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Interacting with the World

As Christian’s we care about the people around us, whether that be in our neighborhood or the other side of the world.  I have seen some fantastic work make life-changing differences, and I have seen single focus plans leave areas with less hope.

It seems to me there are two motivations that drive Christian’s participation with the world. One reason is the desire for justice and mercy, to help those who are unable to help themselves.  The other reason is to introduce others to Christianity.  Each individual seems to have a combination of both, with one being slightly (or intensely) the stronger motivation. I suppose the motivation you have is part of the unique individual God has created you to be, and using that motivation allows you to fulfill the tasks God created for you.

I have been created with the desire for justice and mercy as the stronger motivation.  This not only encourages me to do what I do, but also gives me a certain perspective when I find out about problems and initiatives.  I mention this because I want to be sure it is understood that my heart to serve others does not mean I have no heart for others to know Christ.  I also mention it because I want to be sure all readers, those motivated by sharing Christ and those motivated by justice and mercy, feel welcome to share their thoughts about the two articles I read this morning.

You see, we don’t always understand the effect we have when we work in a culture different from our own.  For example, Surrogate Mothering has become a big business in India.  Women from around the wealthy world come to hire poor young Indian women to give birth for them. On the surface this seems a win/win situation – families get babies and poor women are given a job.  I hope it works more often than it doesn’t, because the article points to some real problems with the process for the poor women.  This makes sense, the process is designed for the adoptive families.  The poor women are really just a commodity being sold.

There are different ways to encourage the young and poor to delay marriage and childbirth. The article explains a few of the problems caused by paying families to delay marriage and children.  The author feels their system empowers the community. What is their program?  Promoting child spacing and educating about the dangers of early marriage and childbearing.  It does seem to be working, but I think it needs to be pointed out that even this strategy is changing the culture.  But that is what the promoters wanted – to change the culture so there would be no pressure for early marriage or childbearing. This is where I smile, because Christian missionaries throughout history have gotten a bum rap for trying to change culture. I suppose the difference is that when you take “religion” out of the mix, it is easier to convince everyone else that what you are doing is really for the people’s own good.

It is a tricky business to go into a country and try to make the people of that country accept what you believe is right. It’s tricky business to write about birth and try to make women of your own country accept what you believe is right. I could not find any information about the program that did not come from the organization that started it, so essentially we have to take their word on it.  But there is a part of me that wonders just how much trouble the people of that community are having as this outside organization tries to get them in-line with their accepted standards of family and fertility.

For the record, I know outcomes are better if the women wait to have children.  I also understand that the early marriages probably mean the girls have no real option.  But I do think there are solutions that would allow the people to make changes while respecting their culture, and those solutions would be determined by working hand in hand with the community rather than being decided by outsiders. What do you think?  What kind of programs would you like to see encouraging safe fertility around the world?

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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