right where we live.  For example, some friends run Miriam Medical Center in one of Philadelphia’s most underserved communities where some residents don’t even have running water.

3 – Find a ministry that deals with brokenness different than your own. Then pray, get involved, and support it.  Even if you’re not able to do #1 or #2, anyone with internet access can do this.  Ministries like Compassion, Christ Community Health Fellowship and countless others reflect God’s heart for those in need of practical help.

It takes a little effort and sacrifice, but when we go somewhere that breaks our heart, we always receive more than we give.

Questions for reflection:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much does your heart grieve/care about those in need (of any kind)?  For your own neediness?
  2. Consider following the pray, plan and go model.  Pray for God to change your heart and show you where to go; do some research and make a specific plan; then go, ideally with others.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Oh wow Brother, what a convicting post!

    It seems like there aren’t many things in Scripture shown to be more than caring for the less fortunate, whether it’s widows, orphans, or by extension, those in poverty-stricken areas of the world.

    I’ll be honest, and I’m ashamed to say this, as I was reading, as a pastor I was thinking, “I’m thankful my responsibility is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). In other words, I need to encourage others to do these things, be involved, support them prayerfully and financially through the church, etc.

    Then I read number 3. Plenty of ways to be involved. There are ways our family and church are involved in Compassion International and related efforts. Your post definitely encouraged greater involvement though.

    • Thanks! It was convicting for me to write, and I’m conscious that going to another country doesn’t get me off the hook from next steps!

      And I can totally identify with what you say about encouraging others to go versus doing it myself. Especially because, on the medical missions trip I just took, I couldn’t do anything clinical since I’m a pastor, not a doctor, etc. So thanks for being honest.

      I’d add that it was extremely powerful to go and experience firsthand what others are facing. And to share that with our team. Sometimes we view outreach and discipleship as relatively separate, but this trip reminded me that doing outreach together is a critical piece of being transformed. I’m hoping we can do this trip each year, partly so that we don’t get trapped in our affluenza. I think it will help us become outwardly-focused disciples who are eager to incarnate Jesus 24/7.

      • Bryan,
        If you don’t mind me asking, what is your pastor (or pastors), relationship(s) to these trips? Does he/they go too?

        • Sure, of course. My family has just changed churches, actually, but we’re (pastor, elders & I) going to talk about how we might work together, perhaps including some of these trips.

          It makes a lot of sense because the trips are healthcare-focused, and, many of the people at the church are in healthcare. But I think some of our leadership would be open to coming, too.

          It’s worth mentioning that the church just turned 5 years old and recently planted another church, so in some ways the focus has been on laying a solid foundation. But with that in place, I think leadership is looking to how we can be more intentionally missional.

  • As someone who has visited countries in the developing world on a number of occasions I still need to allow God to break my heart over what breaks His.

    I’ve seen many lives changed when people have taken the time to spend time with others in different and difficult circumstances. We have an obligation, a biblical mandate, to serve the poor, yet in our comfort we so often neglect that call upon our lives.

    • Hi Rodney, thank you for reading and sharing about your experience with this. I like the connection you make between taking time to spend with people in hard circumstances and personal transformation. It’s so simple, yet God uses it so powerfully both for the people we serve, and, for us. May God give us grace to actually do what we know he has commanded.

  • Tiffany Montgomery

    This is a convicting piece. Thank you. I haven’t gone on a mission trip since I was a youth and I always say I want to send my kids when they are old enough… but I hadn’t thought of how important it should be that we all go and serve others. Thanks

    • Hey Tiffany, thanks for your kind words, and I’m glad this was helpful for you. There’s something special about going and serving together, and I truly pray that God will lead you and your family to the right trip in his timing!

  • Very well said! There is a lot of truth in visiting people or places that are in desperate need. It helps see your own world in a better light and also gives a chance to be a blessing to someone else. God wants us to be servants to others in need, not just be served. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Tom, thanks for reading and your encouraging words! Your comments remind me of God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12, where God sends him from his home and blesses him to be a blessing.

      I suppose that we can be grateful that, unlike Abram, most of us are not called to leave our homes on a permanent basis. Then again, the growth that comes with leaving my comfort zone makes me question that line of thinking. 🙂

      Thanks again for engaging, Tom.