Hope Through Healing Hands is thrilled to be a sponsor of the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. This year we will be hosting a luncheon between sessions on Saturday, February 7. IF:Gathering attendees can register for the luncheon here.  Today, HTHH’s executive director, Jenny Dyer, is sharing her story at Unleash, the IF:Gathering blog.  

Years ago, I read Tony Campolo’s quote that “there are over 2,000 scriptures that call us to respond to the poor.” Bono, the founder of ONE and of the band U2, likes to re-state this often, believing that this, in fact, is the drive of the Scriptures: to help those in poverty. “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48). They make a compelling case.

With this knowledge and argument in hand, I left a potential career in academia to pursue one in advocacy. I had been trained to teach Greek, the New Testament, and psychology of religion. Instead, I was called to use that knowledge as a platform to live out “the drive of the Scriptures”: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I pursued the work of promoting awareness, education, and advocacy about the pandemic of HIV and AIDS in Africa and extreme poverty. My job was to engage church leaders across the United States in these complicated issues at the turn of the millennium. Today, I continue to do this work, engaging the church on behalf of some of the world’s poorest, for a spectrum of global health issues, including maternal, newborn, and child health.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Miheret Gebrehiwot. Miheret shared her story with us from her health post in the village of Gemed Kebele, in the Tigray province of Ethiopia. Lithe, poised, and with grace, she divulged in her native language of Amharic that she had been a child bride.

At 11 years old, Miheret had been expected to leave school and begin a life as a wife and mother. Over 50% of girls in northern Ethiopia are married by the age of 15. By 16, she was pregnant. And teen pregnancies can so often lead to health complications, education derailment, and ultimately, systemic poverty. Miheret shared that she was lucky. Her mother provided childcare for her children, and she was able to pursue a career as a health extension worker (HEW) and teach other young women how they can better care for themselves, their children, and their families. Because of young, committed women like Miheret, over 30% of women in Ethiopia now have access to information and services to make better decisions of when and how many children they wish to have.

I’m proud to say that Miheret’s story will be published in the upcoming book, The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (Zondervan March, 2015). Miheret’s story and the stories of other women in developing nations around the world lay the foundation for the book. 46 other authors join this chorus of voices from across American sectors of society: artists, authors, actors, pastors, academic leaders, and nonprofit leaders join together to share their passion for maternal and child health.

More than 220 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to the necessary education and resources that would enable them to do so. This is a critical issue. If women can “time” their first pregnancy until their early twenties, they are twice as likely to survive pregnancy and birth complications. And if they can “space” their pregnancies just three years apart, newborns are healthier and twice as likely to survive infancy. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives.

Maternal, newborn, and child health sit at the nexus of global health issues, influencing so many other challenges: extreme poverty, hunger, universal education, gender equality, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Studies show that maternal and child health may have more impact than any other global health issue today. The ripple effect improves the lives of families, communities, societies, and nations.

My job is to advocate for these women, children, and families. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother instructs him in his ruling (Proverbs 31: 8-9):

Speak out for those who cannot speak,? for the rights of all the destitute.?

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy

Advocacy is providing a voice for those who cannot speak. It is fighting for the marginalized, disenfranchised, and the oppressed.

There is so much we can do, beyond simply giving out of our pocketbook. We can offer our time, our attention, and our voice. We can be the change we want to see in the world. Just a few hundred voices of committed advocates across the U.S. can change the course of legislation to protect funding for U.S. programs that support the lives of women and children and families around the world. Women with stories just like Miheret. Please join us in lending your voice for maternal, newborn, and child health today.

Jenny Dyer

Originally at Unleash: https://ifgathering.com/unleash/hthh/