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.
The WDP Australian National Meeting is held every other year. This is a time when leaders from across the regions of Australia come together, some traveling as far as 3,500 km to attend.
As we meet this year in the beautiful foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, we are reminded of the beautiful but diverse land in which we live. We are often described as a sun burnt country and in many of our local areas, we are experiencing drought and bush fires. But in others, such as our meeting place, the land is lush green and fertile.
It is a time to share ideas, connect with friends, and hear of our ecumenical WDP movement across the nation. The meeting always begins with a thanksgiving and remembrance of those women who have served WDP faithfully. This brings to the forefront the responsibility we have as the current gate keepers to continue the good work that has been done.
We started a conversation imagining the future of WDP in 5 years’ time. This future is one that crosses ecumenical and cultural barriers. Australia is a diverse nation in geography as well as ethnically. Engaging with the modern women in Australia is a challenge, our role in the home and workplace has dramatically changed over the past 20 years. We need to develop new platforms for communication, to engage with the women of today and their communities, to remain relevant.
Investing in the development of our website and social media platforms is a way of promoting, communicating and connecting with women who may not be able to attend a service. Current reports from local regions across Australia highlight how World Day of Prayer is celebrated and the feedback is encouraging. As for the future, we know that we need to be open to new ideas and initiatives. We pray and trust in God!
We have learned many things from our WDP sisters as we celebrate their services. For example, how to care for our environment and be faithful stewards with the resources God has given. Our Zimbabwean sisters have given us a challenge to rise, to not be afraid of the future and take our mat and walk.
Let’s walk together in the same direction. God is offering us the steps for personal and social transformation. How will we live this out in the context of our WDP communities?
- Vicki Marney, WDPIC Regional Representative Pacific
Coming from the land and city where the miracle in John 5 took place, gives me a special responsibility to share my reflection on the Zimbabwe theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk” and what prayerful action really means. How will we walk?
The site of the Bethesda pool still exists today as proof of the belief of people who were healed or hoped to be healed when and if the angel stirred the water. The site is part of the buildings where the church of St. Anne, traditionally the home of the Virgin Mary’s parents, stands. To reach the building, you still have to pass through the Sheep Gate, also known as the gate of the twelve tribes and that of St. Stephen, who was stoned in Jerusalem. This is one of the seven gates that lead into the Old City, the Via Dolorosa, the 14 Stations of the Cross and the Noble Sanctuary, the Dome of the Rock, holy to Muslims. After all Jerusalem is where the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet.
Since 1967, this gate is guarded by heavily armed Israeli soldiers who allow or deny entry to both local and pilgrims depending on circumstances or the soldiers’ whims. In Jerusalem where crowds of sick people, blind, lame and paralyzed gathered around the pool awaiting to be healed, people today push and shove trying to flock in to visit holy sites and to praise God.
As women followed Jesus on the same path to the cross, mothers, wives, sisters and daughters walk without losing hope. We, the World Day of Prayer Palestine Committee wrote about this in the 1994 service “Go, See and Act” and invited our sisters around the world to walk with us in prayerful action. Like the lame man afflicted for 38 years, the Palestinian people have been waiting for almost a century for an angel to remove the yoke of oppression imposed upon them, and women are still striving for their equal rights.
In answer to the question posed by Jesus: “Do you want to be well again?” We cry out: “Of course! But how can we when there is injustice, oppression, hatred and killing in your land? The land of Jesus has not known the peace he announced nor lived the message of love and equality among brothers and sisters! Please, Jesus, heal us and walk with us so that humanity can be restored.”
When Jesus tells us: “Get up, pick up your sleeping mat and walk around” we respond: "Even if individually we do try to stand up and bring harmony within our own circles, the work of your peacemakers is not yielding fruits. We need the massive efforts of good people who believe in human beings, who do the will of God and are supported by global moral values and international law."
So, I offer this prayer:
With your help, O Lord, shake off the injustice, remove the occupation, liberate us, as you announced in the synagogue in Nazareth, so that we can walk as your children created in your divine image. We feel that under the oppressive system, we are not allowed to carry our sleeping mat, to walk freely and to have a state of our own.
