People are life’s greatest treasures. Spend any time at all around Dr. Jo Anne Lyon and you will be entertained and inspired. Recently she won a very special recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of or more thankful for our friend and colleague.
Dr. Lyon, who has served as Interim Vice President of Wesley Seminary since June, recently joined a prestigious list of international leaders when she was honored as the recipient of the 2016 World Methodist Council Peace Award, which has been presented since 1977 by the World Methodist Council.
Dr. Lyon is in outstanding company. Previous recipients of the award include former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
While Dr. Lyon’s immediate response was that she did not deserve the honor, others would argue she is more than deserving for her unselfish and tireless work that has taken her to some of the most dangerous and remote areas of the world in an effort to bring hope, peace and justice to a hurting world.
That journey began in 1985 when Lyon traveled to Ethiopia with an ABC news team that was filming a documentary on the great famine. She described the experience earlier this year in an interview with Wesleyan Life magazine:
“One woman got to the gate of the refugee camp with her last surviving child and dropped dead right in front of me. She had four children just like I do. I stepped in a field of 2,000 people that were totally silent, because not one had the energy to speak. They were starving to death. God said to me, ‘It does not have to be this way. There is abundance. Be my hands.’ And I began to see the world totally differently.”
For 30 years, Dr. Lyon’s travels have taken her from the brothels of Cambodia, where she saw children for sale as far as the eye could see, to the White House where she represented The Wesleyan Church on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Partnerships.
Most of Dr. Lyon’s humanitarian work was done in her role as founder and former CEO of World Hope International, which is based in Alexandria, Virginia. She started the ministry in her home and, in 12 years, grew World Hope to a $17 million global Christian relief and development agency serving in 30 countries and dedicated to alleviate suffering and injustice.
After leading World Hope for 12 years, Dr. Lyon was elected and served eight years as the General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church – the only woman in the 175-history of the denomination to hold that position.
On June 6, Dr. Lyon retired as General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church and was immediately named to the newly created position as Ambassador, so that the denomination could continue to benefit from her international network of colleagues and partnerships.
A day later, she received her first ambassadorial assignment at Wesley Seminary, an institution which she played a key role in establishing. And so, for the next year at least, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Acclaimed International Peacemaker, will use her life’s story to help seminary students “begin to see the world differently,” just as she did three decades ago in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
(Alan Miller and David Wright)