We greet the New Year with busy WDP hands in supporting the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities. We feel empowered by the collective hope to build together the foundation for peace and justice.
Our attention now turns to the theme that will engage World Day of Prayer (WDP) in conversations and celebrations over the 2021 year. The program was developed by the WDP Committee of Vanuatu under the theme “Build on a Strong Foundation.”
Vanuatu is a beautiful country located in the South Pacific Ocean of many islands and people of many ethnic groups. World Day of Prayer can be traced back to Canadian missionaries holding the first service at the Presbyterian Paton Memorial Church in Port Villa in 1946. Since the early 2000s, with the creation of the Women’s Desk of the Vanuatu Christian Council, an ecumenical committee was formed and connected with the local WDP groups.
The current committee, who developed the WDP worship service materials, hopes that this year’s prayer experience will meet the grace of God, and that they will have the strength and resources to be in action. There are many needs in the communities that women in the churches are working together to address. During the “Let’s Talk with Vanuatu” conversation, held online in October 2020, we heard from their representatives the concerns about the situation of child malnutrition, violence against women, and natural disasters.
The Bible story that guides World Day of Prayer in 2021 is based on the sermon that Jesus told to the crowds on the hill. It is a simple story that most of us have heard since childhood (Matthew 7:24-27). “Through the comparison of two house builders, Jesus asked the listeners to act on his words. But what words? In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12). This is our solid foundation.”
We are invited to listen to Jesus’ words in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. What does it mean for you? One of the meanings we find is that healing comes when we raise our own awareness for our actions and we care for the common good. As it is said in the Bible study written by WDP Vanuatu, “The essence of the story of Jesus is to HEAR accurately the word of God, and ACT accordingly and precisely. We shall act inspired by God’s love and know that our faith without action is dead (James 2:14-16).”
#WDPUnitedInPrayer on the First Friday of March
On the first Friday of March the World Day of Prayer movement comes together united in prayer and action in the local communities across the world. This year is no different. We will pray together, but not as we were used to. We are living under the COVID-19 pandemic, and WDP cares for the wellbeing of our communities.
In many places the restrictions for in-person gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are keeping the churches and schools closed for worship services. In places where in-person services are allowed, there are a series of restrictions and guidelines to congregate. WDP committees must abide by the local health protocols to keep people safe. This is one of the prayerful actions we can collectively offer to our communities.
During the pandemic we have learned that we can be physically separated but still connected. Slowly we introduced the technological learnings acquired during the time of the pandemic to our own WDP activities. Many WDP committees hold their board meetings or workshops via online conferencing, or continuously catch up with each other over mobile chats or social media. Many studied the Bible and prayed together over the phone or online. This practice will continue as we prepare to pray together with Vanuatu on the first Friday of March. We may be astounded at this new way, like the crowds were at Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:29); but, creatively, we can affirm that we are #WDPUnitedInPrayer and we hold onto the motto “Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action.”
How to Join a WDP Service?
If you want to join a WDP service or send your offering in response to your prayers, we encourage you to connect with the WDP National Committee in your country. You can check their contact information by visiting the WDPIC website or emailing the WDPIC office. Some committees are planning to livestream the worship service, others will hold a service via mobile chat, and in the few locations where it is allowed, a small service following the proper health protocols may be possible.
Additional to the WDP plans for national and local celebrations, World Day of Prayer International Committee (WDPIC) recorded a video of the worship service led by the WDP Vanuatu Committee and the WDPIC Executive Committee, with greetings from several WDP Committees.
The video will be released to WDP National Committees, and posted on the WDPIC YouTube channel and social media. Be sure to visit our site by the first Friday of March. The service in the video is in English, but it can be followed using the materials available in your language by the WDP Committee in your country.
Separated but connected, let’s pray together with family or friends over the phone or via online platforms, alone or in small groups. Let’s participate in the action by giving to WDP to empower the communities. Let’s stay together to “Build on a Strong Foundation.”
