Last year while reaping green peas from the kitchen garden, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through a parable. I tried to shake the notion that it was indeed the Holy Spirit, but the stories being poured into my spirit confirmed it, and there was no doubt.
I saw in the garden that there were a number of green pea trees of similar height growing in several garden rows, but I was taller than all of them. I could not count the leaves; I could not count the green peas growing on them.
The pea pods grow in clusters of varying numbers which were mostly identical in size and color. The color of the peas was green; however, some were red, and some had spots, all in the same pod.
There were young pods - the peas not fully developed. There were old pods - the peas that had dried while still on the tree.
There were peas with holes caused by worms, still in the pod.
There were green leaves, yellow leaves, and dried leaves on the trees, as well as on the ground.
There were blossoms on the trees. There were bumble bees feeding at the blossoms. There were spiders casting webs between the leaves and the trees to block the path of the reaper. The webs are traps for the spider’s food and for it to rest, even though they are a bother to me.
This garden, full of life, is like us – the children of God. Every aspect of these food bearing trees was given a purpose.
“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members, one of another” (Romans 12:4-5)
The Spirit showed me individuals in families, in churches, in World Day of Prayer (WDP) groups, in villages, in communities on God’s earth, all with the same beginning. As we all grow, various things happen in our lives which caused us to develop. But the development for each person or family, church, WDP committee, and definitely a village, are different.
We have all been given the gifts and promises by God with the opportunities to thrive and to flourish. Yet not everyone thrives and flourishes, or makes it to the ‘pot’. Circumstances cause us to fall or fail.
The Holy Spirit taught me through a garden patch of green peas that, the color of our skin, the way we have developed, financially, socially, psychologically or otherwise, does not separate us from God. Even though these things separate us from each other at times, we were all created by the same God who loves us all the same.
I did not attend to the pea trees in their infancy. I was not the planter. I did not know them intimately, but God did. The trees grew and the branches touched each other across the garden rows. The Holy Spirit helps us to thrive and flourish in the situation we find ourselves in. Like the bumble bee going from blossom to blossom, the Holy Spirit comes to us to teach us the truth and to guide us.
- Rev. Ruth V. E. Phillips, WDPIC Caribbean & North America Regional Representative
World Day of Prayer (WDP) is a global ecumenical movement led by women in their communities. It creates an opportunity for building relationships, a spirituality of listening to each other and to God, a prayer informed by the context of women’s lives, and a prayerful action expressed by sharing resources with communities in need.
Motivated by a common prayer on the first Friday of March, women lead workshops to learn about the focus country and to study attentively the Bible and the worship service. Together they plan the program for children in schools or churches. The interpretation of the annual theme in the local context and the envisioning of responses are creatively crafted and intensively promoted across the globe. The projects and organizations to support are selected carefully. Most of what we do is based on in-person events where building relationships is the first step of a long journey.
However, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the services planned to be held on the annual day of prayer, March 6th, were held except for in a few countries in Asia and Europe, which were already exposed to the COVID-19 outbreak.
WDP Worship Service: The Last In-Person Gathering
Governments around the world set in place measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, consequently churches and schools were closed for in-person events. Then, WDP activities planned for after March 6th were canceled or postponed, even in Zimbabwe. The committee still nurtures the expectation to hold the National Celebration at the Sports Center in Harare after the lockdown is over and it is safe to gather again, said Sylvia Marowa, “we really want to express our gratitude for the prayers for us from around the world.”
In the Cook Islands, the worship service was held with restrictions, and the WDP celebration became the last gathering held in the Cook Islands before the lockdown. “We felt blessed to be able to come together as women of this country to give our thanks to the Lord. The theme is relevant because we have to rise, take up our mats and spread the good news in whatever way we can during the lockdown,” voiced Henrica Marona.
The England, Wales and Northern Ireland committee began the Y-Pray Conference in 2016, which “is now held annually in May, to introduce a group of younger women to the movement. The Conference was canceled along with other events, such as Link Days,” informed Elizabeth Burroughs. Manon Naidoo lamented the uncertainty of the well planned 90th Anniversary of WWDP in South Africa to be held during the Africa Regional Conference in October 2020.
Taiwan’s experience with the SARS pandemic in 2003, led the government to take early precautions when made aware about the Coronavirus in China. Nancy Lin informed that “the government took over all mask productions and ensured that every single civilian had equal access to buying facial masks. Wearing a mask is required in public transportation and in all indoor public areas such as churches and stores. With masks and keeping social distance, the writing working groups are meeting to develop the worship service program for 2023.” Maral Haidostian, from Lebanon, commented on the difficulties of adopting those precautionary measures for worship services.
