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Trustworthy with a little…trustworthy with a lot

I had a lovely time meeting with some fellow students to discuss international service opportunities, when one of the women reminded us that because of the surrounding city we have the opportunity to serve many international communities only a few miles from home.

Interesting.  This point had been brought up in my global health class last week as well.  “People think of global health as aid to developing countries, when in reality it is about combining efforts to deal with problems that span borders.  You want to work to eradicate AIDS in Africa, that’s great.  But don’t forget there is a 5 mile square plot of land here in Atlanta with a higher per capita AIDS rate than any country in Africa” (at least my professor says there is).

I receive many questions from women who want to work to make childbirth safer in developing countries.  But the truth is that no matter where you live you will find the same issues; poverty, hunger, abuse, illness; they may just be hidden better where you live.  By serving in your local community, you can make a difference in global health issues.  So volunteer to work with the expectant women in your local domestic violence shelter; serve meals to families through pantries and soup kitchens; volunteer to mentor a pregnant teen. Expectant women need more than just someone to catch their baby, and health depends on so many more issues than just access to insurance.

Your leadership may make it possible for your church to begin a program to meet the needs in your community, but it doesn’t have to.  Your time will make a difference to the individual families you work with.  And God knows when you can be trusted with a little, he can trust you with bigger tasks.

I didn’t start in Africa, and I’m not there now.  I started volunteering to watch children in a domestic violence shelter so their mothers could attend counseling.  I then became a childbirth educator and provided free classes to single women and teens. I trained as a doula to serve those same women, and trained others to serve them too.   I provided free information about birth online. I accepted the call to organize a day of prayer for childbirth.  And after all that, God said I was ready and called me to… nursing school.  I’m making a difference in the world, and I’m still in my home country obeying the call of God to serve women and families.

And every day he will trust me with  more.

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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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