February 3, 2013

Boaz: The Mother Saver

Passage: Psalm 17; Ruth 2.1-13; John 11.45-54

Dr. Eve Nakabembi is a Ugandan obstetrician.  One night, she had 8 mothers die in childbirth.   Another time she was performing a c-section and the power went out.  She had to do the incision by the light of her cell phone—holding her phone in one hand and the scalpel in the other.  In frustration, Dr. Eve said there had to be something done.

The mothers who died in her operating theatre point to some horrifying statistics.  About 850 women die every day in childbirth--14 a day in her country of Uganda.  If 2 or 3 jumbo jets crashed in one day, it would be the lead item in the news cycle.  Maternal death of that magnitude happens everyday and nobody seems to care.  Reducing the percentage of mom’s dying is a UN Millenium Development Goal (# 5) and we are far from reaching the goal set for 2015.

There are 3 major delays that lead to mothers dying from pregnancy complications:

- delay in seeking care

- delay of transport to facility

- delay of availability and quality of treatment once at facility

To stem the tide of maternal death and to help address the first two delays, Dr. Eve became the Academic Director of a unique Masters in Public Health Leadership program operated by Save the Mothers in Mukuno, Uganda.  The graduates of this programme, founded by a Canadian obstetrician, Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, are advocating for systemic change across a variety of spheres of influence—health care, social work, business, media, government, and clerics.  Stories of graduates are available on the Save the Mothers website.

The Mother Friendly Hospital Initiative (MFHI), developed by Save the Mothers, with support from Uganda's Ministry of Health and the WHO office, is directly addressing the third delay—at the hospital.  Using a Ugandan-Canadian obstetric and health administration expert team, Save the Mothers has developed a curriculum to train the STM Master in Public Health Leadership graduates at Uganda Christian University as Mother Friendly Hospital resource team advisors.  Save the Mothers supports and provides them with the skills to work with hospital administrators and staff in assessing, recommending and implementing changes, and monitoring the maternal and new-born services in their hospitals which include increasing the availability of life-saving equipment and ensuring a conducive and safe environment for mothers to deliver their babies in order to facilitate their functioning as "Mother Friendly Hospitals.”  The program seeks to improve the knowledge and clinical skills and hospital staff who care for mothers and their babies.

The problem is not just more doctors or more medicine or more money.   A whole radical change in the way women and mothers are treated by societies in Sub Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Haiti, India needs to occur.

Boaz, a man of standing, saved the lives of two mothers—Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.  When their husbands died, they were destitute.   Naomi returned to her people and Ruth, an outsider, a foreigner, came along with her.

Fortunately, Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side—Boaz.  The systems were in place to help him help them.  The family system worked.  Naomi cared for Ruth.  Ruth cared for Naomi.  Naomi used her family connections on her husband’s side to receive support.  The social welfare system worked.  Widows could glean in the fields during harvest time and obtain the food they needed for survival.  The legal and financial system worked.  Boaz went to the city gate (where business was conducted) and found a quorum of 10 required for a legal transaction.  He negotiated with another relative of Ruth for some property and, with the purchase of the property, the opportunity to marry Ruth.  He sealed the deal with an ancient custom of taking off his sandal and giving it to the other.  As a result, he married Ruth and promised to take care of her.

When the systems break down, as they do in many places in our world today, mothers die in staggering numbers.  Their deaths are entirely preventable and something has to be done.  The cry of the psalmist, “Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry.  Give ear to my prayer…keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,” is the cry of many women in our day.  They could easily be saying the same things the psalmist said, “Rise up, O Lord…rescue me…O Lord, by your hand save me.”

Boaz was a means of answering this prayer from the lips of Ruth.  And by saving her from destitution, others were saved.  Later in the book of Ruth we read that Ruth and Boaz had a child named Obed.  The women of the city said to Naomi (in what was to be a positive prophecy), “Bless the Lord who has given you this grandson.  May he be famous in Israel.  May he restore your youth and take care of you in your old age, for he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you so much, who has been kinder to you than seven sons.”  Boaz and Ruth’s son Obed had a son named Jesse who had a son named David, the King of Israel.  Through David’s line came Jesus of Nazareth.

In our gospel reading, Jesus the distant descendant of Ruth, the mother saved by Boaz, has upset the religious establishment.  There is a plot to kill him.  The high priest suggests “it is better for you that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish.”  John, the gospel writer interprets “He, the high priest, did not say this on his own, but as high priest he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God.”

And so, you see the effects of saving one mother.  Boaz saves Ruth.  Ruth becomes the grandmother of Jesus.  Jesus becomes the Saviour of the world.  Save the Mothers and you Save them Others.

I called to book a hair appointment not so long ago.  I called from using the Save the Mothers telephone.  While sitting in the chair, the woman cutting my hair asked about the name that came up on the call display.  Was it Save the Mothers or was it Save Them Others?  You see the letters are the same and without spaces on her call display it is easy to see how she could mistake Save the Mothers with Save them Others.  Yet, that is the point isn’t it?  If you save the mothers, you save them others.  When a child looses his mother it is a birthright of poverty and disease.

Dr. Eve and Dr. Jean know all about this.  They know if you save the mothers, you save the child.  If you save the mother and child, the society is better off.  Save the Mothers and you really do Save them Others.

Boaz was a mother saver.  Are you?  Yes you are.  I am hear to say “thank you” to Central United for the support you will give to Save the Mother through your Lent focus.  Learn more about Save the Mothers by reading Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese’ book “Where have all the mothers gone?” or signing up for our newsletter.

Would you join us for a 5k walk on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend—Steps to Deliver Change?  The event, took place in 7 cities across Canada last year (Vancouver, Dundas, Cambridge, Wiarton, Bradford West Gwillimbury, East Toronto, and Montreal) is designed to raise awareness and funds.  We need volunteers, walkers, sponsors and donors for this year.

Boaz was a mother saver. Central United is a mother saving church.  Save the Mothers and you Save them Others.