Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Become an Advent Advocate!

Sep 01 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

As our fall season of church school and adult education begins, take a minute to think about what you will study this Advent season. As we wait with Mary for a child who would be our savior, let us wait with women around the globe who face staggering challenges as they give new life. This advent, Learn about maternal health globally and in the US, and learn about the steps you can take to advocate for mothers everywhere!

Download this four-session Advent Bible Study to do with your church, exploring Mary’s story of pregnancy and Christian advocacy for maternal health.

Comments Off

Fistula Stories at the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S.A. Triennial Gathering!

Jul 11 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Check out the slides from our workshop for a sneak-peek!

If you’re going to be at the gathering, come to our workshop: Walking in Solidarity with Our Global Sisters: Saturday, July 16, 1:00-2:30pm and 3:00-4:30pm!

Comments Off

The Experience of a Lifetime

Jan 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Judy Schwartz
B’rith Kodesh WRJ, Rochester, NY

Judy poses with the new friends she made at the secondary school.

Judy poses with the new friends she made at the secondary school.

It was through the participation of Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) in the project “Pads for Power,” making personal hygiene pads for Sudanese village girls, that I had the amazing opportunity to join a volunteer service mission in the village of Atiaba, Sudan, in May 2010.  Members of St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, VA, had developed this project based on their observation, during previous missions, of the young girls’ need for personal hygiene pads so they could attend school regularly. WRJ learned about “Pads for Power” through the networking of Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, Senior Advisor on Disability Issues at The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, St. James Episcopal Church, and Katie Roeper, then chair of the WRJ Department on Programming and Advocacy, and introduced it to our sisterhoods.

My sisterhood, B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY, and about seven other North American sisterhoods, joined this initiative. While we were sewing, I suggested that we try to raise funds to buy a treadle sewing machine for this village, and learned that there was a machine we could purchase. Sufficient funds were raised by the involved sisterhoods in only nine days- and we were able to buy two machines!

After several months of wondering, I decided to inquire about going to Sudan with the Richmond team. My contact, Angie, at St. James’s, explained that I would be able to join their relief team if there was a spot, as only eight people could go to Sudan in May of 2010. She would know how many by January or February. On February 9, 2010, the call came, there were only five going so far. I am a teacher by profession and asked if I would be able to do a little teaching in the primary school. Angie replied that school was under a tree and I would need to bring all of my own supplies. I taught the children action songs at each of their classrooms under a tree, as music is the universal language. Their smiles were beautiful and their laughter was music to my ears.

We stayed at a Mustard Seed medical clinic in Akot, three miles from Atiaba. There were two nurses and one pediatrician on our team and I joined them as they did rounds with the resident doctor from North Carolina. He has volunteered to work at this clinic for the past five years.  I learned that the clinic had begun to use the pad kits for the moms after they deliver their babies, so I delivered some to the clinic’s storeroom. It was wonderful to learn that there was another important use for them.

This “medical” team and I did eye exams at the secondary school in Atiaba and found several students who really were sight impaired. I recently learned that all received their glasses within three months, which was truly remarkable!  The pads are definitely being used and needed at the secondary school and the sewing machine there is in working order. The girls at the school received several pad kits. I also participated in Career Day and observed the weekly debate at the school. Both were impressive events. These students are in college preparatory classes.

At the end of November, I was in Richmond, VA, to speak to the congregation of St. James’s Church, along with two others from the team, to tell them of my wonderful experience and encourage them to go on the relief mission this May.

A referendum will be held on January 9, 2011, because southern Sudan wants to separate from northern Sudan. There is great fear that a civil war will result. While I was in Richmond, I learned that as a precaution and in anticipation of the possibility of war, the secondary school term ended two weeks early so that the teachers, who are all from Uganda, could travel safely home in plenty of time.  This was also done for the safety of the students, so they will no longer be out on the road walking or biking to and from school. There is also the possibility that the Mustard Seed clinic will close temporarily so that the US doctor can either return stateside or travel to another African country where he will be safe. The clinic would be a target and they plan to have it completely evacuated so no one will be harmed.

