January 31, 2014
I Have a Broken Heart
By Brittany Tedesco
A big part of my job is maintaining Christian Aid's social media accounts.
“Aaah, so you get to be on Facebook all day long,” people will typically say to me when they learn my job description. Oh come on, there's a lot more to it than— yes, yes I do stay on Facebook all day long.
And while on Facebook the other day, I read a very intriguing article that a friend posted concerning an elderly man living in Iran who hasn't bathed (or showered) in 60 years. Who would get near him, you might wonder. Answer: no one. Homeless, he lives away from civilization, sleeping in a hole in the ground resembling “an open grave.” He subsists on a diet mainly of dead and/or rotting porcupine flesh.
A weird situation for sure, but what struck me the most about the article was the poetic way in which an Iranian newspaper described this man's condition. It implied the man was luckier than most, having the starry sky as a roof and the gentle soil as a pillow. Who wouldn't want to live like that?
Let's get real. Who would want to live like that? Why is he living like that?
The statement is so brief I nearly missed it, but early on the article mentions the man suffered “emotional setbacks” in his youth.
Not such an idyllic situation after all.
I wanted to discuss this further, so I called up my sister who never thinks twice about joining me in lengthy chat sessions to ponder whatever odd problem I’ve encountered.
“I wonder what kind of trauma happened to him as a young person to turn him into a desert recluse,” I began.
My sister took the discussion to a broader level. “I wonder why a person is so much more profoundly affected by trauma they’ve experienced in childhood versus in adulthood.”
Indeed. Her statement got me thinking about children—how vulnerable they are. And how honest.
A few months ago, I read a report from the leader of a group of Lebanese believers who’ve focused their attention on ministering to the Syrian refugee children pouring into their country. Most of these children have been out of school for more than three years. Knowing how much trauma they’ve experienced, the Christians try to create a safe, fun environment for them—if only for a few hours each week.
On a typical week, around 150 children and a good number of parents gather for puppet shows depicting Bible stories.
“The children are so happy to sing with the puppets about God's love and protection,” wrote the ministry leader. “They memorize the songs almost immediately and remember the details of the Bible story from the previous program.”
The Bible lesson on one particular week was about Zacchaeus, who tried to find peace, love, and acceptance through riches, but only ended up with a broken heart—until he met Jesus and his whole life changed.
I can picture what happened next almost as if I’d been there. A boy, perhaps 12 or 13 years old, suddenly speaks up in the middle of the puppet show: “I have a broken heart! I love my father and I miss him.”
Who knows what happened to the boy’s father. Maybe he’d been killed. Or maybe he’d stayed behind to fight in Syria.
I can imagine the silence that probably followed the boy’s honest confession, as the ministry leader paused, put down his puppet, and walked out from behind the puppet stage.
“I looked to him and assured him ‘Jesus can fix your broken heart. He can be with you all the time and never leave you. Come to Him,’” the ministry leader wrote.
“And as I was sharing this truth with this boy, I felt the heaviness in my heart. I am in a place full of kids with broken hearts. They’ve lost so many people and things. They’ve lost family members, friends, relatives, neighbors! They’ve lost their school, toys, and fun time! They’ve lost their smile.”
In reading the man’s words, I suddenly realized the deep importance of puppet shows, songs, and games. The significance of how hard this man is working to create a haven for disturbed children where they will learn Truth and hear the loving words of our Lord, their Healer.
Christian Aid supports many ministries throughout the world that are reaching children. In Ukraine, gospel workers rescue homeless, drug-addicted children off the streets to shelter and rehabilitate them. In Sri Lanka, a woman has created a center to nurture children who’ve been sexually abused. In Cambodia, a ministry pays the ransom of girls imprisoned in brothels.
These ministries aren’t just running mere orphanages or shelters—these are spiritual emergency rooms where the healing balm of God’s love is poured into young, wounded souls through active discipleship.
Though these souls have been traumatized as children, their most vulnerable stage in life, they’re also experiencing God’s love at their most vulnerable stage. They don’t have to grow up to live as though they have no hope.
To the contrary, many have grown up to become strong men and women of God with a special place in their hearts for the vulnerable children in their nations that they used to be.