The Face of
Reflections on a Famine in Ethiopia
A compelling presentation of a devastating humanitarian crisis on television propelled Dr. Conner and his wife and two children on a missionary trip to Ethiopia.
The crisis was a famine in Ethiopia which threatened the lives of many thousands of Ethiopian citizens. It has been estimated that four hundred thousand to five hundred thousand perished due to the famine in 1983-1985, and millions were made destitute.
A robust international response was mounted to assist the people of Ethiopia, and many relief and humanitarian organizations responded with food, clothing, blankets, and medication, along with logistical and medical teams to respond to the crisis.
For Dr. Conner and his wife, the service in Ethiopia (1984-1987) was the beginning of a new way of life of community outreach and ministry. Despite leaving the mission field after the period of service, they considered themselves as missionaries to their own country, America.
Using our mission’s jeep as an ambulance, we took Desta to the tent hospital. I discussed his plight with the physician in charge although his predicament was obvious. I had to turn his care over to the physician and hope for the best. I prayed for his survival. I decided to comeback two days later to see what had happened.
Meanwhile, the news reports from Ethiopia revealed an immense human tragedy like none that I had ever heard of before. I thought again about eight million people being at risk for starvation. In addition, millions lived in abject poverty and in inhuman conditions. I was in a position to help. If I was going to go to help, it would have to be now. It seemed that the needs of the people I was going to serve were more important than all other considerations. I felt compelled to act. The future was uncertain, but I just prayed that I was making the right decision.
I had some second thoughts. I was concerned that I was going to put my family in danger. After all there was famine, disease, and warfare going on in Ethiopia. The country was very poor and I was concerned about the type of house we would live in, what we would eat, what type of medical care would be available, and what unknown threats and dangers awaited us. We prayed about the move and we were convinced we were doing the right thing. Our help was in fact needed in Ethiopia. There was hunger in the country, along with illness and a shortage of physicians. It did look like I was going to have to defer and perhaps give up my desire to become a specialist in hematology/oncology for sure at home in America, and more and more I had misgivings about this. However, it was not enough to change my plans to travel as planned.