- Rosangela Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
We are starting 2021!
Usually on the first day of the year, we look towards the future and ask ourselves about what this year holds to us.
In the Lectionary of today there are two well-known recommended Bible texts for meditation. Together, they can offer a vision that we are prompted to have in the beginning of the year: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 and Matthew 25:31-46.
In Ecclesiastes, we may find comfort knowing that there is a season for everything. It may help us deal with the anxieties of battling the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the first vaccines available and the alarm over an outbreak of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus. It sounds like “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:4).
The reflection about our time continues in the reading of the final judgment in Matthew: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (25:35-36).
“When was that time?” we may ask ourselves in our meditation. As World Day of Prayer, we hope that our services are one of those times that we cared for the other in prayer and action.
As we look forward to the year of 2021, let’s make it a time of trust in this God that is with us always and in all seasons. Let’s be #WDPUnitedInPrayer.
We wish you all a Happy New Year!
- Rosângela Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
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
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign is an opportunity to show collective actions and solidarity in efforts to end violence against women. The campaign runs from the 25th of November, United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to the 10th of December, UN Human Rights Day.
In 1993, the UN’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against women defined violence against women “as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Approximately two-in-three women reported having experienced violence from their spouse in the Pacific island countries which is alarmingly high by world standards. The Christian Talanoa Network (House of Sara, Fiji) launched the Break the Silent Sunday to remove the culture of silence and shame around violence against women especially in faith-based settings.
UN Women reported that in Vanuatu, three in five women (60%) who have ever been in a relationship have experienced either physical or sexual violence (or both) by a husband or intimate partner. More than two in three (68%) experienced emotional violence.
Since the border closure in March due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the number of domestic violence cases in Vanuatu has surged and almost tripled compared to the average reports for previous years, Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC) Research Officer Sharon Frank revealed. “Sometimes they won’t talk to anyone directly, like sharing with their friends or relatives, that they are facing that problem. It is quite hard. Here (in Vanuatu) they tend to be a bit shy, they would say I can handle this, I can face that but in reality, it is a silent killer as well if it is affecting emotionally and mentally, resulting in break-ups and broken homes,” said Laurina Liwuslili, Psychologist of Wamogo Counselling and Psychology Services.*
Word Day of Prayer joins the World Council of Churches campaign Thursday in Black to raise awareness and say NO to gender-based violence and rape.
On these 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, let’s break the silence in our families, churches, WDP committees and affirm women’s human rights to a life free of violence.
Let us pray,
Loving God, you are the one who desires that all people be brought into right relationship with one another and with you. Show us the path to justice and peace in our families, our communities and our world and fill us with your transforming power. AMEN.*
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
*(Domestic Violence Surge During Lockdown, sista.com.vu, 2020)
*(Prayer from Break the Silence Sunday Liturgical Resource)
In the course of preparations for WDP 2019, for which Slovenia was the writer country, I was privileged to visit the ASPI Centre twice. I was very touched by their work. ASPI, I have since learned, is the name which Slovenes with Asperger syndrome use to refer to themselves.
The ASPI Centre helps and supports adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders. They prepare them for independent living, as much as possible, in cooperation with their parents and families. It is located in the outskirts of Domžale, a town in the greater Ljubljana region of Slovenia. The facility has been supplied by the local Caritas. It is a fairly small, longish narrow building with a garden attached in a quiet area not far from the old main road from Ljubljana to Maribor. They have some limited overnight accommodation and offer a series of programmes which include gardening and vegetable growing. They offer individual therapy, classes and activities that enable adolescents and adults to pursue their interests and develop their life skills in a meaningful way.
During my visit, I had the chance to see one of the neighbours assisting with the gardening, which appears to be a meeting point for the local community and the ASPI clientele. This Centre is a place to which persons on the autism spectrum and their families can come freely and find acceptance and help; which improves their wellbeing by making them feel more secure and calmer.