Dear God, who created us in your divine image and gave us our dignity, help us to resist, nonviolently, against all forms of humiliation and dehumanization imposed upon us. Help us to respect others and to follow the commandment of do not kill, morals which have disappeared in the hearts of leaders in your country and the world.
Heal us, O lord, teach us humility and grant us the gift of reconciliation, so that we can all walk together with love.
We, women of the World Day of Prayer have our differences, but we all care for God’s beautiful creation and want to preserve it. Let us learn from each other, and spread love among all, for we women can be more powerful with compassion.
- Nora Carmi, WDPIC Regional Rep. of the Middle East
When we were chosen to write the WDP worship service for 2018, we did not anticipate the powerful impact that being a writer country represents. We were honored and humbled by that realization. We were enthusiastic about having the whole world pray for our country; a country hardly known. We had the great responsibility of lifting up the care for creation, for the sustainability of our planet and the future of the next generations. The offerings we received were shared with projects and organizations we partnered with to make a difference in our communities.
For the Wildlife Protection all animals have their own value and are worthy of being treated with respect as independent beings. They aim to save and protect animals by treating them well, respecting their freedom and raising awareness about their integrity. They advocate proper care for domesticated animals, conservation of natural wildlife habitats and proper living conditions for animals held in captivity. The Unu Pikin Foundation has been committed to improving children’s education since 2003. Assistance and extra care is given to those with disabilities. Their book department sells and offers free books for schools and other institutions.
Stop Violence Against Women Foundation actively contributes to the prevention and combat of domestic violence against women. Together with the government they take a prominent role in developing and influencing national policy for gender equality.
The Wi Oso Foundation teaches those who are disabled to grow and sell their plants and vegetables. Care for Moms is a project dedicated to offering support and guidance to women with breast cancer. Huize Albertine is a home for the elderly and Hope for Children is a shelter home for abused and abandoned children.
There were many lessons to be learned. The first one was that we, as women, do have a powerful contribution to make to the world. With God as our guide, we came together to bring the necessary changes to our communities. We came out of that WDP experience with a vision for the future of our committee. It felt wonderful to be in prayer with our people and the people around the world!
- WDP Suriname Committee
“I am so thankful because the program gave me the chance to understand that WDP is so much more than a special day of prayer. I will be able to explain to other women all that I have learned, discovered and received. And I will do it using what we learned through the Transformational Leadership training program.”
45 women came from all over Ghana to Accra for a 2-day workshop about women and Transformational Leadership and to deepen their knowledge about World Day of Prayer from the global to local level. Representatives came from the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, African Methodist Episcopal, Anglican, Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. The workshop was held on October 21st and 22nd at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church, Osu.
The first day focused on leadership, the WDP organization, history and Guiding Principles, and the Thursdays in Black Campaign. On the second day, we took time to answer questions and deepen the conversation. Then we held one more session on Women and Transformational Leadership. We closed the workshop with the 2020 WDP worship service prepared by WDP Zimbabwe and studied the Gospel of John 5:2-9. With songs, dances and prayers we shared a great fellowship. We felt blessed during these two days together!
- Joyce Larko Steiner, WDPIC African Regional Rep & Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson
Rise! Take your mat and walk
If we want to fulfill this request of Jesus, then we have to rise up and stand on our feet!
That’s why we invite you to get up.
Be aware of your feet
Feel the ground under your feet
Make contact with the ground
Your feet are your earthly bond
Thanks to your feet, you have a point of view for you
Your feet will make you move
They keep you in balance and carry you
They brought you here
They have led you to other people
They go with you God’s way
They go through life with you - through ups and downs
GOD puts your feet on wide space! (Psalm 31:9)
God, bless our steps as we go. Amen
The theme for the 2020 WDP Zimbabwe program speaks directly to the heart and mind of women in Latin America, who still suffer under a ‘machista’ culture. As part of the Brazilian committee, we studied the theme at our Assembly and we felt inspired by the words of Jesus: “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk!”