Listening to Each Other in a Global Conversation
The WDP International Committee (WDPIC) invited several committees for a global conversation via video conferencing (Zoom) to reflect on the impact of this moment on WDP and the alternatives to move forward. We held four video conferences between May and June - one in Spanish, one in French and two in English. Thirty-nine committees and sixty-three participants from the seven regions joined the conversation, which is summarized in this article.
WDP committees are using a variety of tools to keep connected and present to the needs of the communities. They range from rethink the structure and practices to introduce new technologies in communication to reach out to members, friends and local groups.
WDP France is considering changing the committee’s structure to reinforce the local connection, stated Christine Méar. “How have we decided to rise, take our mat and walk? We have to reengineer the way in which we do things and seize up this opportunity of involving our regional correspondents, so they can be in contact with their constituents, and linked with the National Committee.”
Catherine MacKeil explained that in Canada, they are sorting out WDP grant applications. “With COVID-19, we are unable to support any of the projects with group gatherings, which include a lot of training events. We are focusing on the organizations that are on the frontline of helping people, particularly women touched by violence or human trafficking, and hunger.”
Elizabeth Clark, from Australia, pointed out that they do not currently accept direct donation on the website, but to deal with possible reductions in offerings, they may supply transfer details to those interested in contributing that way. Ingrid Mai Pinkes, WDP Argentina, expressed the concern with the currency devaluation on their Annual Contribution to WDPIC. Coromoto Jimenez de Salazar, WDP Venezuela, shared about their committee’s plans to use the offering to provide food to the vulnerable communities in Caracas, although the service could not be held.
Keeping the Connection in Times of Social Isolation
In Germany, the WDP committee is developing a workshop to prepare the facilitators for the Vanuatu 2021 program on an online learning platform (Moodle), explained Irene Tokarski. “We are developing the online platform for our national workshops, which usually happen from June to July, with about 180 women multipliers. We already have responses from most of them. We will have three workshops on the same day as planned instead of the in-person workshops. The digital workshop is a platform where you can do different tasks, for example, research, live chat with other participants, offline tasks like reading the Bible text, or watching a video clip. We will also offer the learning platform for the regional area, because we do not know if we will have another outbreak in autumn.”
In Bahamas, the committee asked the young participants for help. The response was so positive that they are planning to have them as the liaison and chairperson mentored by WDP retirees. “Journeying with young women has been a special blessing for us as they have become our teachers in using technology. This inter-generational dialogue has been powerful! Coming out of this crisis, we all realize that a new way forward is necessary. We cannot just ‘make things up as we go along’ and see what will happen. Change, rapid change, unexpected change, is never easy, and not always welcome. But change is inevitable,” said Annette Poitier.
Even before the pandemic, WDP committees were using cell phones and instant messaging (WhatsApp, Line) to check on members and friends. Now, they are using instant messaging to send out prayers, remarked Susana Renner, WDP Brazil, or having committee meetings in group chats, shared Berthe Sindjui, WDP Cameroon and Sybille Martial, WDP Republic of Mauritius. As the months advance into the timeline of preparations for the 2021 WDP program, some committees, for the first time, had their regular meeting virtually (Zoom). WDPIC is having monthly video conferences (Zoom) with executive members to replace the canceled annual meeting.
WDP is increasing its online presence by creating websites and actively using social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). Committees that have not yet made any resources available through their website are considering it, while others plan to expand what they already offer. Social media is used to share the local celebrations, inform about the focus country, post for the Thursdays In Black campaign, and pray for the world. WDPIC posts a prayer on Fridays with the hashtag #WDPUnitedInPrayer.
Growing out of the uncertainties of in-person worship services for March 2021 and the current experience with Sunday virtual worship services, many committees are nurturing the possibility of an online service for Vanuatu 2021. Bianka Paz, WDP Guatemala, mentioned their recent conversation about a workshop online with video clips to introduce the materials for the 2021 Vanuatu program. Margarita Cuzco, WDP Paraguay, mentioned their initial conversation about distributing the different moments of the worship service into the communities and finding a virtual space to come together.