In Slovenia, there are limited official resources, recognition or understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Many families live in isolation and unaware of where to turn to for help and understanding. The government and the society still need to research and learn more about it. Official recognition of the disorder would help the organisations get financial aid from the state to assist those people and their families.
ASD can be manifested in extreme sensitivity to sounds, light, smells, or interaction with other people and groups. Sometimes schools and churches are not prepared to welcome them, and so they are excluded from many activities that would enrich their lives or be enriched by them. When they are together, they realise that they are not alone or not to be blamed, but their condition needs to be understood so they can count on help to face the frightening world around them.
In case you live with a person with ASD or want to create a welcoming environment for them, let me share a few tips. Be aware that noise or light can be quite unbearably painful to them; even music played at fairly acceptable volume. Their repetitive behaviour and gestures, or unwillingness to meet your eye, does not necessarily mean that they would not like to be your friend. They may have no way of interpreting the body language of those around them. They may look like a lonely child, although they themselves may be actively seeking companionship.
I have a friend with Asperger syndrome, who is one of the most caring and artistically gifted people I know. She spends much of her life doing voluntary work with old people - who appreciated her care and concern - but could not hold a paid job because somehow “she didn’t fit into the norm.” She must have been in her 40s before she and her sister heard of Asperger syndrome, and it took her another few years to get the necessary medical assessment, and then a monthly pension. But simply understanding her own condition was a great relief to her.
It is very important to understand ASD and raise awareness in schools, churches, families, the medical field and government offices. People on the autism spectrum and their families need to be supported and we are grateful to the WDP committees who partnered with us to donate to the ASPI Centre in response to the World Day of Prayer Slovenia service in 2019. Thank you all very much.
- Áine Pedersen, WDP Slovenia
World Day of Prayer annually brings together Christian women of various denominations and cultures in fellowship, prayer and understanding. It is indeed inspiring to be part of this global ecumenical network that spans 146 countries worldwide.
The World Day of Prayer services, held on the 6th of March 2020 in South Africa, were very special. Along with praying for the women of Zimbabwe, it was the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Women’s World Day of Prayer in South Africa. All Praise be to God!
The first observance of the WDP was held in March 1930, at the Congregational Church at Sea Point in Cape Town. In the same year, a small group of Afrikaans and English-speaking women met in Johannesburg to organize a service. Since then, the movement has grown into a solid organization.
South Africa is known as the “Rainbow Nation”, with 11 official languages. Annually, the program is translated into 8 of the official languages. Many services are inter-cultural, and the same sermon is presented in Afrikaans, English, German and Zulu. An estimate of 1,200 plus services are organized on the Prayer Day – in schools, churches, old age homes, prisons, Bible study groups, and community halls. Approximately 80,000 programs are printed, and a huge amount are electronically distributed. We also assist countries such as Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe with copies of the program. Around 120,000 people attend the services on the particular day. What a blessing this has been again in March 2020. Prayer truly knits hearts together for eternity!
South Africa can look back on the past 90 years with pure bliss and joy, where our Lord has never left or forsaken us. His lovable presence, guidance and mercy remained with us every step of the way.
What was outstanding from the feedback received on the 2020 service, was the enthusiasm for the writer country. Zimbabwe is one of our neighbours, and most families in South Africa know someone from Zimbabwe. Most congregations made special efforts to invite and accommodate families or women from Zimbabwe. Ladies dressed up in colourful Zimbabwean outfits. The Zimbabweans enthusiastically brought food, artwork, and mats for the services. The Dutch Reformed Church in Jacobsdal handed out key holders in the form of Africa, with a little heart above Zimbabwe. The United Church in Hermanus had a lovely display of quilts, depicting a story specifically related to Zimbabwe and made by a known quilter, Helen Granville, who previously lived in Zimbabwe. Many congregations gave voice to a Zimbabwean to tell their own personal stories.