In the Bible text, John 5:2-9a, we read that Jesus changed the life of a man who was ‘stuck’ and didn’t have much hope in changing his situation. He couldn’t think about the future. He was just surviving day by day, but then Jesus changed the life of this man. Jesus asked him an important question – Do you want to be healed; do you want to change your life? It seems obvious that someone would say yes but sometimes the answer is not so clear to us.
Many women in South America cannot even think about the possibility of having a different life. It seems impossible for them. They feel that, just like the man in the story, they have nobody to help them so they wait and hope for their circumstances to change.
The bible story shows us that for Jesus nothing is impossible. Sometimes women feel paralyzed like the man in the bible story, just seeing obstacles. With faith and Jesus’ guidance we can change negative situations in our life that do not seem to have a solution at first glance.
Jesus encourages women to rise, to take our mat, which symbolizes our excuses, and leave it behind and walk. Jesus empowers us to believe that a different life is possible. Change is possible for those who believe in Jesus and in his words. Jesus enables us to move forward.
On behalf of the WDP of Brazil, Grytsje Couperus participated in a retreat in Caacupe, Paraguay to prepare for the WDP of 2020. Women from the hosting country, including the indigenous Paraguayan, and women from Brazil and Argentina were present. At this annual gathering women study together and prepare for the worship service on the first Friday of March.
One of the participants shared a story about her life. How she had suffered for 20 years married to a drunken womanizer. She felt ashamed for not being able to keep her marriage and guilt for the divorce until she understood Jesus’ liberating words. Jesus’ words “Rise, take your mat and walk,” made her cry and freed her from sadness and frustration. She took her mat, and believed that she was allowed to be happy and to have a different life. Her old life was over, Jesus told her to rise and to move on.
May Jesus’ words continue to liberate women who still suffer in a culture that does not value them.
- Susana Renner, WDPIC Regional Rep. of Latin America
Al final de Julio, estuvimos reunidas como el comité ejecutivo del Comité Internacional de Día Mundial de Oración, en NY. Dedicamos nuestros devocionales a reflexionar desde el tema y pasaje que nos propone Zimbabue “Levántate, toma tu camilla y anda”. Cada palabra trajo motivación y retos a nuestra vida.
Regresé a casa pensando en el pasaje que tiene aún mucho que decirnos personalmente y a nuestro movimiento del DMO, y aun nos anima desde nuestro lema a “Informarse para orar y orar para actuar.”
El título del pasaje y el desarrollo de la historia en el evangelio de Juan 5:2-9 hacen referencia a un lugar, Betesda, que significa, “Casa de Misericordia”. Sin embargo, parecía que no había mucha compasión en ese lugar, hasta que llega Jesús.
Son siempre los encuentros con los demás los que mueven a Jesús a misericordia. Este hombre sin nombre, conocido como el paralitico de Betesda, tiene una historia que mueve a Jesús. Su historia puede ser la de muchas mujeres y personas en el mundo hoy. Una historia que no había sido contada, o que fue ignorada, por una sociedad indiferente a las necesidades de los demás. Una sociedad que margina y aglomera en determinados espacios y lugares a aquellos que se salen de la norma, a los diferentes, los enfermos y despreciables según sus criterios.
El pasaje nos habla de un cuerpo afectado. Él se ve imposibilitado para moverse, lo que significa que depende de otros, y aun pasa por mucho dolor. Pero aquí, no se nos menciona el dolor o sufrimiento físico, como en otros personajes de la biblia que recibieron milagros. Había otra historia que debía ser contada.
Claro que debió haber dolor en su cuerpo, por eso estaba ahí, pero es seguro que el dolor mayor era otro. El dolor de la indiferencia de quienes podrían ayudarle pero estaban pensando en ellos mismos y de los que ni siquiera llegaban ahí. Treinta ocho años es toda una vida siendo testigo en ese estanque del egoísmo y la discriminación, ese es el mayor dolor experimentado por cualquier ser humano que sufre en soledad. Este espacio compartido huele tristeza e impotencia. Ese es otro tipo de parálisis social al que hoy hay que decir con autoridad -- ¡Levántate, muévete de tu conformismo, camina, sal de la indiferencia y haz algo por tu prójimo!