The Context of Women in the Midst of the Pandemic
The vulnerable situation of women during the pandemic was noticed. Families are separated by the lockdown, curfews and closed borders; unemployment, hunger, and domestic violence against women increased. There is shortage of medications and treatments in overflowed public hospitals with COVID-19 patients. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil, the denial of the health crisis is exposing the population to the uncontrolled virus transmission. In DR Congo, Rose Biasima Lala, commented on their use of local radio to raise awareness about Coronavirus prevention.
Jyothi Singh, WDP India, talked about “the concern with the rural communities who do not have easy access to internet to engage in online initiatives.” Also, in Costa Rica, Rebeca Cascante commented on how the priority is being given to family members who work from home to use the internet rather than women who want to connect with their community activities. WDP has a word of hope to offer
There is real pain in the communities with the death of loved ones, an intense feeling of powerlessness to fight the disease and all its consequences. However, there is also strength in being united in prayer. There is trust in God, the sustainer of all times. We lift up in prayers WDP families and communities who are mourning. May God heal our body and soul.
It was really inspiring to listen to the efforts made in the midst of so much disruption. WDP leaders are committed to carrying on the message and being present during this difficult moment. We are to walk together in prayer and action. We are to be creative and oriented by the WDP Guiding Principles. WDP has a word of hope to offer. It is time to share it!
WDPIC will continue the virtual global conversation to listen to each other, pray for the world, exchange ideas and feel inspired to face the challenges. We may expand on the topics shared by the committees, for example, alternatives to in-person activities, being present to communities in need, and coordinated procedures for online access to WDP materials.
The process of developing WDP worship services continues in the midst of the pandemic. The 2021 Vanuatu worship service material is ready and has been electronically distributed. The 2022 worship service program, written by WDP England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will be distributed by September 2020. The writing process with WDP Taiwan for the 2023 service was launched, and we are in conversation with WDP Palestine for the 2024 program. Aware of the uncertainties, but full of hope, we are looking forward to meeting you in 2022, in Scotland, for the International Meeting - “New Heart. New Mind. Called to Hope.” Visit our website for more information and follow our newsletter!
The WDP worship service is a tool for listening to each other and God in order to engage in prayer and action with sisters and communities around the world. Together we “Rise, Take our Mat and Walk,” an action oriented message that took us away from the fear inflicted by the pandemic, while the 2021 program written by WDP Vanuatu, will help us affirm the source of our strength to move forward. Together, we “Build on a Strong Foundation” - God’s love and Jesus’ walk on the path of justice.
Like the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense suffering and confusion in the lives of many people in Asia. A new study by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) found that lockdowns and the economic recession caused by COVID-19 may exacerbate an already dire worldwide hunger crisis, almost doubling the number of people who could go hungry, pushing a total of 265 million people to the brink of starvation by the end of the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not merely a global health crisis but also a global humanitarian catastrophe, warned David Beasley, the WFP Executive Director. The various impacts of global warming and climate change resulting in cyclones, flood, locust attacks, earthquakes, and landslides in the midst of this pandemic have further aggravated the suffering in many countries in Asia.
Confinement, lockdowns, and quarantines have increased violence against women and children. Measures to curb the disease have worsened existing inequalities, forcing girls out of school and placing them at heightened risk of violence in their homes. Since women and girls undertake more than three-quarters of unpaid care in rural communities in Asia and low-income countries, they are likely to be at greater risk of infection.
However, the silver lining in the midst of all this is that there are numerous stories of hope which Asian women are weaving through their dialogue of life.
“True, we were locked in our homes during lock down but COVID-19 does not have the power to lock our hearts filled with compassion and love,” states Daisy Roy (WDP Bangladesh National Correspondent). Daisy Roy, Lipika Florence Sammadar and many other women leaders involved in the WDP in Bangladesh are actively communicating via social platforms and strategizing on how workers in garment factories can be helped during this COVID-19 Emergency Lockdown.
Women in Bangladesh are struggling to come to terms with the loss of livelihood as factory workers. They make clothes for European markets, which are laying them off due to mass cancellations of orders. The Bangladesh’s export-oriented garment industry employs more than four million workers and 85 percent of them are women. “Families of garment workers are starving. We are working in partnership with the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh and other interfaith groups to help women factory workers. We are distributing rice, grocery items, food hampers along with soap, sanitizers and personal protective equipment. We are also networking with organizations, federations, and activists who work for the human rights of garment workers,” states Roy.