The 90th Jubilee of WWDP South Africa was celebrated with joy and gratitude. Beautiful birthday cakes and cupcakes were baked and served in traditional wooden dishes, and decorated in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag. Dances and choirs highlighted the services. In Klerksdorp, 300 little hessian mats were handed out at the doors, each with a peanut slab inside to celebrate the 90th Jubilee. Beaufort-West treated the ladies with bookmarks in the form of a mat, and a little gift bag with sump, corn, mealies as souvenir.
There was a very positive drive all over to involve the youth. We cannot thank our teachers enough for their willingness and enthusiastic efforts to keep this wonderful movement alive for future generations. In Klerksdorp alone, 11 primary schools and five high schools were involved. In Piet Plessis, prints to be coloured, a sandwich and a cool drink were handed out to every pupil. In Beaufort-west, and other towns, more than 500 teenagers took part in the children’s program. In Underberg, (KwaZulu Natal), young ladies from Pevensy Place (an adult cerebral palsy home) were special guests at the service.
The theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk”, had a great impact. It led many to self-reflection and a new commitment to face our own problems and walk in the grace and presence of our Lord and Saviour. The Prayer Day is not only a day of prayer and worship, but it leads to many ongoing projects in communities to support the poor and the needy.
We were blessed to be able to host our Prayer Day before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa. Our hearts go out to everybody that has been affected by the virus, and especially to those who have lost loved ones. May we be united in prayer, and may God Almighty protect us all and be with us.
Life as such is challenging and when we look at the 2021 program, we have “Hope” and can build on a strong foundation.
- Joa Van Aarde, WDP South Africa
The World Young Women Christian Association (W-YWCA) and World Young Men Christian Association (W-YMCA) are launching the Week of Prayer and World Fellowship from November 8-14, 2020. The theme of the week is “Rays of Hope. Creating a resilient community through practical spirituality”.
W-YWCA has a historical relationship with World Day of Prayer, which includes providing leadership for WDP celebrations and active participation in WDP National Committees in many countries. We are, locally and globally, motivating and organizing women and young women for prayers and actions that may impact the communities in the way of peace and justice.
The Week of Prayer and World Fellowship “is an invitation to journey as one, and reflect on how we move from an individual calling to collective transformation, creating resilient communities through practical spirituality. Hope tells us that despite the graveness of a situation, good can happen.
People have acted to transform realities in their community – tackling misinformation, providing physical, financial, mental and spiritual support in innovative ways, while spreading kindness and reaching out to those in need. Everyone has a role to play, everyone must have access to support, every one matters,” declares the joint message from the presidents of World YWCA and World YMCA.
The “Rays of Hope” booklet features daily reflections from several ecumenical partners, including World Day of Prayer International Committee. The booklet is available in English, Spanish and French. The Week of Prayer ends with an online service on Friday the 13th of November at 16:00 Geneva time that will be live streamed on both organizations’ Facebook pages. You may visit the World YWCA or World YMCA to join the service.
Through the Week, we will breathe together in solidarity during the current pandemic that is taking away our breathing capacity. We will learn about the young women in Nepal involved in social transformation and fellowship. When addressing social injustices in our communities, we hear the call to action in Jesus’ question - “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6-7).
The "Rays of Hope" contemplate that finding peace and sharing kindness keep our hope alive. In the world that women and girls and men and boys are screaming, crying out, demanding safety and protection from violence, it is urgent to weave the fabrics of support and transform fear into strong vulnerability and loving trust.
Let us regain our breath by praying together the Blessing of Day 1 by Elaine Neuenfeldt:
Breathe in this blessing: consider how you might influence ONE life.
As you breathe out, speak a blessing on those around you.
God bless our world, our habitat.
Enable us to respect and treat our earth with the dignity it deserves.
Empower us to preserve its resources to provide for all people.
Enable us to protect our people, especially the vulnerable: women and children.
Enable us to do what is good, resist evil and to protect each other from evil.
Enable our men to transform themselves from beneficiaries of patriarchy
to contributors of human dignity.
