Monday, April 1, 2013

Emmanuel Center for Women and Children

I don’t know if you remember one of our blogs from last year about a funeral I had to do in Gamasara. If not you can check it out here. Basically a child died in large part because of a systemic issue of the lack of rights of women and children that exist in many of the families in Gamasara.  At the end of the blog I asked a question that I knew the church here would have to find a way to answer if we were going to truly be the church in Gamasara. How can we respond to this representative case in a Christian way? How can we see the justice that God calls for be present in our ministry?

How can we BE THE CHURCH in our community here in Gamsara?

As conversations were started to answer this most important question we found out that this was A) not an isolated issue and B) a deeper issue that we at first thought. We found that for many children the only examples they were encountering were examples of violence as they went back and forth from home to school. In both cases the will of the teacher or of parents are being enforced with violence and expressed love is a foreign concept. We found similar experiences for women as they are only one rung above children in this social system. Often times abusive husbands will not only be physically abusive, but they will also refuse for their wives to leave the house, and attend social events. This definitely includes church. The result is the emotional abuse of isolation is heaped on top of physical abuse. This became clear when fear was expressed at the very idea that women return home and request (or worse yet demand) their rights, namely a right to not be beat. These are only snap shots of the overreaching problem concerning women and children in this area. These are all cultural, systematic, community issues that don’t have very simple answers.

The Emmanuel Center for Women and Children has become our attempt at a entering into this conversation about women’s and children’s rights in a way we feel like has a chance to succeed. It might look like we are taking a long way around or building up more than we really need to address the issue of women and children’s rights. However, as we bring development concepts and knowledge of the local culture together we feel like we have a workable plan that will result in solid, forward steps taken to bring a better more faith-filled family environment into the village of Gamasara. We are hoping for progress and praying for transformation.

Here’s the plan:

We hope to create an example of Christian love in word, action, and service for the community of Gamasara through education, support, and advocacy.

The first thing we hope to do is start a nursery school that will be an example for the children and for the parents in the education of and care for a child. This school will stand out, not so much for its excellent education, though we expect quality education to take place, but for its standards of love and care to be provided by teachers and administration. This will be our hallmark, a bastion of love, in an environment filled with violence at most schools and in many homes.

The parallel to this will be the beginning of the women’s ministry. We want to start with education, community, and faith. We will put on seminars in important areas such as health care, child raising, and small businesses. This education will be accompanied by the community of the women at the center. Being isolated in the home makes it that much easier to receive and believe all of the negative messages given out by other people in your family. We hope that by bringing together and educating women they will be the support for each other that each woman needs. All of this will be undergirded by faith. The ultimate Father on which we can all depend is God. If these women can find their value in the love God has for them as His children instead of depending on others in their lives that may or may not support them they will have the consistent emotional support of faith that is needed to make permanent changes.

I know that none of this sounds like advocacy. And it isn’t…not yet. The fear expressed by the women when we first started talking about women’s rights and returning home to tell their husbands they no longer had the right to beat them was real. What we know is that we will need to bring education and development into the situation before we can just start in telling people how to live. This is why there is a long term plan being attached to this center to help all of us reach our goal together as a community.

We are just now passing out of the planning stages and into the preparation stages. If you are really interested in this project please check out this link to where a description of the project with more detailed stages will be permanently located on our website. We appreciate prayers and support as we start one of our first projects that has a wider justice and advocacy scope than we have previously done.

You can also stay informed of progress by continuing to visit this blog or book mark the Emmanuel Center Page where we will be making occasional updates.

Emmanuel Center Proposal

Because God is with ALL of Us

Mission: To bring a Christian model of love within the family to the village of Gamasara.

Vision: To create an example of Christian love in word, action, and service for the community of Gamasara 
through education, support, and advocacy.