Still reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, India and Pakistan face a food security situation. “The locust attack in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse for us in Pakistan. People are dying of hunger and starvation. We are witnessing so much suffering in our own communities. We, women leaders in our churches, started praying and networking to collect whatever food and resources we could to share it with others. We are supporting the families of daily wage laborers, widows, pregnant women etc. We even networked with the Pakistan Army to provide us ration hampers to be distributed. Now we are working to collect health and hygiene materials like vitamins, medicines, sanitary pads and hand sanitizers to be distributed,” says Alyssa Saleem from Pakistan. Saleem is introducing the WDP movement in her Church women’s organization and Diocese. Also from Pakistan, Asyia John is sewing masks for her church women’s fellowship to distribute to the community. “Even if we are poor and vulnerable, we can pray, help and care for one another,” she says.
In India, the lockdown hit the migrant workers very hard. Lakhs of migrant workers are reeling in hunger, poverty and find it impossible to reach their homes. Migrants, including women and even children, are walking more than 1000 kms following the railway track or highway trying to get home. Many of them are being hit by lorries or trains in the night. Women are giving birth on the roads, and many are dying of heat stroke and hunger. However, even in the midst of all this suffering, I see rays of hope. These rays of hope are stories of resilience and acts of giving, sharing and kindness which has increased drastically during this COVID-19 crisis. It is not just the privileged and rich who are sharing but even the vulnerable.
In different parts of India, women involved in WDP are engaged in humanitarian work by feeding the hungry or supporting those affected by cyclone Amphan, which hit the West Bengal state in India and Bangladesh in May 2020. Women are raising funds to plant trees in the mangrove to restore nature and the livelihood of people in Sundarbans, West Bengal, an area hit by the Cyclone.
The mental health of Indian women has become adversely affected by spikes in domestic violence and the stress and anxiety of watching loved ones suffer or die. Women often suffer in a culture of silence. In order to break the silence and care for each other, we have started a WhatsApp group called ‘Food Speaks and Heals’. Cooking can be therapeutic; it can be a cathartic process. This group helps us to connect to one another and share our recipes to boost our immunity. We share our day to day problems, break the silence, care for one another, find solutions and pray together.
In Thailand, Rev. Dr. Sirirat Pusurinkham (Former WDPIC Executive Committee member), leads the Prachakittisuk Church, near Chaing Rai, in a community project called ‘Sharing Box’ or ‘Food ATM’. “This project is helping us support people and families, most of whom are undocumented migrants, refugees and economically poor. Jesus has taught us to share our food,” reflects Sirirat. She is also caring for children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and involving the women of her church and community in making masks to distribute during the pandemic.
There is so much happiness in giving and sharing in the midst of crisis. Giving and sharing is an act of hope as it heals the wounded and suffering world. Christ has bestowed us the power of resilience, so even if we are vulnerable, we can “Rise, Take Our Mat and Walk” and journey together in healing the world.
- Rev. Moumita Biswas, Asia Regional Representative of WDPIC Executive Committee
On behalf of WDPIC, we invite WDP National/Regional Committees to the International Committee Meeting that will be hosted by the WDP Scottish Committee in 2022. They are actively preparing to welcome us to their homeland. Thank you, sisters!
We live in unprecedented times and are all working together to slow down the transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our communities. We may have unanswered questions at this time and discomforting prospects for the future, but our trust is in God’s goodness. Let us, therefore, “Rise, Take Our Mat and Walk”.
In 1968, the World Day of Prayer International Committee was formed. We left the last International Meeting, held in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, in 2017, knowing that we would meet again for the 14th time in 2022. With this Newsletter we are inviting you to envision together this next gathering.
At the top of the Newsletter, you see the logo for the Meeting, which was a collaborative effort with the Presbyterian Women (PC-USA). The leaf of hope, which encircles WDP, springs out in a dancing movement towards a new heart and mind. With the uplifting message about the intention of the gathering, comes the announcement of the date and location of the International Meeting.
Click here to let us know how the 2022 International Meeting logo speaks to you.
SAVE THE DATE: JUNE 12-19, 2022
LOCATION: EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
REGISTRATION AND ACCOMMODATION FEES
WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON
The purpose of the World Day of Prayer International Committee Meeting
The World Day of Prayer International Committee is composed by the WDP National Committees elected delegates, who come together to share experiences and grow in understanding of one another. They also select themes and writers for WDP services, elect an ecumenical Executive Committee, define objectives and responsibilities for financing, and consider ways by which the movement may grow.
Click here to send us your questions about the 2022 International Meeting.
