As a child, I loved to hear this sentence! It meant that my family would soon be reunited. We wo uld have delicious meals and above all, lots of presents! As an adult, I also like this sentence, and I do have an incredibly long "to-do-list" for this festive period.
Today, in France, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are uncertain if we will be able to gather indoors with the extended family to celebrate Christmas. All the plans for big meals and presents seem useless and selfish. We may have to review our priorities to celebrate Christmas in light of what we have learned during this time of lockdown to control the spread of the COVID-19.
Christmas is coming, as well as World Day of Prayer on March 5th 2021. “Build on a strong Foundation” is the 2021 theme written by Christian women in Vanuatu. We listen to women’s voices through the worship service, which invites us to focus on the Bible story in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus tells a story about the kingdom of heaven using the image of a house and the land on which the house is built.
In Jesus’ story, the wisdom of the builder of the house comes from hearing and acting on the word of God, which is a word of love. This is the foundation on which our sisters in Vanuatu call us to build our homes, our nations and the world. A call of faith to be earnestly considered when responding to the prayer of commitment: “What is the house that you would build?”
Today, I know that what is essential and unique in each Christmas celebration is the human connection. Christmas could be an opportunity to say to my family and all my friends how much I love them. This is much more important than the gift I was running to get for each one of them.
The Christmas celebration is unique as well as World Day of Prayer. Every year it happens as a great gift. In the midst of the pandemic, it is like an opportunity to give the best of ourselves to the common good. In the face of the millions we have lost, who will be greatly missed in the family reunion, we commit to making Christmas an opportunity for transformation.
We are reminded by the women of Vanuatu that nothing prevents us from having our trust in God. I invite you to listen to the words of the angel to Mary, “Rejoice! The Lord has granted you a great favor. God is with you!” (Luke 1,28) Isn’t it the greatest of all promises?
Let us therefore celebrate Christmas affirming the foundation of the Gospel, which is God's love for the world. Friends of the WDP, feel blessed!
Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson
WDP Croatia has been organizing workshops and lectures implementing an initiative, called ‘She shall be called woman’ – re/constructing women's identity in the Bible. This initiative began in January 2020 and will end in April 2021.
The project discusses female identity, acceptance, self-image, and values that women have before God. We want to contribute to the change in ourselves and in our environment, to be as the Creator imagines us to be, and to leave a mark on the people around us. We are encouraged to reflect on our actions as Christians.
In October 2020, we held a workshop on the Island Veli Losini, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The theme was “When God calls us to overcome fear”, based on Genesis 1-5 and the Book of Esther 2-9. We gathered 46 participants from 17 to 75 years old, from 9 Christian denominations, and 20 Croatian cities. Among them, 18 women were first timers. For those who were not able to come to the workshop, we enabled the Zoom platform for participants from Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia.
We are also thankful to God for guidance, protection and for keeping us safe from the coronavirus. We were allowed to meet and followed the proper protocols. We had a safe gathering! Praise the Lord! We are immensely grateful for our prayers have been answered.
In the first part of the workshop, we reflected on God`s plan for human beings (Genesis 1-5). The participants were asked to reflect on their fear and their responses, and identify if and why they would feel intimidated in their communities, churches and homes.
Many shared about their fear of speaking up for themselves, or to speak in front of their churches, or even to their husbands. Others said they felt there is no room for them to express what they could really do, apart from the pre-set roles given to them by the male authorities in their communities. One said that she felt in her Church like “an unwanted child.”
Reflecting on Genesis 1-5, we understood that the fall should never be construed as God's divine order for us. God created man and woman with gifts and ordained them to walk with Him and be as one, and He would meet the innermost needs of both of them.
In the second part of the workshop, we turned to the Book of Esther (2-9) and analysed what happens in situations of great fear. We read the story of Esther and how she changed her attitude from one of “accepting the situation” (passive) to “accepting God’s plan for her” (active resolution). Esther understood what was going on and looked for support in God and in her community. In her response, Esther’s fear was a trigger for her actions.
In conclusion, we recognized that religion, as well as the Bible, are an important part of women’s lives. However, we feel bad when we are told that we are less worthy or less equal to God. We are tired of being constantly pointed at as “guilty” for the first sin. None of that brings to light the many examples of women in the Bible who provided godly leadership. Rather, they are samples of the patriarchal interpretation of the Bible. However, we can read the Bible with an interpretation that fosters equality. When open to this perspective, we see women and men equally loved by God.
Esther’s courage was not an absence of fear. Rather, it withstands fear. We then discovered that the strongest source of courage in the face of fear is faith. When we place our faith in God, we find the courage to face what seems bigger than we can handle. Let’s be in the power of God!
- Senka Sestak Peterlin, WDP Croatia & WDPIC Regional Representative of Europe
The World Day of Prayer motto - “Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action” - is the driving force behind the Zambia WDP Committee’s commitment to fostering the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality. We have been called to get involved in the livelihoods of the underprivileged. It is our hope to see a prayerful nation and to see justice prevail for the victims of sexual or gender-based violence.
Our committee has invested time in strengthening our existing relationships as well as fostering new partnerships with likeminded organizations. Our collaboration with Non-governmental Gender Organizations’ Coordinating Council, an umbrella organization championing for women’s empowerment, led to grants under the Basket Fund supported by the European Union and Embassy of Sweden. The grants were applied to support over 200 women in the Chikankata, Mongu, Solwezi and Kasama districts from 2017 to 2020. All of the projects aimed to contribute to the improvement of the livelihoods of women and youth, increase household incomes, improve literacy skills and train in business management.
This first projects started in the Chikankata and Mongu districts. In Chikankata, land was donated by the Salvation Army Church and a hammer mill was built to lessen the long distances women would have to cover to have their grain (maize and cassava) milled. In Mongu, land was donated by the United Church of Zambia Western Presbytery where a rice huller machine was built. This provides the women with an opportunity for the women to generate an income from shelling rice for different communities. There is still work to be done as the mills need to be connected to the National Grid, however, efforts are being made to ensure the full realization of this project's benefits.
In Solwezi, women were engaged in a poultry project that was launched in April 2019. The women were trained in chicken rearing and were given 1,000 chicks in two phases. This project promoted and trained women in business management, entrepreneurship, village banking and record keeping. In May 2019, a diesel hammer mill was installed in the Kasama district.
There is a need to train more women and youth in pastoral matters so that they can contribute to furthering the gospel of Christ. All these crucial matters can be managed if the resources are available, hence there is a need to increase resources mobilisation to enable the organisations to acquire land to build a multipurpose complex as well as undertaking awareness campaigns on the cross-cutting issues such as child marriage, gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS.
WDP Zambia remains committed to its cause in helping the women of our nation. In all things God is able to intervene when called upon as the Bible indicates. A person who builds without the Lord, builds in vain, therefore it is imperative that God should be our foundation and a pillar in all the things we do.
- WDP Zambia Committee