Amazing how the year is almost over! Here we are in the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany season! I am back to reading the nativity stories, and I especially appreciate the angel’s message to Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew. “Do not be afraid” (1,20). “Get up, take… and flee” (2,13).
It is impossible for me not to see a parallel with the theme for 2020 World Day of Prayer prepared by the women of Zimbabwe. The main Bible text for the 2020 program is taken from John 5. Jesus said to the man who had been sick for 38 years: “Rise, take your mat and walk”. This man had no hope. He was lying down next to the pool, knowing he had no chance to be healed by its water. Then Jesus asked him “Do you want to be made well?” He couldn’t answer with a logical “Yes, of course!” Instead, he first explained all the problems he was facing to reach the water. To the Samaritan woman, Jesus would have given the living water (John 4, 10) but to this man, he said “Stand, take… and walk” (John 5,8).
It is impossible for me not to see a parallel with the daily news. From Beirut to Hong Kong, from Paris to Bethlehem, people are standing in the streets to protest. Women and men are wearing black on Thursdays to stand in solidarity with women to say “No” to gender based violence. Children and youth are standing in the streets to shout “Stop pollution - be responsible.” What do all those stories have in common? Increasing poverty, injustice and suffering, and a fear of the future.
But what about the ones who are unable to lift up their voices? We reach out to them, and together we pray like our Zimbabwe sisters invite us to:
“From our corner of the world,
we rise and walk.
We are caretakers of God’s creation.
Help us learn to love one another;
Give us wisdom and grace to be peacemakers"
“Do not be afraid” - let us receive the angel’s message as a gift. May God give us strength to be peacemakers in this troubled world.
We extend our heartfelt thank you for your friendship, commitment, prayers and actions of solidarity. Blessings to you during this holiday season!
- Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson
Taiwan was selected as the writer committee for World Day of Prayer (WDP) 2023 during the WDP International Committee Meeting, which was convened on August 20-27, 2017, in Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil. After two preparatory workshops, which will be led by Rev. Rosângela Oliveira, Executive Director of WDPIC, the worship service materials will then be prepared ecumenically, collectively and with grassroots women from 2019 until September 2021.
The first of the proposed workshops, a Strengthening National Committee Workshop, took place from December 4 to 6, 2019 when more than 30 participants gathered at Our Lady of Providence Girls’ High School, New Taipei City, Taiwan.
Local participants included women and young women from the Catholic Church (Taiwan Catholic), Yu-Shan Theological College & Seminary, Women's Prayer Group, the Mustard Seed Mission, the Salvation Army, the Methodist Church (Taiwan), Chang Jung Christian University (CJCU) School of Theology, YMCA of Taiwan, YWCA of Taiwan, Taiwan Lutheran Church, Taiwan Theological College & Seminary, the Garden of Hope Foundation and the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (Presbyteries/Districts).
Through various creative activities and dialogue, the three-day workshop aimed to strengthen fellowship, to build relationships, and to “brainstorm” concerning the worship service materials for WDP 2023.
During the opening worship, Rev. Rosângela briefed the participants on the historical roots of the World Day of Prayer and how the seed was planted. In the nineteenth century, Christian women in North America were moved to action when they saw the suffering of women around the world and in their own communities. They were active letter writers, and so they wrote letters and called for united prayer and action in solidarity with women across the globe.
About 100 years later in Taiwan, more than 30 participants from various denominations were challenged to write letters for the preparation of WDP 2023 under the theme "I have heard about your faith" (Ephesians 1:15). Following a Bible Study summarizing the background of the book of Ephesians, led by Rev. Dr. Wu Fu-Ya, former President of Tainan Theological College and Seminary, (Rev. Wu incidentally was the first female ever appointed as a principal of a theological institution in Taiwan!), the participants were asked by Rev. Rosângela to think deeply about their reaction to the theme. "What is it that you have heard about her/his/their witness of faith and love?" In small groups, the participants wrote down their letters according to the structure of Ephesians 1:1, 15-16, and 17-18. Their letters touched various levels and showed their concerns about personal health conditions, the Pearl Family Garden*, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT)’s mission, the 2019 Hong Kong protests, and so on.
Through this activity, the participants expanded their vision and identified specific categories: Women and Family, Women and Politics, Women and Health, Women and Environment, Women and Culture, and Women and Leadership. Based on the different categories, the participants began to think deeper about "What are the prayers and actions that women in Taiwan want to voice in 2023?"
During the discussion of Women and Environment, Vavauni Ljaljegean, a Paiwanese Evangelist from Mu-Lin church in Pingtung, Taiwan, told the participants a heartbreaking story. After Typhoon Morakot, a three-day rampage from August 6 to 9 in 2009, the elder Indigenous people who lost their homes and relocated in the plains took their own lives due to difficulties adjusting to an unfamiliar environment.
When it came to Women and Leadership, it was agreed that promoting equal representation of women in decision-making is important; however, the participation of women in leadership roles in Taiwan is still lacking and has a long way to go. Nancy Lin, former WCC Central Committee member (PCT), encouraged the participants to step up, lead and speak up.
For the closing worship of the WDP Taiwan SNC workshop, on the third and final day, the workshop participants used the materials of the Zimbabwe 2020 WDP program under the theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk” (John 5:2-9a).
May all the acts and efforts glorify God and let the voices of Taiwan be heard – we now look forward with enthusiasm to the second workshop!
By 陳怡婷 (Rachel Chen, PCT Information Center Staff) and Carys Humphreys, Administrative Assistant to the PCT General Secretary
*Pearl Family Garden’s mission is to bring the gospel to women in prostitution and to mobilize the church for missions in the red-light districts of Taiwan.