“New Heart, New Mind, Called to Hope”
Based on the letter to Ephesians (1,18), we are called to hope; therefore,
We invite you to experience the meeting with a spirit of openness and tolerance, and for that, the heart must be ready: New Heart!
We invite you to discern together the challenges of our time and make wise, visionary and courageous decisions: New Mind!
Above all, we want to reaffirm that the women of World Day of Prayer are carriers and givers of hope: Called to Hope!
Will you join us on the path of “New Heart, New Mind. Called to Hope”?
Click here to share your thoughts about the 2022 International Meeting theme.
- Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson
En América Latina, la pandemia del Covid-19 ha tenido impactos diferentes. Se hace difícil la comunicación pues muchas de las mujeres no tienen acceso a las redes sociales, la calidad del servicio de internet es mala, o en sus casas están los familiares trabajando que tienen prioridad en el uso del servicio de internet.
La pandemia afecta mucho a las mujeres trabajadoras por el hecho de estar la mayoría dentro del sector laboral informal. Al quedarse en casa, no poden acceder al recurso de su sobrevivencia. Además el desempleo ha aumentado, haciendo que sus esposos desempleados o los padres de sus hijos no les dan la pensión alimenticia. Hay más miedo a morir de hambre que del COVID -19!
Hay crecido el nivel de estrés de las mujeres que están atendiendo a toda la familia en cuarentena, con los niños pidiendo lo que no se les puede dar (comida) y maridos estresados aumentando el riesgo de violencia. Las mujeres están sin poder salir a denunciar por miedo al contagio. Esto es un común en la región, por lo que se de en Nicaragua, Guatemala; el Salvador, Honduras y México.
La impotencia al no poder ayudar se experimenta en muchos niveles, incluso ante las políticas de la mayoría de los gobiernos en Latinoamérica, que priorizan los intereses políticos a la vida y las necesidades de los más vulnerables.
Es en estos momentos donde las palabras de Jesús en Juan 5: 6 - "quieres ser sano" - toman un significado relevante. Las acciones de la gente y el amor a la vida requieren del coraje para levantarse y tomar medidas que transformen el dolor, la muerte, y la impotencia en esperanza, alegría, rencuentro, salud, sanidad y fe.
Deseo y pido a Dios, que cada cual encuentre la sabiduría para responder y hacer lo que se necesita en cada situación para transmitir esperanza, y confiar en la fidelidad de Dios, que nos permitirá salir de esto momento. Que Dios nos ayude.
-Rebeca Cascante, Representante de Latinoamerica en el
Comité Internacional del Día Mundial de Oración
L’année 2020 est une année spéciale avec la crise sanitaire due au covid-19 qui a changé les habitudes de vies des êtres humains. Mesures barrières, confinement, fermeture des frontières etc… sont des mots ou expressions qui circulent et font désormais partis de notre lot quotidien.
Au niveau de la Journée Mondiale de Prière, on pourrait parler d’une prédilection avec le thème de célébration 2020 préparé par nos sœurs du Zimbabwe à savoir : « Lève-toi, prends ton grabat et marche ».
Le covid-19 est venu montrer combien nous sommes fragiles et limités, que Dieu seul est le maitre de l’univers et que tous nos projets sont soumis à Sa volonté.
Les célébrations se sont bien passées dans plusieurs pays mais pas dans d’autres mais ce qui est sûr c’est que nous sommes restées en connexion d’esprit. Beaucoup de comités nationaux n’ont pas réalisé l’action qui accompagne la célébration à cause du confinement à l’exemple du Comité National JMP du Cameroun ; mais les actions peuvent maintenant s’orienter vers les personnes qui n’ont pas les moyens leur permettant de respecter les mesures barrières à la propagation du coronavirus.
Au Cameroun, en avril 2020, la propagation du virus augmente tous les jours et est présent dans 9 Régions sur 10 ; nous sommes aujourd’hui à 1v705 cas confirmés, 58 décès et heureusement 805 cas guéris. Les écoles, églises et lieux de prières sont fermés, avec interdiction de réunion, de manifestations. Tout se fait aujourd’hui à travers les outils de communication.
Pour ce qui est des régions, j’ai envoyé un message de réconfort en ce temps de confinement et une orientation pour les intentions de prières, quelques comités ont apprécié et j’ose croire que pour l’ensemble, nous sommes dans cet élan de nous lever pour soutenir les famille victimes, les médecins, etc..