The Pads project is ongoing and more pads are always needed. Please email me: or call me 585.442.5111 for more information.

Judy Schwartz is a former member of the Women of Reform Judaism Board of Directors and chair of social action, WRJ Northeast District.

Comments Off

Fistula Stories from the Field

Dec 16 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

On Tuesday, December 7, 2010, we were blessed to have three women working with “fistula women,” as they call them, in Tanzania and Uganda join us for a special lunch. They shared the stories of their work and answered questions from the audience. Check out the clips from the lunch below–thank you Liz, Yasinta, and Priscilla for sharing with us–And thank you to our partners Religions for Peace for making their trip possible!

Comments Off

It’s that time of year…

Dec 09 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Grant reporting time!  If you have downloaded any Fistula Stories resources or used this website, will you take a moment to fill out this brief survey?

It will help us communicate to our donors the value of this work and the results it is getting.  Responses received by Dec. 31, 2010 will be most helpful!

Thank you!

Comments Off

Looking for an Advent Bible Study?

Nov 01 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Look no further.

Check out “Mary’s Story,”  an Advent Bible study that follows Mary’s journey through pregnancy and considers Christian responses to the maternal health crisis in our world and in the United States.  Click on the “US Maternal Health” tab above to find the Study–and download it for free!

As we wait for the baby who would be our salvation, we wait also for the physical salvation of each woman who dies giving life.  Advent begins on Novmeber 28, so visit and download the Bible Study today!

Comments Off

“These are my sisters…”

Oct 06 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Village Women at Work was commissioned by the Maryknollers from Tanzanian artist Charles Ndege.

Village Women at Work was commissioned by the Maryknollers from Tanzanian artist Charles Ndege.

She could be my mother, my sister, my daughter or even me—-how would I want to be treated? As I meet these different women who smell, who look at me with such haunting eyes, I often reflect on how I would want to be treated if this was me who was dribbling urine so uncontrollably down my legs. What would the healing touch look like and how would it be received?

I am so privileged to be able to be here in Africa. I am able to put my arm around women suffering from fistula and give them a hug. I can help them access surgery for a repair to make them whole once again. I can help put the light back into their eyes when they know they are cured. Women who have a fistula can be so ostracized by their own family and the community that they often lose their self confidence.

I do feel that it is our role as Christian women to accept women suffering from fistula unconditionally and be there for them. To stand with them and to offer them the love and care that we ourselves would want someone to give to us if we were in this condition. We can help them regain self confidence and dignity through this acceptance and care. Their strength and resilience is unbelievable after all that has happened to them. What would have been our own response if we had suffered such a devastating injury at a time of birthing which should have brought such happiness?

These are my sisters, my daughters, my grandmothers and I am compelled by my faith to walk with them. The questions I often reflect on for myself are: Who needs the healing touch of Jesus today and how can I be that healing touch?  How can you be that healing touch? It is where you want to be.

Liz Mach has worked in Africa since 1976 as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner.  She has set up maternal-child health clinics, initiated Care and Treatment Centers for HIV patients and worked since 1997 on Fistula issues within Tanzania. Liz has been a founding member of the Board of Governors for the development of a medical school within Bugando Medical Centre  complex in Mwanza, Tanzania as well as the first Director of Development for the school. Presently she works at  a rural Health Center assisting the administration in HIV care, introducing surgical care and working with a team on the prevention of Female Genital Mutilation.

has worked in Africa since 1976 as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner.
She has set up maternal-child health clinics, initiated Care and Treatment Centers for HIV patients and worked since 1997 on Fistula issues within Tanzania. Liz has been a founding member of the Board of Governors for the development of a medical school within Bugando Medical Centre  complex in Mwanza, Tanzania as well as the first Director of Development for the school. Presently she works at  a rural Health Center assisting the administration in HIV care, introducing surgical care and working with a team on the prevention of Female Genital Mutilation.

