By Amy Fogleman
On November 9, 2015, in Nashville, TN, Belmont University students gathered to hear panelists discuss several issues surrounding the importance of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies for mothers worldwide. Additionally, the call to action of advocacy was proposed for the students to get involved in the mission of The Mother and Child Project.
As the forum began, moderator, Cathy Taylor, Dean of the Gordon E Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing at Belmont University, introduced the guest panelists.
The panelists were comprised of the following three:
- Jenny Eaton Dyer, PhD, Hope Through Healing Hands Executive Director & Director of the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide
- Dan Haseltine, Jars of Clay lead singer and co-founder of Blood-Water Mission
- Scott Sauls, Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church and author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides
Dr. Dyer opened the dialogue by reflecting on the visit that Melinda Gates made to Belmont the previous year and the significance of her visit and support of the coalition.
“Melinda’s conversation with Senator Bill Frist helped bring crucial awareness of this issue to Belmont and many faith-based leaders in Nashville,” declared Dyer.
Pastor Sauls chimed in on the significance of her visit, “I became an instant admirer of her (Mrs. Gates) mainly for the one statement that she made, and she said this: ‘there is no reason why a woman in the developing world should not have health care, education, running water, and opportunity just like I do, because a woman in the developing world is equal to me.’ And she had me when she said that…when this woman who has the option to completely shield herself from what is going on outside of what could be a bubble that she chose to live in, but instead she’s choosing to get out there and to do justly and love mercy, and walk humbly…”
Haseltine, who has traveled to many developing nations, and has witnessed first-hand gender inequality issues and has written on the masculinity issues found in Africa offered the importance of addressing the involvement of men in the process of educating, protecting, and advocating for women in the developing world. Haseltine stated, “…to me, it feels like it’s a key component in the conversation of how do we protect, or give mothers and children the best opportunities to thrive and have success through raising families and growing their communities? It is going to take some buy-in from the men.”
Sauls was tasked with tackling the poignant question, why should the church be involved with the vulnerable? He responded, “because there’s no way to follow Jesus if you’re not. There’s no way to do it with integrity. When Christ came out with his public declaration of Who He was and what He came to do, He excerpted a section in Isaiah where He opened in the synagogue and said ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor and to set free the captives’ and essentially to be a burden bearer and a burden lifter. He said ‘today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ by Me coming out and giving My inaugural speech, laying out My agenda of what I’m here for and what I’m about. And so, the reason to get involved with advocacy is because you cannot follow Jesus, if you’re not involved with advocacy, because that is where He is."
As the session came to a close, the students were given a three-step prompt for personal action to join in the coalition efforts. Steps included continuing the conversation with family and friends, promoting awareness and education, and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. (Prov 31:8) Do the work of advocacy by writing, calling, and emailing elected officials to let them know they care about these issues.
Sauls concluded, “Whether it’s something like this (The Mother & Child Project) or some other justice endeavor, get behind something where you can invest your energies and deplete yourself in order to lift others up, and you’ll be filled in the process. We want to find ourselves? What does Christ say? We have to lose ourselves…”