Avec les fermetures des frontières, tous les projets de rencontres sont suspendus, mais j’ai foi que le temps de Dieu viendra. Le temps de confinement parait nous éloigner de nos projets, de nos désirs, de nos ambitions ; mais reconnaissons que c’est le temps de rapprochement avec Dieu, pour renforcer les relations avec notre Seigneur, renforcer les relations avec la famille, renouer la vie harmonieuse avec les gens de sa maison ; c’est un temps de retraite spirituelle avec prières, lectures bibliques, jeûnes, c’est le temps de réflexion sur notre vie pour une prise de conscience et un retournement.
Face à ce virus, pouvons-nous seulement dépasser nos rivalités, nos guerres et querelles antérieures pour nous tourner vers un monde meilleur du bien-être, de la cohésion, de la collaboration pacifique ?
Malgré le fait que nous soyons à terre parce que découragées par les méfaits de ce virus, le Seigneur nous demande de nous lever avec toutes les forces qu’il nous donne, pour la mission qu’il nous a confiée.
De la même manière que Dieu a roulé la pierre à l’entrée du tombeau de Jésus, il roulera la pierre que constitue ce fameux virus et nous redonnera le bonheur de vivre une vie de partage, d’amour, de paix et de réconciliation (Matthieu 28 : 1-10). Que Dieu nous vienne en aide.
- Henriette Mbatchou, Représentant régional de la CIJMP pour l'Afrique
The miracle in John 5:1-9a is the second Jesus performed in his hometown. Jesus was attending a Jewish festival in Jerusalem and chose to visit this pool where so many who were crippled and disabled lay in wait beside the pool for the disturbance of the water in the expectation that it would heal them.
Jesus hears of this man who has been languishing by the pool for 38 long years waiting for someone to just lift him and lead him to the pool. He walks up to him and asks him the most “ridiculous” question! “Do you want to be made well?” If I were a disciple, standing next to Jesus, I would have said “Come on Jesus, what kind of a question is that? Isn’t it a bit obvious that this person wants to be healed?” But we all know Jesus does not speak out of turn. There is a purpose behind his question. “Do you want to be healed?”
We live in an Asian context where “fatalism” is almost a cultural trait. We have often heard people saying “Oh that is our fate” “You can’t question it. It was destined to be this way” – a sense of fatalism that has conditioned us to accept the bad things that happen to us. Jesus’ words shake this man out of this sense of lethargy and fatalism.
There is no direct response from the man to Jesus’ question. He merely begins to complain. “There is nobody to lead me to the pool.” He does not expect or envision divine healing. He is only dependent upon the worldly form of healing. How like us who are always focused on our own way of thinking, materialistic and worldly.
We have often heard of faith bringing about healing – the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the woman in the crowd who touched Jesus’ robe for healing - all these people demonstrated implicit faith and obtained healing through faith – but here, we find a story which does not talk about faith. This man did not know Jesus, he didn’t ask to be healed and did not demonstrate faith but he received God’s grace freely without any conditions. This episode shows us a different aspect of our God – God who sees our needs, who is filled with compassion and grants us unconditional healing.
Jesus says “Rise! Take your mat and walk!” Three strong, clear commands. The Greek word for stand up or “rise” is egeiro, which also means “awaken”. Jesus urges the man to awaken into a new beginning, to awaken from his sense of victimhood, shed his disgruntled disposition and rise. That was his first step. But to just rise is not enough! “Take your mat…” The man was asked to roll up his mat. To us, the logical course of action would be to leave the mat behind! We would have said to him “Leave your mat, it tells your sordid stories” - but that is not what Jesus says. Why?
The mat has been taken as a symbol in our service today. As such let us dwell on the significance of the mat in Jesus’ miracle. The man’s whole life and his sad story were woven around the mat.
When Jesus urges him to take the “mat”, Jesus was reminding him that he had to be mindful of the way he had come. This is where the mat becomes symbolic – reminding us that the past that we have come through - although painful and full of strife – becomes a tool that transforms and strengthens us in our onward journey. Secondly, looking back at the way we came, assures us of God’s eternal grace, grace which is freely given. Looking back at our past reminds us to be always sensitive to the needs of others and helps us clothe ourselves in humility. After this man’s encounter with Jesus – the mat takes on new meaning and becomes a symbol that reminds him of Jesus’ healing. He is required to take up his mat - not a new mat - but the same mat woven with the sad stories of his past which has now become the mat of redemption, responsibility, the mat of remembrance of the loneliness that he had faced, which in turn makes him sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
What is Jesus’ third command? “Walk”. This is the healing in this story – Jesus restored the man into wholeness, Jesus empowers him to claim personal agency. He has gained his independence, regained assurance and now he has to ACT! “Walk”.
