A Review of a Maternal Health Related Mission to the Philippines
This past week, the South East Asia Maternal Health team completed a power-packed week of service in the Philippines. Julie Carpenter (LPN and Certified Childbirth Educator), Kristin Bennecker (Co-manager of NOVA Birth Services and Certified Childbirth Educator), Rina Miller (Social Worker, and resident of Tacloban), and myself served a wide range of women in different aspects related to female reproductive health and maternal health.
Rina Miller, who serves alongside her husband, Clark, in full time ministry with GOD South East Asia, was integral to our team’s success over this week. Our team was able to join in with the ministry efforts being made weekly in the Tacloban City Women’s Prison, facilitating an educational time regarding female reproductive health. The women in the jail were able to ask questions, share stories, and gain valuable information regarding caring for one another as women. We concluded the time by providing a meal and a care package of essentials that the women were blessed by.
A specific goal of our Maternal Health team was to network with midwives in the area, in order to grow in our ability to serve in the areas of maternal health when we are on the ground. We were able to host a dinner and discussion time with a wide range of midwives - from those working in free clinics to those working in private hospitals. We had the opportunity to discuss the ways that the Philippines excels in caring for pregnant, laboring, and postpartum women, as well as the shortcomings that need addressed. Testimonies at the conclusion of the night were overwhelmingly positive, with one of the midwives remarking that she had never considered how time spent with one another, discussing both the successes and hardships of the personal and professional aspects of being a midwife in their area, could be so valuable for a person in her field. The midwives expressed interest in continuing to meet together regularly to share stories and grow professionally through discussion with one another regarding their trade.
On Friday, our team was able to facilitate a Labor Seminar at the nearby Cumpio Midwifery Clinic. Almost 50 women attended the seminar, and were able to practice exercises for pregnancy, positions beneficial to labor progress, and newborn care techniques. In the Philippines, the common experience for women that give birth in hospitals and birth clinics is a negative one. Many women report that it is not uncommon to be yelled at, slapped, and treated with hostility during labor. The midwives at Cumpio Midwifery Clinic focus on compassionate care for all of their patients, and our team was blessed by the time spent with these midwives. We also had the privilege to attend a birth at their clinic and observe firsthand the empowering way in which laboring women are treated during labor, birth, and the 24 hours they remain at the clinic after birth. At the conclusion of the seminar, our team was able to gift each participant with a care package of essentials that will be greatly beneficial to them as they recover from childbirth and care for their new babies.
Over the course of the week, our team spent intentional time developing relationships with the young women that frequent Tahanan. The purpose of this was not only to form relationships with these young women and share with them from the Word, but also to gain information pertinent to the Reproductive Health Seminar that our group would facilitate at the end of our trip. In the developing world, many young women are given little, and in some cases, no education regarding their reproductive health. This can often lead to higher incidences of unplanned pregnancy, and young mothers who are unaware of their bodies and unprepared for labor, birth, and caring for newborns. We were able to survey the young women that frequently participate in Bible studies and service projects with Tahanan, and tailor a seminar toward their needs. The young women that attended were empowered with pertinent reproductive health information and demonstrated their understanding of the information by creating and performing their own skits related to a topic from the seminar at the conclusion of the day together.
Our team was so blessed by the service we were able to do over the past week. The four of us have spent many years as recipients of education and training, both in God’s Word and practical skills, and were able to see that fruit of all of that as we served. Having Rina as a member of our group was integral to our success, as she ensured that we remained culturally appropriate and were able to communicate in a language that the women could understand - an invaluable and empowering aspect of maternal health efforts. In Luke 10, Jesus sends out his disciples, in pairs, to minister. They return to him and joyfully report regarding the success that they had. It is apparent that the disciples were ready - they were ready to go out on the mission Jesus sent them on and be a benefit to the places and people they visited. Our team felt the same kind of joy after this trip.
In the same way, the South East Asia Maternal Health team had the privilege of being sent out to minister over this last week, and has returned with a joyful report. The welcome we received from every group we served was incredible. It enabled us to be a blessing by imparting the education that we were first blessed to receive. We are so thankful for the ways that our ministry in the realm of Maternal Health is growing, and look forward to continuing the good work that we were able to participate in while on the field this past week.