Comments Off

Exploring Fistula Through Art; An Interview with Mary Button

Sep 28 2010 Published by under Uncategorized


The Annunciation

What inspired this project?
This project came about because of my lucky association with two phenomenal theologians: Rev. Anne Tiemeyer and Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson. I met Rev. Tiemeyer when I joined Advent Lutheran Church as a freshman at New York University. Eight years later, I arrived at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and landed in Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson’s seminar Sexuality and the Bible. Dr. Johnson encouraged us to bring into the classroom issues that we felt passionately about and could engage with for the duration of the semester. Having worked with Rev. Tiemeyer and the National Council of Churches, I was familiar with the Fistula Stories project and took the opportunity Dr. Johnson gave me to learn more about the social justice issues surrounding obstetric fistula and bring them into the classroom.

The Annunciation.1

Mothers Cradling

Can you describe the art and your process to our readers?
My artistic process always begins in second hand bookstores. I take an afternoon, or two or three, and move from bookstore to bookstore camping out in the art section. A week or so after proposing a project on obstetric fistula for class, I started to make my rounds of my favorite bookstores in the Atlanta area. Inspiration struck when I found an only slightly tattered monograph of the work of the German Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald. I have seen photographs of his masterwork The Isenheim Altarpiece a thousand times, but sitting on the floor of a bookstore I suddenly felt like I was seeing it for the first time. I had rushing through my head photographs I had seen of women awaiting fistula repair surgery on the campaign to end fistula website and looking at Grunewald’s altarpiece I came back to the question I’ve been asking myself since I first started making art: How can Christian art be prophetic? How can Christian art follow the prophetic call in Isaiah 1:17 to “Learn to do good; Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (New American Standard Bible)

What connections do you see between art, faith, and work for justice?
Christian art has an obligation to re-visit, re-interpret, and re-imagine our history. And one way that I try to do that with my art is by putting historical imagery in conversation with contemporary social justice issues. For the fistula work that meant starting with Matthias Grunewald’s images of the Virgin Mary on the Isenheim Altarpiece and photographs of women with obstetric fistula. I had the idea of making pieces that would re-imagine: the annunciation, Mary cradling and bathing the baby Jesus. I drew into each panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece women with fistula. They accompany Mary.  Where they were photographed in Bangladesh and Ethiopia and Tanzania waiting for and recovering from fistula repair surgery, Mary is now with them. Where mothers cradle their babies, Mary sits with them.

Mothers Bathing
Mothers Bathing

What affect has learning about fistula and making this art had on you personally?
I worked on this series throughout the duration of my Sexuality and the Bible seminar and the central question, for me, was: how has Christian art, in its depictions of the Virgin Mary, contributed to a culture that valorizes motherhood, but often demonizes the pregnant body? And what are the ramifications for women with fistula? I haven’t been able to come up with any sufficient answers to these questions and so my art-making continues. I hope that my work reflects my struggles with these questions because the larger questions of how we tell our own stories and how we make a place for others to tell theirs are important not just for artists, but for people of all faiths.

Mary Button an M T.S. student at Candler School of Theology and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She developed a powerful art project in 2009 for Ecumenical Women at the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women and has created the “Hymn Book Project”.  To learn more about Mary’s art go to

Comments Off

Multi-Faith Perspectives now available!

Sep 10 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Yay!  Check out the multi-faith perspectives that have been posted so far by clicking on the link above, and keep looking forward to others coming this fall!  Feel Free to copy our press release, below, and send it to folks you think would be interested in this exciting new addition.

Fistula Stories announces launch of Multi-Faith Resources!

