May 13, 2018
Upon first feeling the chill of the air, upon leaving the swaddling security of the womb, the newborn wails. Having been forced from her snug home of nine months, she is adrift in what must seem like limitless nothingness.
Then the newborn is passed to her mother’s breast. She finds a familiar voice, embracing arms, a simulation of the oneness from which she has just been severed.
Infants and young children need assurance of safety and security. Such assurance is communicated not merely through feedings and diaper changes, but through the consistent presence of caring adults. In so many places in the world, parents are not able or encouraged to communicate such presence. Life responsibilities such as keeping house, cleaning and making ends meet beckon. Quality childcare is often unavailable or unaffordable, and a child’s cries cannot be heeded.
In their March Mission Connections letter, Jenny Bent and Mark Hare, mission co-workers in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, share how two young women in the Dominican Republic are addressing maternal and child well-being in their community in the barrio of Casandra. Bellanira and Andreina are actively engaged in improving the quality of life in their community through implementing Community Health Evangelism (CHE). As Jenny and Mark explain, “CHE is a Christ-centered educational program used by hundreds of Christian churches and organizations across the globe. The goal of CHE is equipping communities to identify and mobilize the resources they already have to engage with the issues and problems they face, working for positive and sustainable change.”
During a weekly CHE meeting with Jenny, pastora (pastor) Belkis Santana, Bellanira and Andreina identified as a critical issue in their community balancing the competing, rigorous demands of maintaining a household and caring for the one’s young children. In true CHE fashion, the committee considered how to address the need using resources already at hand — in this case, interested participants (mothers and children), and basic bedsheets. Pastora Belkis, Bellanira and Andreina designed a workshop entitled “Elaboration of Baby Carriers with Mothers of Casandra” that demonstrated to mothers how to fashion a baby carrier from a bedsheet. The carrier allows caretakers to carry their children close while keeping their hands free to fulfill daily household demands and promotes infants’ emotional health through ensuring them of a loving caregiver’s presence. Moreover, as the baby is snugly nestled against the caregiver’s body, when that caregiver is a breastfeeding mother, nursing is convenient.
In alignment with Presbyterian World Mission’s philosophy of mission as partnership, this was not merely a how-to demonstration during which experts explained the “right” way of doing things. On the contrary, it was interactive, with participants sharing their ideas and experiences and reflecting on Scriptural passages about parenthood. One mother shared that “Dominican mothers generally leave their babies on the bed or on the floor on some kind of cover so that they can attend to the household chores, even if the baby cries. The belief is that the baby will be ‘añoñada,’ or ‘spoiled,’ if the mother carries the baby a lot.”
As the women participating in the workshop discussed this model of childrearing, and its undergirding assumption that an oft-held child will be añoñada, Andreina shared that she believes such an approach is detrimental because it “teaches the baby from a tender age that there are things more important than her.” Again, discussion ensued, and the participants discovered for themselves how to better their own and their children’s quality of life.
The CHE program recognizes and embodies the importance of agency in improving lives.
As we celebrate mothers today, may we give thanks for our own mothers, and may we recognize and express gratitude for the life-giving contributions of all mothers. May we pray that they will find strength and direction as they raise their children and discern how best to live their own lives.
Jennifer Brooke Goldberg, Mission Specialist and Writing Coach, Presbyterian World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Mission Worker Sunday; Mother’s Day
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Maternal God, we thank you for loving us as we are and for revealing your presence through maternal love. We ask that you give us strength and direction in demonstrating this love to all.