On July 16th, 2021, the World Day of Prayer International Committee hosted an online Global Conversation with Ruth Mariet Trueba Castro, President of WDP Cuba, on how the relationship between art and prayer can be a source of healing during the pandemic. Being united in prayer is what links us together, which has been very crucial during this time.
Over 50 WDP leaders from all over the world came together to listen to Ruth as she discussed the important connection between art and religion while showcasing the WDP artwork over the last 10 years. She focused on colors and common symbols that can be seen within the artworks and how it relates to faith and prayer. Ruth explained that “there are two main ways in which we can approach prayer through art: meditating on works of art as starting point for prayer or creating art as the expression of a prayer.” Ruth also demonstrated, by drawing an image live during the meeting, how some of the prayers under the #WDPUnitedInPrayer campaign sustained her during this time of pandemic. While she drew, selected participants read aloud the prayers.
The participants were invited to create their own artwork as Ruth guided them through a meditation inspired by the Vanuatu theme "Build on a Strong Foundation." In small groups, participants were able to share their creations with each other and pray together. Catherine MacKeil, WDP Canada, commented on how appropriate the topic of art was during this breakout session because although her partner spoke a different language, they could communicate through the art they both created.
The conversation ended with a closing prayer song performed by Susana Renner, WDP Brazil. The colors of a pandemic were made into a collage of artwork and prayers from the participants presented to us by Ruth Trueba. Art comes in many different forms and so does prayer and we are thankful to Ruth for guiding us through this conversation.
Watch the full video below:
One year after the first Global Conversation, organized by World Day of Prayer International Committee, we are back again to share our experiences and learnings with the 2021 WDP Vanuatu program. We want to nurture global relationships, practical learning about WDP and strengthen our journey in the way of peace and justice.
Almost 60 WDP leaders representing the seven regions of the world attended the online conversation on May 28, 2021. In more than 10 small groups, we talked about how it felt to celebrate during the pandemic and the reasons for our prayers.
For Maral Haidostian, Lebanon, the conversation was a time of friendship and encouragement, while Sylvia Marowa, Zimbabwe, was thankful to God for preserving us all during the pandemic. Margarita Casco, Paraguay, reflected on the painting from Juliette Pita, where she sees God as the mother caring for the child during the turmoil caused by the pandemic. Pauline Bryan, Jamaica, shared about the prayers for the sisters of Vanuatu, as their experiences resonated with the women in her home country.
The Conversation ended with an intercessory prayer led by Nora Carmi, Palestine. In the spirit of WDP's practice of informed prayer and prayerful action, she contextualized the continuous oppression of the Palestinian people. As a person who knows suffering but does not lose hope, Nora concluded the invitation to prayer affirming the hope that is built on the strong foundation of our faith. To which, Áine Pedersen, Slovenia, responded with gratitude for the witness and support with prayers.
The video below is a brief insight into the conversation on May 28th and what we hope to achieve with this series. WDPIC will continue to host Global Conversations throughout the year to keep the WDP network connected, engaged and informed. Watch our video and share it with your network!
- Rosângela Oliveira
Executive Director, WDPIC
Greetings to you, greetings to you, greetings to everyone.
God will bless us in our worship. He will guide us. He will bless us.
We are here in His presence, we are one in God’s love
Greetings to you, greetings to you, greetings to everyone.
This is one of the songs composed by the women of the World Day of Prayer Committee of Vanuatu for the worship service program in 2021. This is how we started the virtual “Singing WDP Vanuatu Songs” event. Edith Toth and her music team, from WDP Romania, led all four songs composed by the Vanuatu committee.
The virtual event was held to create a space for WDP leaders to come together in global sisterhood to fill the spirit with joy, faith and love in preparations for the annual day of prayer on the first Friday of March. We are all living under the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is the context in which the national committees and the WDPIC office find themselves, busy creating virtual resources for the celebrations at home or for small groups. A WDPIC video of the worship service was being produced and led by the WDP Vanuatu Committee and the WDPIC Executive Committee, with greetings from several committees and would be made available soon, informed the executive director.
The total number of registrations for the virtual event held on January 28, 2021, reached 107, and around 80 participants joined the event. There were participants from the seven regions of the world, from the earliest hours of the day to late at night depending on their time zone. It already captured what March 5th represents: being united in prayer around the world from dawn to dusk.
It is time to get together as a nation and family.