Fistula Stories, a project of Women’s Ministries at the National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA, will expand its curriculum to include studies of texts from other faiths.  The Curriculum, currently in its second year of distribution, has until now focused on the connections between Christian faith and action, helping Christians to become advocates for an end to obstetric fistula.  Ann Tiemeyer, Program Director for Women’s Ministries at the NCC, believes that the additions of multi-faith perspectives will enrich the study for both Christians and people of other faiths.  “As we join with women from other faiths in the effort to end fistula with this generation, we will all gain new insights,” she says.  “Through a common commitment to justice, we are building on shared ground.”

A new section of features the Multi-Faith materials.  Currently Jewish and Islamic Supplements are available at, with Buddhist, Native American Spirituality, Sikh, and Hindu resources projected for this fall.  The Supplements include text studies and prayers, and can be studied individually or together.

Comments Off

Coming Soon…!

Aug 03 2010 Published by Fistula Stories under Uncategorized

Multi-Faith Fistula Stories!

As we prepare to launch Jewish and Islamic Supplements to Fistula Stories, we are too excited to keep it to ourselves!  Let our Jewish Contributer, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, pique your interest, and keep an eye out for the Supplements coming soon!

Why is Fistula a Jewish Issue?

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis photo 2Why should Jews be concerned about the issue of obstetric fistula?  It is not a condition that affects Western Jewish women. It does not have an impact on the state of Israel.  It does not have any connection to anti-Semitism.  So what makes this a Jewish issue?

Actually, the answer is really quite simple and straightforward.  Every issue of social justice is a Jewish issue. It is a core value of Judaism that all humanity, made in the image of God, is a partner with God in the ongoing work of creation.  We are always striving toward perfecting of God’s world.  Working to bring healing, wholeness, and health to women around the world is basic to that mission.

Whenever confronted with the question, “What does Judaism say about X?” the place to start is always with text, specifically the text of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses.  Thus, when writing the Jewish version of the fistula curriculum, I began with the foundational Jewish social justice texts.   The Torah teaches us we are all made in the image of God, and therefore must act as God acts.  As God is just, we should be just; as God is compassionate, we should be compassionate; as God cares for all the creatures of the earth, so, too, should we care for all the creatures of the earth.  Further, as we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, we are all brothers and sisters.  As such, we are all responsible, one to the other.  Leviticus 19:16 underlines the urgency of this fact, in enjoining us “do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.”  The meaning is clear – we cannot be apathetic or uninvolved when another human being is in trouble and in need of help.  Isaiah 58 makes this even more explicit in its classic social justice manifesto.  Ritual, prayer, holiday observance, is all very well and good, but it is ultimately meaningless if it is not accompanied by acts of social justice, looking out for the weakest and neediest among us.

The emphasis Fistula Stories puts on raising up women’s own voices and bringing to light women’s experiences spoke to me as a Jewish feminist.  When we look to Jewish text for inspiration, lessons, and role models for our own lives, we realize the many ways in which women’s voices and experiences have been de-emphasized and even hidden in the stories of our people.  The task for Jewish feminist scholars has been to uncover those stories and bring women’s histories back into focus.  What we find when we read our sacred traditions through this lens, is that there are many role models to be found among the women of our past.  Strong women like Rebekah and Hannah faced difficulties in their lives, but they faced them bravely and head-on.  Neither was afraid to address God directly and ask for what they needed.  These and other strong, courageous Biblical women inspire us and show us that we, too, can have the strength to face diversity and find our own solutions to life’s problems.  I hope the Jewish texts and prayers in Fistula Stories will likewise inspire the Jewish community to get involved in the effort to end obstetric fistula.

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, Contributer to Fistula Stories Multi-Faith Supplements,  holds a Masters Degree in Judaic Studies from New York University, and was ordained at Hebrew Union College (HUC), Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1992.  She currently works as a Jewish educator in Madison, WI.  Read more about her and check out the Jewish Fistula Stories Supplement.

Comments Off

Next »