Changes That Last

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

We, this past week, helped a 15 year old through labor and birth.  As she tenderly nursed her newborn boy I thought about her life.  She could, like many of her community, have several babies throughout her young adult life.  She may lose some of them to sickness, and not raise some of them, by giving a few away to relatives or orphanages.  We see this pattern over and over.  A teen gets pregnant and her options are limited.  School is usually no longer an option.  She, with limited resources, struggles to care for her child. The baby may get sick or may end up with relatives or at an orphanage.  The void is huge, another pregnancy happens, and the cycle continues.

Many men want biological children but not babies by a man who came before them; so her children by another man may end up in an orphanage or other care setting.  Since mom is young, has little education, and few skills, she is dependent on finding a man or relatives that will care for her.  She is locked into the choices they make for her.  If they want her child they take him.  If they feel they can do better for the child they take over the parenting.  The mother–child bond is broken.   Mom’s brokenness and lack or resources lead her into multiple pregnancies and children she cannot care for.

We teach these young girls to wait for marriage.  We teach them to breastfeed and care for the babies they deliver.  We teach them to be responsible, to space out their children, and keep their children.  We tell them orphanages are for orphans not babies that are not convenient.

Their struggle is huge.  Culture, older women, relatives are trapped in a mindset that may not preserve the mother-child relationship.  Extended family is wonderful and most of us are grateful to have them.  Grandparents, aunts and sisters are a huge blessing to a young mom.  With their help a mother can perhaps still go to school, get a job, be successful.  But when these family members unwittingly work against the mom,  the cycle of poverty and the old wives’ tales may continue and can be destructive.

We teach young moms to exclusively breastfeed.  Grandma and auntie may not agree with that and whisk the baby away with a bottle, which sabotages success.  A bottle fed baby is often in danger of ongoing  sickness here, but culture holds to the notion that babies need bottles and breast milk is not healthy.  A mother is often told she does not produce enough milk and that breast milk is bad.

Our program provides food, vitamins, prenatal care, a safe birth, postpartum and baby care.  All of these are good things.  But our classes are by far the most important part of our program.  Education changes thinking.  New thinking changes lives.  Stopping cycles of destruction that can last a lifetime is the heartbeat of our program.  Getting young women to take responsibility for the children they bear and to space their children can change their lives and this culture.  Educating women brings about change in a country.

These young women will someday be old.  They will speak into the lives of the young.  We look forward to the day when they teach the young to stay pure, care for their babies, be a family, and be successful.

Children need family.  They need their moms to raise them and extended family to help them.  Older women need to teach younger women the truth, but they have to know the truth first.   Our classes last from a positive pregnancy test, till the baby is six months old.  The lessons, we pray, will last for generations!

Beth McHoul

  1. Kathy Tonagel says:

    It makes me frustrated just to hear that the culture thinks breastfeeding is bad and bottles are the choice of feeding. Aren’t the fat little breastfed babies proof??? I love what you’re doing for the women, children and families…

    • johnmchoul says:

      Thank you for you kind words. Yes, one would think that the fat, healthy, breast fed babies should be sufficient proof, but it doesn’t seem to be so.

  2. Patty Alley says:

    Love this post and you have summed it up so gracefully. Unfortunately I was a product of this cycle as a teen mom and the daughter of a teen mom but my circumstances and God’s plan were different for me here in the USA, but I know God has plans for me to use my past as a testimony now and in the future. Education and support are the key and you are doing such a wonderful job with the Women of Haiti I can’t wait to get to Haiti and see some of this first hand Beth.

    • johnmchoul says:

      Praise God that He uses us because of our past. Praise God that He breaks the cycle and begins a new one for others to follow. Praise God for His redeeming power. Thank you for your encouraging words.

  3. Hi John and Beth,
    Candy and I have seen our share of needs too. We both work with mentally challenged adults. They have autism, Downs syndrome and many other retardation and physical needs. We have to keep working because we have lost so much of our retirement income, savings and our business investment has evaporated. We still have a good life and our needs are being met. The recession and the political austerity policies have created a large homeless population, most of which are children. An estimated 600 homeless in our city area alone. We are active in church and civic organizations that provide help but the greed and apathy are adding to the problems.
    We know that our source is providing and that we are part of the solution.
    Our prayers are with you.

    • johnmchoul says:

      Wow, Steve, what a joy to hear from you. How many years has it been? Glad to see that you and Candy are touching lives, especially those that may be largely unnoticed by the church. Thank you for your prayers.

  4. Becky says:

    Thank you for what you are doing in PAP. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to those women and children.

  5. I love what you all are doing at Heartline ministries now. After the years we have spent doing adoption and watching the issues described above; I hope that some day we can invest in the families of Haiti with a program similar to yours. Education is such a big thing and so much is needed. Thank you for all you are doing for our dear Haitian mommies and their babies and the next generation. God bless you. -Melinda Ulysse (Pat Smith’s daughter)

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