Let’s forget our differences and let us work in unity
Let’s build Vanuatu with love and unity
We are family, we are one
We are Ni-Vanuatu
“It is time to get together” was the song that introduced small group conversations. In more than 20 small groups, the participants reflected on what time this is for them and in what ways they build it with love and unity. Sharing the conversation in the chat, a group with participants from Germany, Lebanon, and the Philippines wrote “We are united through God's love and spreading hope and love through serving each other, and that is renovating our souls.” While the group with participants from Romania, Lebanon and Australia felt blessed for sharing in prayer, singing and reaching out to one another, as well as the group with women from Barbados, Albania and Taiwan who felt good for the chance to share with each other.
The group with participants from France and Scotland wrote about the ways they will celebrate this year and how the virtual communication make them feel like one family, and that they will continually pray for Vanuatu and sisters and brothers from everywhere. WDP members from Germany, Palestine and New Zealand commented on how happy they were to share their different ways of spending time, but especially about how the unity of WDP has made them come together and not feel alone.
Sharing WDP practices and preparedness for this year's celebration were also commented on in the chat. The representative from Canada wrote about the new things they are learning almost daily: “We are promoting virtual services in the light of COVID restrictions. We have produced a video which will be available mid-February for the local coordinators to order it on a USB or DVD, while the print services are available for download through the website. Every second Friday, one of our members holds a short prayer service on Facebook.”
A group with members from Cameroon and Denmark shared their WDP practices and also the group with participants from France, Japan and Scotland. They reflected on the new ways to celebrate WDP, the need to get better at technology, but also how the time of the pandemic has created opportunities for more connectedness to each other and to God. The expressions of joy, excitement, fellowship, creativity, unity, hope and accompaniment were present all over the chats and smiling faces on screen.
Be good listeners to God’s Word. Be obedient to His ways.
Put God first in all you do. Build wisely for eternity.
With that song, we rejoined from the small groups to a common prayer. The song then was turned into a litany, with prayer responses prepared from the participants. Let us pray.
Edith Toth (Romania) - Be good listeners to God’s word. Be obedient to his ways
Vino Schubert (Sri Lanka) - As James instructed us not to “merely listen to the word, and so deceive ourselves, but do what it says (James 1:22); dear Lord, we ask you to make us conscious of the fact that obedience involves more than just listening to Your word – but taking action to fulfil Your instructions.
All – God, we are ready to listen to you
Edith Toth (Romania) - Put God first in all you do. Build wisely for eternity
Inge-Lise Lollike (Denmark) - Keep me daily building on the rock
All – Help us to follow the way of Jesus
Edith Toth (Romania) - Be good listeners to God’s word. Be obedient to his ways
Merita Meko (Albania) - When Jesus came to die in order that we may live, You put us first; and because of Jesus’ blood shared for us, we were reborn by grace! Help us live in Your grace. Help us surrender to Your Holy Name, Lead us into Your right path and may we all live according to Your promises!
All – Give us strength to follow You, oh God.
Edith Toth (Romania) - Put God first in all you do. Build wisely for eternity
Cindy Vanuaroro (Vanuatu) - As we struggle with these confusing times, it is possible to think only of now, give us the wisdom, courage and faith to run the race in fighting the good fight, finishing the race and keeping the faith for eternity. Thank you for helping us to build each other up in love for eternity.
All – Hear our prayer, loving God
With creativity, Edith and her team, introduced some gestures to the song Children Arise and Build.
Children arise and build on the strong foundation now. Jesus, the strong foundation.
Vanuatu arise and build on the strong foundation now. Jesus, the strong foundation.
We are very thankful for the contribution that WDP Romania through Edith Toth and her music team offered to us. As in the words of Ruth V. E. Phillips, from Barbados “The children with Edith are beautiful. It was a pleasure seeing them enjoying themselves with us. There is hope for the World Day of Prayer! Hallelujah!!”
To conclude the virtual gathering, Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson, introduced our prayerful action: wearing black we said NO to rape and gender-based violence as in the #ThursdaysInBlack campaign. Our witness was posted on WDPIC Facebook and Instagram on January 28.
With all microphones on and the overlapping laughs and greetings, one by one left the virtual meeting room, leaving behind their thankful comments in the chat. With you, I leave the blessing left to us by Manon Naidoo, from South Africa:
“Blessings to each country. This has been a very supportive meeting with unity. Spending this time was awesome. Love.”
- Rosângela 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
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.