Pero el pasaje nos narra un aspecto para mi sumamente importante, pues a pesar del dolor físico y moral que podría vivirse en estas condiciones este hombre tiene 38 años abrigando la esperanza de ser sano, de estar bien, de que su realidad cambie, de lograr tener una vida digna. ¡La esperanza es lo último que se pierde! decimos en Costa Rica. Ahí está él, fiel, esperando que las aguas sean agitadas para poder sumergirse en ellas y ser sano. Le valió la fe, le valió la espera, porque Jesús el agua viva vendría a visitarlo para que dé su interior corriera el coraje de levantarse, tomar su pasado y caminar hacia su futuro.
Necesitamos llegar al lugar donde están las personas con múltiples necesidades y hacer lo que hizo Jesús. Jesús le prestó atención --miro su posición y supo que llevaba mucho tiempo así (v. 6). Mirar a los otros y conocer sus historias, nos mueve a compasión. Jesús le preguntó: ¿Quieres ser sano? Obvio que quiere ser sano, diríamos. Pero la pregunta abre el dialogo, permite la interacción y muestra el interés real por los demás. Es como darle voz al que no ha sido escuchado. Es disponerse a escuchar sus historias, dejar que salga su dolor, es darles la palabra.
Notamos que cuando habló, no se quejó de cuanto le dolían sus piernas o su cuerpo, sino del dolor mayor que ha experimentado por años que era no tener quien le ayudara, quien pensara en él y le apoyara de alguna manera. Él habló del dolor de no ser prioridad para alguien, y de ser siempre el último en la lista.
¿Queremos ver mujeres y personas levantarse, tomar su camilla y caminar? Entonces vallamos ahí donde están postradas de múltiples formas abrigando una pequeña esperanza. Mirémoslas, mostremos interés real por ellas, escuchemos sus historias. Presentémosles con nuestras acciones a Jesús, el agua Viva, y seguro que veremos milagros. Esa es nuestra Betesda, ese es el lugar para la misericordia.
- Rebeca Cascante Gómez, Coordinadora Regional de Latinoamérica
While reflecting on the story of Jesus’ healing in John 5 in anticipation of the World Day of Prayer 2020 celebrations, I am reminded of the value of intention. When we read the story of the man by the well, Jesus’s command to action can be read as a directive to follow Jesus and listen to his instruction. What about the intention of the sick man at the well? For 38 years, this man had been unable to walk and was unable to move himself to the pool to be healed. He had been waiting and hoping for years until Jesus found him. When Jesus told him to stand, he had faith and he stood up – healed! Can you imagine how strange this must have been for the sick man? For 38 years he was paralyzed, when suddenly a man arrived with the answer to his problems – just stand up! Can you imagine how ridiculous that would have sounded to the sick man? He easily could have brushed Jesus off and continued to wait for someone to help him into the pool. Instead, the man chose to rise, pick up his mat, and walk away from his place by the pool.
This story of healing reminds me of the World Day of Prayer movement. In the past, I have attended meetings locally, nationally, and internationally. One of the biggest topics of conversation is “how can we keep the movement growing?” While many ideas are shared, we often remain comfortable in our traditional, and oftentimes shrinking, first Friday in March service and do not seek to go beyond the confines of the calendar and the walls of our churches. We host our service, enjoy the celebrations, then sit by the well and wait for someone else to come up with a new idea. World Day of Prayer is about turning informed prayer into prayerful action, a practice that goes beyond a single day of service.
Why not host a WDP community breakfast or dinner, turn the service into a local play, or even organize a sports day?
One creative WDP group in Bolsover, Ontario, Canada organized a paint night inspired by the WDP Slovenia program! Participants gathered and followed an artist’s instructions to paint a honeybee hovering over a pincushion flower to celebrate World Bee Day, which was sponsored by the Slovenian government to the UN in 2017. There are many creative ways that we can spread the message, love, and prayers to new folk and to strengthen lasting WDP relationships.
Take a look at your WDP team - are you laying by the well waiting for someone to change things for you? Or are you willing to take ownership and rise, take your mat and walk!
- Lauren Wilks, WDPIC Regional Rep. of Caribbean and North America