Inspire our leaders to be transformed for the good of all people.
Enable us to be transformed into Servant Leaders.
Enable us to be open to restore your image in us.
Inspire us to have healing relationships.
Enable us to live with dignity.
Empower us to heal our communities and give us your peace. Amen
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
As preparations for the 2021 Vanuatu WDP celebration started in many countries, WDPIC held an online conversation with WDP Vanuatu on October 23, 2020. Across 7 regions, 26 participants from 13 WDP committees came to the "Let's talk with Vanuatu" meeting.
The sisters in Vanuatu reflected on the 2021 theme "Build on a Strong Foundation" and informed on issues of child malnutrition, violence against women, the impact of COVID-19 on the islands and their plans for WDP 2021.
Annette Poitier, WDP Bahamas, was invited to offer the opening prayer, to which she responded with appreciation for being part of a group that prays. In her prayer, she thanked all for being together from different time zones, and affirmed that we know that we are standing on a firm foundation when we are standing on prayer.
“Build on a Strong Foundation, it is really an exciting theme. When we think about it, we automatically switch to our country motto ‘In God we stand’. Without God we can do nothing. Our country’s development after 40 years of independence reflects our belief that in God, we stand. In these uncertain times, the theme becomes very relevant to the world and to us. We hope that all will build their foundation on God alone, and then all things will be added,” affirmed Cindy Vanuaroro, from WDP Vanuatu.
Through the country background information and the worship service’s prayers, we learned about some of the challenges in Vanuatu, to which Ruth Dovo, WDP Vanuatu, offered some updates. According to Ruth, Vanuatu is experiencing a double disaster: the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of Category 5 Cyclone Harold that hit the islands in April 2020. The cyclone season is from October to March, and although the people are resilient and prepared for the season, sometimes the destruction is more than what was anticipated. Now, the communities affected are recovering thanks to the support of organizations and churches.
Vanuatu is rich in natural resources like the fertile land and ocean, but some children may face malnutrition. This could be addressed with parental education, to help the families understand how to feed the children well.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the tourism industry leaving many unemployed. All the frustrations caused by this economic situation can be seen in the rise of domestic violence. That being said, this situation has also created an opportunity for Vanuatu to go back to its agricultural roots. Now, everybody is farming and gardening because it is not known when the COVID-19 situation will be finished. People are encouraged to have their own gardens for their own consumption and for commercialization.
When, Pollyanna Banga, WDP Vanuatu, last visited her home island, she got very excited. She comes from one of the islands where a volcano erupted and the people were evacuated. They are coming back and settling down, and women and young people are gardening. They started to plant again, and now they are harvesting the crop and living on that. “It is a good thing,” said Pollyanna joyfully.
Ruth Dovo is grateful for the government task force’s response to COVID-19. One of the issues they dealt with was the repatriation of seasonal workers from Australia and New Zealand, who had to quarantine for 14 days. The policy may have contributed to Vanuatu being considered COVID-19 free, which is very important, as the medical facilities are too limited to deal with an outbreak.
WDP committee representatives of Australia and New Zealand expressed their concern with the impact of the country’s closing borders to the seasonal workers from Vanuatu, whose families depend on them.
In regards to plans for the celebrations in 2021, WDP Vanuatu created a working committee to organize several workshops for the empowerment of women, the worship service, a festive parade, and a big lunch with cultural performances. “Vanuatu is a Christian country,” continued Ruth, “so women in the church come to assist with prayers and support. We go through different challenges all the time, but we believe in God and know we are not alone. God is with us.”
In the midst of the uncertainties, one thing we can say for sure, "we are covering Vanuatu in our prayers," concluded Janice Soyer-Delaney, from WDP Tobago. WDPIC thanks everyone who participated in the conversation, which was adjourned with Ruth reciting the Lord’s Prayer in her mother tongue from the Pentecost Island.
Watch a video summary on our Youtube channel!
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Committee