Exclusive Author Interview: Dr. Byron Conner

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 but to their own country of America. This book is a presentation of the service abroad and the aftermath.

Q. Did you imagine yourself to be in the humanitarian service, in the first place?

The frequent publicity and the great human need portrayed compelled me to go to try to help those in need.

Q. What was the best thing that happens to you in Ethiopia that impacted your whole life?

Helping to save the life of the most severely impacted youngster with severe starvation.

Q. What can you say after the long service in Ethiopia?

I would do it again if the opportunity was possible.

Q. Who encourages you to make a book about your experience in Ethiopia?

The memories of the many people assisted and lives saved.

Q. What was the unforgettable moment during the service that you least expected?

The sheer number of people saved and assisted. It made me endure my inconvenience.

Q. What encourage you to help the people of Ethiopia?

The possibility of assisting people and saving lives and knowing it is possible.

Q. What’s your solution to lessen the famine in the entire world?

Relentless efforts to help out and realizing our efforts can help.

Q. If the sense of humanitarian act happens in Ethiopia, do you think it is also possible for every country? Why?

There are always possibilities to help those in need of we are persistent and relentless.

Q. Most of us getting into a rough moment sometimes. But what is your motivation to go forward?

Past success predicts future success and really helping those in need.

Q. After all of the mischief in the world. What makes you believe and have faith in the future of humanity?

I have seen repeatedly how our efforts can really make a difference, releave suffering and save lives. 

A Christian physician’s work in the Horn of Africa country tells what it is to come face to face with a disaster that displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The Face of Hunger: Reflections on a Famine in Ethiopia (Readers Magnet; 2018) by Dr. Byron Conner is a gripping personal account of the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia. This book will do more than just move readers to tears or shock them; Dr. Conner’s story will exhort readers, particularly professionals, to reflect on their vocation in life.

It was during one sleepless night in early 1984 when Dr. Conner, who was a physician with the US Public Health Service in Earlimart, California at that time, learned about the famine in Ethiopia. While surfing TV channels, he chanced upon the fund-raising presentation by World Vision for the victims.

Despite the pictures revealing the hardships of the suffering Ethiopians, Dr. Conner was not moved at first but as he sat and watched the same scenes replayed over and over, he realized the victims were indeed powerless and innocent.

“There before my eyes were wasted, emaciated children with their faces covered with flies and looking miserable beyond belief. The mothers of those children looked hopeless as they tried to breastfeed their skeletal children,” said the would-be medical missionary.

Dr. Conner then felt ‘someone’ should do something about the famine and he need not ask who that person should be. “Gradually, I started to feel that ‘someone’ should be me. I was nearing the end of my term of service on my job at the time, so I thought; perhaps I can go to Ethiopia to help out somehow.”

The scenes of the famine replayed over and over in his head that he felt someone should be doing something about the global calamity that threatened thousands of lives. He gradually started to feel that that “someone” should be him.

In famine-stricken Ethiopia, Dr. Conner experienced and witnessed situations that were truly devastating and heart-breaking. He grappled with hopelessness and depression at times. Nevertheless, the physician, a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist, persisted in his mission to help the Ethiopians whenever he could, especially in the face of starvation and infectious diseases.

“We can’t solve all of the world’s pain and suffering, but we can try anyway,” said Dr. Conner.

Be inspired by Dr. Byron Conner’s story. Read more about his experiences and challenges in The Face of Hunger: Reflections on a Famine in Ethiopia.

The Face of Hunger: Reflections on a Famine in Ethiopia is available via Amazon