There are many Sundays on the church liturgical calendar that can cause a pastor great anxiety. One of those Sundays can be Mother’s Day. While this day has Methodist roots in which it was created to celebrate motherhood, it can often be a painful day for a woman. For many women, motherhood is painful, maybe unattainable, and not something to celebrate. While the birth of a child should be celebrated, as a pastor, I am aware that in attendance that day there may be women suffering in silence and not be able to celebrate motherhood. In some cases, they may have decided to stay home.
It is this awareness of the many facets of motherhood and the variety of complications related to it that led me to become an advocate for global maternal health. I attended the first Healthy Families Healthy Planet Advocacy Training (HFHP) in 2011. It was eye opening. The statistics are staggering. Every two minutes somewhere in the world a woman dies from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of the more than 290,000 annual maternal deaths occur in the developing world where women lack access to adequate medical services. More than 4 million infants die within the first month of being born. During the HFHP training not only was my awareness raised I was also given tools to put my faith in action. Global Maternal Health is a faith issue.
Pondered them in her heart
In Luke’s nativity narrative, Mary’s reaction to the angels’ words are recorded, “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (NRSV) I would have loved to have heard her ponderings on those angelic words. As she gazed upon her newborn son did she have the same mixture of feelings of joy and anxiety as I did just after giving birth? We just don’t know because we do not actually hear from her. This is still true today for women in our world. The voices in the corridors of power where decisions are being made regarding their well-being are most often not their own – or even representative of them. That is why the work of Healthy Families Healthy Planet is so important. It provides an action plan in which the goal of reducing maternal health deaths can be reached. As HFHP Ambassadors we can help elevate the voice of mothers all over the world.
I have attended two more training events since 2011, one in 2014 and one more recently in April. Each of those trainings were held in Washington DC. They equipped me even further in putting my faith in action. The trainings stressed the importance of works of mercy and works of justice for women all over the world. Mercy is important and often meets an immediate need such as providing birthing kits to women in developing countries. Birthing kits save lives. Still, mercy without justice risks becoming a band-aid-fix for a much larger wound. Justice focuses on barriers or systems that perpetuate the wounds of maternal deaths.
An opportunity for advocacy
The latter two HFHP trainings that I attended provided the opportunities to participate in Advocacy Days on the Hill, as well. That process helped the HFHP Ambassadors become more experienced in the act of justice by visiting their representatives in their Capitol offices. The trainings focused on prep work necessary to present maternal global health concerns and ways the representative could support our goals through upcoming legislation related to the foreign aid budget. Cutting foreign aid can have devastating effects on mothers all over the world that rely on provided services to stay healthy before, during, and after pregnancy.
As Mother’s Day approaches the acts of mercy and justice on behalf of women and children all over world are more important than ever. Foreign aid is a tiny part of the federal budget (1%) and it is at risk of being cut significantly. Our members of Congress need to hear from people of faith --TODAY. We need to speak up on behalf of women and children all over the world. We need let our representatives know that we believe God’s desire is that every mother, every child, and every family not only survives but thrives. Congress has the ability to save millions of lives of mothers and children. They need to hear from you!
A Prayer for Mother's Day
On this Mother’s Day, we pray for women all over the world:
Mother God of Life and Spirit who created us, knew us before we were knitted in our mother’s womb, who births in us the spirit of love and grace, we pray this day for,
Women without access to prenatal or postnatal care.
Women without access to safe delivery.
Women who long for a baby in the womb but that day has not come.
Women who grieve a baby once in the womb but it is no more.
Women who gave birth but the baby was still.
Women with no choice for the space between and the risk it brings.
Women alone or isolated dreading the waters that break.
Women laboring, breathing, and pushing.
Women injured by birth with no repair.
Women who adopt a child.
Women who have to raise the child/children alone.
Women who place their child for adoption.
We pray these things in the name of The Living Water who births in us abundant life. Amen.