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.
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:
- On a scale of 1-10, how much does your heart grieve/care about those in need (of any kind)? For your own neediness?
- 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.