In the course of preparations for WDP 2019, for which Slovenia was the writer country, I was privileged to visit the ASPI Centre twice. I was very touched by their work. ASPI, I have since learned, is the name which Slovenes with Asperger syndrome use to refer to themselves.
The ASPI Centre helps and supports adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders. They prepare them for independent living, as much as possible, in cooperation with their parents and families. It is located in the outskirts of Domžale, a town in the greater Ljubljana region of Slovenia. The facility has been supplied by the local Caritas. It is a fairly small, longish narrow building with a garden attached in a quiet area not far from the old main road from Ljubljana to Maribor. They have some limited overnight accommodation and offer a series of programmes which include gardening and vegetable growing. They offer individual therapy, classes and activities that enable adolescents and adults to pursue their interests and develop their life skills in a meaningful way.
During my visit, I had the chance to see one of the neighbours assisting with the gardening, which appears to be a meeting point for the local community and the ASPI clientele. This Centre is a place to which persons on the autism spectrum and their families can come freely and find acceptance and help; which improves their wellbeing by making them feel more secure and calmer.
In Slovenia, there are limited official resources, recognition or understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Many families live in isolation and unaware of where to turn to for help and understanding. The government and the society still need to research and learn more about it. Official recognition of the disorder would help the organisations get financial aid from the state to assist those people and their families.
ASD can be manifested in extreme sensitivity to sounds, light, smells, or interaction with other people and groups. Sometimes schools and churches are not prepared to welcome them, and so they are excluded from many activities that would enrich their lives or be enriched by them. When they are together, they realise that they are not alone or not to be blamed, but their condition needs to be understood so they can count on help to face the frightening world around them.
In case you live with a person with ASD or want to create a welcoming environment for them, let me share a few tips. Be aware that noise or light can be quite unbearably painful to them; even music played at fairly acceptable volume. Their repetitive behaviour and gestures, or unwillingness to meet your eye, does not necessarily mean that they would not like to be your friend. They may have no way of interpreting the body language of those around them. They may look like a lonely child, although they themselves may be actively seeking companionship.
I have a friend with Asperger syndrome, who is one of the most caring and artistically gifted people I know. She spends much of her life doing voluntary work with old people - who appreciated her care and concern - but could not hold a paid job because somehow “she didn’t fit into the norm.” She must have been in her 40s before she and her sister heard of Asperger syndrome, and it took her another few years to get the necessary medical assessment, and then a monthly pension. But simply understanding her own condition was a great relief to her.
It is very important to understand ASD and raise awareness in schools, churches, families, the medical field and government offices. People on the autism spectrum and their families need to be supported and we are grateful to the WDP committees who partnered with us to donate to the ASPI Centre in response to the World Day of Prayer Slovenia service in 2019. Thank you all very much.
- Áine Pedersen, WDP Slovenia
World Day of Prayer annually brings together Christian women of various denominations and cultures in fellowship, prayer and understanding. It is indeed inspiring to be part of this global ecumenical network that spans 146 countries worldwide.
The World Day of Prayer services, held on the 6th of March 2020 in South Africa, were very special. Along with praying for the women of Zimbabwe, it was the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Women’s World Day of Prayer in South Africa. All Praise be to God!
The first observance of the WDP was held in March 1930, at the Congregational Church at Sea Point in Cape Town. In the same year, a small group of Afrikaans and English-speaking women met in Johannesburg to organize a service. Since then, the movement has grown into a solid organization.
South Africa is known as the “Rainbow Nation”, with 11 official languages. Annually, the program is translated into 8 of the official languages. Many services are inter-cultural, and the same sermon is presented in Afrikaans, English, German and Zulu. An estimate of 1,200 plus services are organized on the Prayer Day – in schools, churches, old age homes, prisons, Bible study groups, and community halls. Approximately 80,000 programs are printed, and a huge amount are electronically distributed. We also assist countries such as Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe with copies of the program. Around 120,000 people attend the services on the particular day. What a blessing this has been again in March 2020. Prayer truly knits hearts together for eternity!
South Africa can look back on the past 90 years with pure bliss and joy, where our Lord has never left or forsaken us. His lovable presence, guidance and mercy remained with us every step of the way.
What was outstanding from the feedback received on the 2020 service, was the enthusiasm for the writer country. Zimbabwe is one of our neighbours, and most families in South Africa know someone from Zimbabwe. Most congregations made special efforts to invite and accommodate families or women from Zimbabwe. Ladies dressed up in colourful Zimbabwean outfits. The Zimbabweans enthusiastically brought food, artwork, and mats for the services. The Dutch Reformed Church in Jacobsdal handed out key holders in the form of Africa, with a little heart above Zimbabwe. The United Church in Hermanus had a lovely display of quilts, depicting a story specifically related to Zimbabwe and made by a known quilter, Helen Granville, who previously lived in Zimbabwe. Many congregations gave voice to a Zimbabwean to tell their own personal stories.
