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January 26, 2016

My friend, Ashley, who lives in eastern Congo and is also a MAF wife, tagged me and Shannon (my friend and OB who lives in Vanga and just gave birth to her son there on the 15th) in this article.  It compares, via photographs, the different things women bring to the hospital for delivery in developed countries versus rural Africa.

Shannon commented that most of her patients bring exactly the same things as the photo from Tanzania, but she points out, “We do have two sources of clean water close-by and the maternity has a faucet that works well enough to fill a basin for cleaning if left there for about 20 min. We wash over a drain in the floor. But definitely don’t need to bring our own medical supplies.”

If you’re panicking for my sake, please don’t.  I will get to take a shower at the house where we’ll be staying.  It will even be a hot shower if I want (which I doubt…because goodness knows it’s hot there, sans air conditioning, like we have here in our spoiled city living…when the power is on).

But, my upcoming baby birthing is not the point.  The thing that was most compelling for me as I scrolled through the messy article filled with ads and waited for the photos to load, is that the women in the Western countries, like most, if not all of you, reading this, have a choice.  The women in Africa featured in this article who are giving birth in the hospital only have one other option: to deliver at home, without medical help.  And that’s not really an option worth taking, is it?

In the US, we have constant conversations about best birth practices.  Which drugs are safe, if any?  Which interventions are necessary and when?  What protocols are best for baby and which should be avoided – eye ointment, vaccinations immediately after birth, skin-to-skin contact, the list is endless… Even where to have our babies is a choice – hospital, which one?  Home?  Birthing center?  Tub?  Table?  Ball?  Stool?

What if we didn’t have those choices?  What if we didn’t even know those choices existed?  Because that is the case for millions and millions of mothers around the world…and reading this article caused this fact to dawn on me in a new way.

Our family is choosing to stay in Congo to deliver because we made a choice based on a list of pros and cons.  But it was still a choice.  It always was.  And it continues to have the freedom of a choice.

We decided that since there is an obstetrician here that we know very well, with a hospital where she’s comfortable (and, yes, even just delivered her own baby), and the pregnancy has been normal, as have the previous three births, the choice was “easy” for us to make.

The alternatives had fewer pros and more cons…traveling internationally while immensely pregnant while toting small children was enough to kill the pros list immediately.  Even though the draw of being around family was big, it wasn’t enough to tip the scales.  Not this time, with these circumstances.

But, the choices – we had them and we made them and we are confident in them.  But what about the ladies in these photographs who don’t get to choose?  We are blessed, or spoiled, or privileged – I can’t even pick a best word – beyond measure for having those options.

And it’s not just about birth.  It’s about the everyday things.  Did you choose what you had for dinner?  And breakfast?  And lunch?  And whether or not you should snack today…and what it would be?  The constant debate on nutritious food for better health is nauseating when considering that just outside my gate there are people who are only hoping to eat once today, and it had better be fufu so they feel full for a while.

Don’t wonder if those conversations are worth having – they definitely are.  What foods are best?  Best to be avoided?  Gluten, refined sugar, carbs, meat, non-organic, non-GMO…I think if I tried to describe this to your average Congolese person, they would shake their heads and wonder if I was mad.  And probably not believe me anyway.  But when you’re making the choice, it is most definitely important.

And we are constantly choosing.  We choose what we wear and where we shop to get it (we choose between name brand, off brand, used, new, stylish, practical, even hand me downs are chosen whether we keep them or not).  We choose how often to eat out versus eat in.  We choose how to make our bodies healthier – gym, running, sports, oils, supplements, and right back to food.

So, my point?  My point is that when I engage this culture, I must remind myself that I almost always have a choice, and I have always had the choice.  It is the privilege of being born into the culture that I was.  But, here?  In most cases, the freedom to choose has been absent, even from the moment and circumstances of their birth.  And our goal in being here, is to remind them that there is one area where they, and all of us, can ALWAYS choose…we can choose Jesus.  For me, choosing to live a life designed after Christ, really, is yet another choice I’ve made.  But, maybe, for some here, it is the first truly free choice they’ve been able to make.  What a weight.  What magnitude.  What importance.  How am I living to show that this choice is available to everyone, not just another privilege I get to select from a shiny, proverbial shelf of lifestyle choices?  Ugh, what a question.  I’m going to choose prayer, praise, gratitude, and probably some chocolate as I think on my choices and our call to live here in Congo…and how I can be the salt and light for Christ amongst people who aren’t always able to choose.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2016 0829

    Beautifully said.   Love you.

  2. January 26, 2016 0829

    Beautiful Lisa, just beautiful. Glad you liked the article – it really did put some things in perspective.

  3. January 26, 2016 0829

    I love this, Lisa!! Can’t wait to hear all about your DRC birth. How exciting!

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