Question: A vaccine for COVID-19

All we hear these days is that there is a vaccine coming for the novel coronavirus. I think it’s wonderful and necessary for scientists to be working on a vaccine, but rushing the process could prove dangerous for the next generation.

It takes years to create vaccines, 10-15 years on average (https://www.ifpma.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/IFPMA-ComplexJourney-2019_FINAL.pdf). The standard procedure requires years to study their effects in the lab before even moving trials to humans. We are planning on having a vaccine for a virus that is not yet a year old, and we are trying it first on the most vulnerable in our society. Does that seem like a good idea?

Seniors, people of color, the economically poor, and those with preexisting conditions will be first to get the vaccine. Are these people in the clinical trials? An article from UC Health stated that some vulnerable populations will be in their trials, which I am thankful for (https://www.uchealth.com/press-releases/clinical-trial-for-covid-19-vaccine/). But how extensive will trials be before subjecting these populations to the vaccine?

I believe I am more skeptical because of the Tuskegee Study. In the years between 1932 and the early 1970s, African American males were placed in a study to track the long-term effects of syphilis in the body (https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/index.html). The problem with the study was that the men did not know that they were being used in the experiment. They were simply lab rats for the United States public health system. Most participants—individuals from an already oppressed and marginalized population—were exploited until their death with only the promise of free medical appointments and meals.

When we rush, we often make major mistakes even when our intentions are good. And we often look to those most vulnerable to carry the risk. As much as we want an answer to COVID-19 and to get back to our lives as usual, the most defenseless in our population should not be the first to test the vaccine on a large scale. The most vulnerable should remain in isolation as much as they can, as we all practice social distancing, wear masks, and maintain the social bubbles of those at risk. We should prepare safe spaces for them to gather and navigate our society. They deserve that kind of care.

Each of us should be prepared to do our part in the years before widespread inoculation to COVID-19. If wearing masks and social distancing helps slow the virus (whose lasting effects we have yet to learn), would it not be safer for all to continue these practices? Consider your loved ones. Consider the next generation. What if this vaccine works in the short run but over time causes other health issues? We need to not push for a vaccine fast, but a vaccine that will tackle this and many other coronaviruses if possible. 

Some people are willing to be the subjects of vaccine testing. I thank God for those who risk their health as an act of service to humankind, for the betterment of all. But a human subject of such an experiment should be fully aware of one’s choice and reasoning for doing so. No one should do this out of fear or ignorance. We will need people from all walks of life to help ensure that our world is better prepared for the next pandemic, but they should do so only in freedom and through well-informed decisions. The vulnerable must be protected and treated with the dignity they deserve.

Coffee and Conversation

Two weeks ago, women from Emmaus Road and Fairhaven Mennonite Churches gathered on Saturday morning at the Berne Dinner in Berne, IN for fellowship and conversation. The thirteen women, with ages ranging from their 30 to 90-years-old, spent two hours discussing issues facing our children and the churches response. Cyneatha Millsaps, MW USA executive director, led the conversation with concerns of young white males and the messages they are receiving about themselves and how those messages could shape their futures. Cyneatha spoke as an African-American mother who has seen the results of young black males living into negative and disparaging words describing their character. Cyneatha has been warning the church and leaders who seek to bring about a just racial and equitable society to be mindful of how we invite our young people into the conversations. As the conversation deepened, women who work in the local schools shared their concerns for this issue as well. Educators spoke about the levels and numbers of young people dealing with depression, thoughts of suicide, domestic violence, etc. Issues like these and a growing poverty rates demand a response from the church. If you would like to host a coffee and conversation in your area with Cyneatha Millsaps or other leaders of Mennonite Women USA, please contact Cyneatha at 316-281-4395 or the MW offices at 316-281-4396.

Celebrate by Cyneatha Millsaps

Christmas is the season when we celebrate the birth of a king. The Christ child entered this world to save everyone and every living thing. I often think of what it meant for Mary to know that she was responsible for this important little life. She was given the assignment for all generations. I am sure Mary worked extremely hard to raise a compassionate, intelligent and loving young man. Our family has welcomed another little one into our clan; Ava was born September 10. I think of her mother (and father) and wonder if they truly grasp the responsibility that has been given to them. Every child born should be considered, the child that will save a nation. The child that will free a people. How much different would our world be, if everyone saw every child as the Christ child? I encourage all of us to begin to see our children as not simply gift for us, but shepherds for the world. How would you prepare them for the important task ahead?

 

Women Doing Theology by Cyneatha Millsaps

Earlier this month, I attended my first Women Doing Theology (WDT) conference, “Talkin’ bout a Revolution”. I found this Women in Leadership event to be informative and refreshing. It was great to see young women in leadership gathering together. Having a conference designed for women makes it easier for us to see and hear ourselves. The conference also shows the new leaders of the church and it is hopeful. I felt like my prayers for the last ten years were being answered.

It is always great to gather with friends. Women have such busy schedules that we don’t often find time for ourselves. WDT gives women a platform to step away from family, community and work to simply take in the gospel. I like to compare WDT to the women’s retreats that were created years ago. Several years ago, I organized a “Black Mennonite Women Rock” retreat in Michigan. The idea was to get the younger generation to the camp sites. But I knew in order to get them, they would need substance, not just relaxing. So we created a combination of retreat space and educational space. WDT has capitalized on this kind of gathering, where women gather for a purpose.

I look forward to the next WDT conference and encourage other women to attend.

Question | Self-preservation? by Cyneatha Millsaps

I have had the pleasure of speaking with young men from rural and urban spaces in the past month. I am amazed that both see to the issue of guns from the same point of view: self-preservation. In the various conversations, all the young men thought that carrying a gun was not only necessary but also a call to duty. One young man, at a mission’s fundraiser, said that he had is firearm in case something jumped off. My husband asked, “At a church fundraiser?” He then proceeded to tell the young man to leave and remove the gun from church premises. Another young man posed this scenario: if you were in a convenience store with a gun on your hip it could deter a possible assailant. I asked, “How do we know who the good guy or the bad guy is?” If self-preservation is the main point, then how do we decide whose life is more valuable? And what does that say about us as Christians? Jesus followers don’t seek to save their lives but lose them for the sake of the good news. If your Christian witness starts with self-preservation from “the other” regardless of whom that might be, chances are you are not a Christ follower.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

Mark 8:35-36

Cyneatha Millsaps

Ponder, Celebrate, Question and Affirm

My prayer for the Mennonite Women blog is to offer women weekly nuggets of thought. I pray that together we can discuss important messages facing our community and world together. This blog is not a place for anger and negative feedback. Any messages that are not positive will be removed immediately and blocked.
I encourage everyone, to read, respond and offer prayers.

 

Something to ponder

One week ago, James Garrett, a 19-year-old senior at Butler Prep Academy in Chicago, Illinois, was shot and killed while attending a vigil for a friend that was killed in an automobile accident. James was a good student and had been accepted to a couple of different colleges already. James was reported as having a passion for life and was looking forward to leaving Chicago to pursue higher education.

I was struck by the words of his mother. James’ mother said that she had moved neighborhood to keep her children safe. She drove them everywhere, to make sure they would not be victims of street violence. And despite all her attempts to keep her children safe, she lost her son while attending a vigil for a friend. Someone drove by the vigil and began shooting into a crowd of around 100 people.

I wonder what, if anything else, this mother could have done? What is wrong on the streets of America where there seems to be no respect for human life?

The city of Chicago has seen 432 homicide so far this year. This is just one city in the U.S.

Today I invite you to offer a prayer for the Garrett family. But also, a prayer for peace and a call for the respect of human life.

Cyneatha Millsaps