Reading the letter of the Zimbabwean women and men in the worship service, we are brought close to them through their challenges, struggles and suffering because of poverty, separation, drug abuse, violence of all kinds. Mothers, wives and sisters await news of their family members who have been made to disappear; deaths due to HIV and Aids and domestic violence - situations similar to ours. We are all yearning for peace and a peaceful existence and striving for peace and reconciliation. Just as Jesus picked out this man in the multitude of crippled and sick people, he has seen and heard our cries and commanded us to arise, take our mats and walk.
Let’s walk into the future with the faith and confidence that Jesus gives us out of the bounty of his grace. Jesus has seen our needs, healed us and summons us to walk on.
By Shiranee Mills, an activist who worked hard in the North during the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. She served as Principal at a Christian girls school, and is currently retired living in Colombo. This reflection was part of the World Day of Prayer celebration on March 6th, in Sri Lanka.
Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer service bringing to mind the struggles of women across the world, especially our sisters in Zimbabwe. I want us to reflect today on ‘the Gospel according to the Mat’ (John 5:2-9a). So, welcome to the gospel according to the perspective of the mat!
I am the mat… like the symbol received as you entered the chapel. I am the mat, on which the hero of our story lays for 38 years, waiting to be healed. I was with him waiting all along.
I waited long enough to realize that I was not the magic carpet of Aladdin. Even after 38 years, I could not transport him to the magical pool when the water was disturbed by the mythical angel.
I was not the only mat around. There were many of us holding those that the system had named as the ‘invalids’. In fact, literally speaking, we held the system in place. The system, which had successfully, made the people believe that there was only one solution to their problems. The system, which had made the suffering people competitors to one another in a context where compassion was needed instead. The system, where the blame for not being healed was placed on the sick people themselves.
The Greek word for paralytic literally means ‘dried out’. This system had literally dried out both the body and spirit of my owner.
Then, one day, something special happened. A young man appeared on the scene. He came to my owner and asked him to do something different. He did not ask him to compete against the others, or get down to the pool first, but instead asked him to rise, take up his mat and walk.
By asking my owner to take up the mat – this young man, whose name was Jesus, was asking my owner to give up the very system he had believed in and relied on for the past 38 years. He was asking him to courageously embrace a new way of living - a way that was not dependent on the system or its brokers.
Once my owner acted upon his words, I ceased to be a symbol of the system that kept him dependent and enslaved. I became a symbol of transformation. It was time for me to be folded up and carried away. Folding me up and tucking me under his shoulders was like bidding goodbye to the system.
It was interesting that the man, who healed my owner, did not ask my owner to abandon me by the poolside. Instead he was to carry me around – as a sign of transformation. I was no longer the sign of bondage; I was a living sign of liberation and freedom. That is the point I want to make today – many of us who are often thought to be part of the system can also become the signs of its transformation.
Let me explain more.
When people saw me folded up in the man’s hand – they saw it as a sign that the structure had been changed. So, they started questioning - who is responsible for this? How could this change happen now? I realized that I had become almost a teaching tool. This was the way that Jesus, the man who healed my owner, brought about transformation. He often did things which provoked people to examine their own beliefs and way of life. His acts of healing became a moment of teaching – a moment of questioning the system through the eyes and ears of those who were most oppressed by it.
I know you are not here today to hear a silly mat speak to you. Today I want to draw your attention to many other living mat in our world, who from being symbols of an enslaving system have been transformed into signs of transformation.
Whose lives have become teaching tools like the folded mat?
One story I want to share is that of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA campaign. The WOZA campaign is a civic movement which emerged to provide women with a voice and visibility to foster change in Zimbabwe. This movement uses a campaign of “tough love,” using the traditional role and moral authority of a mother, calling for a new kind of society where equality and social justice prevail.
What is interesting about the campaign is how the women transformed their time under arrest, as a chance to educate others about human rights and correct those in positions of power who are harassing the people. With demonstrations of love— WOZA women provide the nation with a new way to hold policymakers accountable.
Today, we remember all such living mats that standout as symbols of transformation.