The reason (the story): The Emmanuel Center for Women and Children is an idea birthed from the history of God’s interaction with man. Throughout time God has chosen the side of the oppressed. God chose David, the smallest in his family to be the model of the perfect king. Before that He chose Gideon, the least of his tribe of the weakest tribe of the nation and made him a judge over all of Israel. Before that he chose the man with a stutter, Moses, to lead His people out of slavery. He has always been on the side of the oppressed, with never a better picture of this than Jesus and his mother Mary. Jesus did not come to earth as a strong king with an army, but a baby forced into exile by a king and later crucified by an empire. His mother was shamed in her fulfillment of God’s mission by becoming pregnant through the Holy Spirit before she was married. Yet one of the names for Jesus, for the incarnate God, is Immanuel, God with us. God has always been with the oppressed in any society, and has always wanted to give a place to those without one. The Emmanuel Center for Women and Children wants to continue God’s story of being with the oppressed as we start a center that literally means that God is with us (women and children). This message came home in the village of Gamasara at a funeral done in October 2012. The funeral was for a 10 year old boy who had been coming to our church. At the funeral we learned that he had been worked very hard on his father’s farm, working much harder than was normal even for children in this area. When he fell sick his father refused to take him to a doctor even though he had the money that the farm had brought in, the one his own son had helped so much to succeed. His father instead took him to a local healer because it is cheaper. The result was the funeral in October 2012. That boy, his name was Emmanuel, has inspired us as a church to make sure that God is with other women and other children who are not cared for, not valued, and who do not know that they are loved by their Father in Heaven. This is the inspiration and motivation for the Emmanuel Center for Women and Children and the mission of creating a model of Christian love and to make sure it is present within the families of Gamasara.

1)      Nursery School
a.       The school will be a model Christian community that shows the value and voice of children while displaying the love of God.
2)      Training of church members in community development and advocacy.
a.       Emphasis of the importance of the church community in helping to spread the message
b.      Depending on resources, some of this training will be from outside resources.
3)      Seminars and services for women
a.       Health, care of children, household accounting, basic education in reading, writing, math
b.      Help with immunizations and other health services
c.       Small business training
d.      Advocacy in women’s rights
4)      Involving the local government in our goals/purpose
a.       Education of local government based on the Child Law Act of 2009.
b.      Assist and support in the pursuit of common goals, especially in relation to community gatherings
5)      Community education groups
a.       Target key people in the community such as government, teachers, and community leaders to promote awareness of the place of women and children in the family and society as loved children of God.

The principles of the United Methodist Church that support the development of this center as quoted from our Book of Discipline (2008).
Book of Discipline (2008)
Part IV – Social Principles
Section III. Paragraph 162 – The Social Community

Introduction – “The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened.”

c) rights of children – “Once considered the property of their parents, children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations. Thus, we support the development of school systems and innovative methods of education designed to assist every child toward complete fulfillment as an individual person of worth…Children have the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being…these rights we affirm as theirs regardless of actions or in action of their parents or guardians. In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse.”

F) Rights of women – “We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life. We affirm the right of women to equal treatment in employment, responsibility, promotion, and compensation. We affirm the importance of women in decision-making positions at all levels of church and society and urge such bodies to guarantee their presence through policies of employment and recruitment. We affirm the right of women to live free from violence and abuse and urge governments to enact policies that protect women against all forms of violence and discrimination in any sector of society.”

The sections of Tanzanian law that support the development of this center, quoted from the Law of the Child passed and published in 2009.
Part II, Section A – Right of a child
We agree with and are interested in the promotion of the following statements made in the Law of the Child:

4.2 – “The best interest of a child shall be the primary consideration in all actions concerning a child whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts, or administrative bodies.”

7.2 – “A person shall not deny a child the right…to grow up in a caring and peaceful environment.

8.1 – “It shall be the duty of a parent, guardian, or any other person having custody of a child to maintain that child in particular that duty give the child the right to –
                Medical care including immunizations
                Education and guidance
                Right to play and leisure”

9.1 – A “A child shall have the right to life, dignity, respect, leisure, liberty, health, education, and shelter from his parents.”

9.3 – “Every parent shall have duties and responsibilities whether imposed by law or otherwise towards his child which include the duty to –
                A) Protect the child from neglect, discrimination, violence, abuse, exposure to physical and         moral hazards and oppression;
                b) Provide guidance, care, assistance, and maintenance for the child and assurance of the child’s              survival and development.”

11. “A child shall have a right of opinion and no person shall deprive a child capable of forming views the right to express an opinion, to be listened to and to participate in decisions which affect his well-being.”