(MDG4) Suffer the Little Children

Christmas Eve is a particularly inspiring time to focus on maternal and infant health.  As we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus into the world and into our lives, this blog post about the Millennium Development Goal addressing child mortality strikes home in a special way.

“Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—

you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40 (The Message)

In the King James version of the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark you can find the phrase “suffer the little children.” Modern translations don’t use this archaic terminology, but say some variation of “let the children come to me.” This is the clearer meaning for us today, of course, but having been raised on the poetry of King James, I can’t see a child in pain without thinking of that phrase and of all the little children that still suffer in much the same way as those of biblical times.

The fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of the United Nations is to reduce child mortality and the suffering of all God’s little children.

The mortality statistics for children under five in developing countries are improving, but of the 67 countries defined as having high child mortality rates, only 10 are currently on track to meet the MDG target.

When I read that statistic, I can shake my head and say, “Tsk, tsk!”, and go on with my life, or I can try to put myself in the place of a mother in one of those countries. What is it like to bear a child with the knowledge that she has a one in seven chance of dying before her fifth birthday?

I have been pregnant seven times, so that struck close to home. I have three wonderful grown sons, but between the second and third I miscarried four times. With each loss my odds of carrying another child to full term decreased. After the second miscarriage I tried to protect myself from the pain by becoming detached from each successive pregnancy. I feared to love the tiny life growing inside me. Eventually, I was able to carry my third son to term, but I refused to plan or hope until he was nearly full term.

What does the fear of loss do to the heart of a mother in sub-Saharan Africa? How can she protect herself from fear of loss when she is holding her beloved child in her arms?

I imagine what that is like and it hurts to try to walk that path, even in my thoughts.

We need to give, to learn, to share for the sake of the suffering children, but as women we need the courage to feel our sister’s pain, just for a moment, so that we are motivated to reach out in God’s love to both her and her children. They have been overlooked and ignored for far too long.


This blog post is part of our series on the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations as part of the End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign. Millennium Development Goal #4 is “Reduce Child Mortality.” Please visit www.endpoverty2015.org for more information on the MDGs, including fact sheets and updates on advances on this goal.

This blog post is contributed by Jonna Hawker Turek, a past Coordinator of the Western Section on the American Baptist Women’s Ministries national board. Jonna is a businesswoman, writer and motivational speaker, and lives in Northern California. You may read more of Jonna’s writings on her blog, “Power Walking with Jonna,” at http://jonnaturek.wordpress.com/.



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