We need to ask ourselves about how often have we become a part of enslaving structures. We need to remind ourselves of the urgency in becoming signs of transformation. Today the words of Jesus Christ, to the crippled man come to us afresh -- Arise, take up your mat and walk.
The time to act is now. Let us rise in faith, lift up our mat in hope and walk in love. Amen.
Written by Rebecca Sangeetha, a theologian and a New Testament scholar. She loves to do contextual interpretations of the Biblical stories through the eyes of a woman, especially Dalit women, marginalised communities of women, men and children. A graduate of the United Theological College, Bangalore, and the King’s College London (M.Phil.), she currently works at the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, Switzerland, and belongs to the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, India. This reflection was delivered on the World Day of Prayer celebration, March 6th, at the Ecumenical Centre chapel in Geneva.
This poem is dedicated to all the women in the world who reflect their faith in action
and promote the movement of ‘informed prayer’ and ‘prayerful action’.
Blossom Sisters! Blossom!
Blossom like the Red Flame Lily of Zimbabwe.
Growing from the womb of mother Earth,
In midst of pebbles and thorns of life,
Blossom to celebrate life and
strive for ‘life in its fullness’.
For Christ has given us the power,
To rise up, pick up our mat and walk.
Blossom Sisters! Blossom!
Blossom like the
Red Flame Lily of Zimbabwe.
As our sisters of WDP Zimbabwe invite us to hear their voices, stories and pray with them,
Blossom to spread your scarlet petals and flower pregnant with ripe pollens of love,
Spread the fragrance of
‘informed prayer’ and ‘prayerful action’.
Prayer that transforms lives and heals.
For Christ has blessed us with the power,
To rise up, pick up our mat and walk.
Blossom Sisters! Blossom!
Blossom like the Red Flame Lily of Zimbabwe.
Strengthen one another to weave the web of love.
Like the song of buzzing bees sucking nectar from the lilies,
Sing together songs of justice and peace sparking hope.
As the red lily dances, kissed by the wind under the copper sun,
With the rhythms of your body, dance to the tunes of songs of freedom,
Dance to break status quo, the culture of violence and bondage.
For Christ has blessed us with the power,
To rise up, pick up our mat and walk.
Blossom Sisters! Blossom!
Blossom like the Red Flame Lily of Zimbabwe.
With heart filled with red passion, empathy and love,
Engaging in praxis-oriented prayer, wiping away tears,
Of grandmothers struggling to give life to disabled abandoned grandchildren,
Women walking miles with bruised feet in search of safe drinking water,
Mothers toiling hard in poverty to feed hungry children,
Weep with tears of empathy for trafficked daughters living with HIV/AIDS.
For our tears are not tears of weakness but resilience and strength.
For Christ has blessed us with the power,
To rise up, pick up our mat and walk.
Written by Rev. Moumita Biswas, WDPIC Regional Representative of Asia
Artwork by Mehuli Rusha Biswas
This Easter Sunday will never be forgotten.
Many of us won’t be able to gather for worship in our churches and greet each other with “Hallelujah, Christ is Risen! Yes, indeed Christ is Risen!”
Instead, we will be home, either alone or with our close family connected online with our worldwide sisters and brothers declaring Christ’s victory over death.
In this time of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we stay home to save lives. We pray from our own sanctuaries and lift up to God all who feel like they are in the darkness of the tomb. We trust there is light after darkness.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remind us of World Day of Prayer women preparing the worship service for the First Friday of March. The WDP women give their time to prepare the rituals of encounter and prayer that nurture fellowship and hope in the community. For the two Marys though, that first day after the Sabbath started early. They went to prepare the rituals of burying a loved one – Jesus
Their arrival to the tomb was preceded by the dramatic appearance of an angel of the Lord. The angel understood well the reason for their visit and their feelings. “Do not be afraid. He is not here,” said the angel of the Lord. After the encounter, filled now with fear and great joy, the two Marys ran to share the good news with the disciples (Matthew 28:1-9).
This Easter, we may have these mixed feelings of fear and joy. How can we let the news given by the angel nurture ourselves? Perhaps by letting go of our fear, caring for each other, and creating space for the great joy of being united in the same prayer -- Hallelujah, Christ is Risen!
The word of the Risen One remains a promise of life for all of us. Jesus has gone before us, leading us from death to life. Through our most dire situations, let us dare to live with great joy and hope. Then, like the disciples, we will take hold of Jesus’ feet and feel encouraged to see the signs of resurrection around us.
Truly, Christ is Risen! Amen!
- Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson and Rosangela Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director