The 90th Jubilee of WWDP South Africa was celebrated with joy and gratitude. Beautiful birthday cakes and cupcakes were baked and served in traditional wooden dishes, and decorated in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag. Dances and choirs highlighted the services. In Klerksdorp, 300 little hessian mats were handed out at the doors, each with a peanut slab inside to celebrate the 90th Jubilee. Beaufort-West treated the ladies with bookmarks in the form of a mat, and a little gift bag with sump, corn, mealies as souvenir.
There was a very positive drive all over to involve the youth. We cannot thank our teachers enough for their willingness and enthusiastic efforts to keep this wonderful movement alive for future generations. In Klerksdorp alone, 11 primary schools and five high schools were involved. In Piet Plessis, prints to be coloured, a sandwich and a cool drink were handed out to every pupil. In Beaufort-west, and other towns, more than 500 teenagers took part in the children’s program. In Underberg, (KwaZulu Natal), young ladies from Pevensy Place (an adult cerebral palsy home) were special guests at the service.
The theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk”, had a great impact. It led many to self-reflection and a new commitment to face our own problems and walk in the grace and presence of our Lord and Saviour. The Prayer Day is not only a day of prayer and worship, but it leads to many ongoing projects in communities to support the poor and the needy.
We were blessed to be able to host our Prayer Day before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa. Our hearts go out to everybody that has been affected by the virus, and especially to those who have lost loved ones. May we be united in prayer, and may God Almighty protect us all and be with us.
Life as such is challenging and when we look at the 2021 program, we have “Hope” and can build on a strong foundation.
- Joa Van Aarde, WDP South Africa
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.
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Committee
We really felt blessed and humbled to be the writer committee for the 2020 WDP worship service. The opportunities given by the collaborative writing process enriched us and let us grow in faith. One of the impacts of promoting the program as the focus country is that it united us. Women from different religious backgrounds, cultures and traditions came together under a common goal for the betterment of our country. It was a wonderful experience which required creativity.
In the beginning, we found the theme motivational and a reminder that Christ would give us strength. However, as the days went by, the theme became more relevant, especially because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The theme sounded like a mandate, a mantra and certainly a way of life as the Coronavirus pandemic hit the nations in 2020.
In Zimbabwe, the pandemic grouped together with the drought and the economic hardships made us feel that God was speaking directly unto our situation. Our people had to rely on Jesus Christ and His command to “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk” towards the love and peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, and the reconciliation with the Holy Spirit, who brings healing and restoration to us all.
Since the theme was defined in 2012, to the launch of the writing process through the Strengthening National Committee Workshop in 2016, and finally the moment of the celebration in 2020, the message has evolved. Really, God showed Himself to us. God is All Knowing. Our country and all others around the globe must indeed “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk.”
Notwithstanding the disruption in our calendar due to the pandemic, the children and youths were able to undertake a drama which was aired at the Zimbabwe broadcasting studio; they assisted with advertising on social media, sang and danced in the services. They were also involved in projects making sanitary pads, sewing face masks, crafts involving beadwork and donating food to those in need. Little girls from the Girl Guide movement also participated in the activities. These activities showed that all hope is not lost. The children acquired a good foundation as they learnt attitudes basic for their sense of humanity, which are caring for others and catering to their needs. This intergenerational exchange of skills also blessed us all.
During the full WDP process as a writer country, we were reminded that despite the dark times, Zimbabwe is still part of a global village. We learnt to appreciate all that God has entrusted us to look after. We learnt a lot about our own country and how to love and embrace people from other religions, cultures, traditions and who speak different languages. We are all God’s creatures.
Recently, we also learnt new things such as how to use video conferencing applications (e.g. Zoom) and other technologies to stay connected despite the lockdown due to Coronavirus. More significantly, all nations around the world took it upon themselves to pray for our country. The responses we got from other countries have encouraged us to engage and support other writer countries, thus we are more motivated with next year's program written by WDP women of Vanuatu.
There was an overall excitement that took charge of the atmosphere around the world throughout the preparations and services. We heard very positive comments from different churches and organizations. They told us to “keep up the good work.” Others wished they were the ones leading the program. Some organizations indicated that they would like to join in the World Day of Prayer programs and projects. Every woman got involved, regardless of their tradition.
There was a great sacrifice by the committee members for the whole program to sail through. To put the materials together with participants from different parts of Zimbabwe and with no access to social media to facilitate our communications was our biggest challenge. Thus, we created a steering committee to coordinate the promotion of the activities and formed sub-committees to help with the fundraising. People were highly supportive of the World Day of Prayer, and gave very good suggestions for the promotion of the activities; we even got support from people in the government. Sacrifice, commitment and dedication are key!
Those who managed to attend the worship service before the government ordered a lockdown expressed their gratitude as they felt the service was heartwarming. They were encouraged to propel above injustice, hatred, violence and walk towards Love, Peace and Reconciliation.
We look forward to engaging with more community outreach events while we build up and improve on the prayer journey that has already began. Through our ecumenical relationships, we developed partnerships to support the mothers and care givers of Ramangwana Ravo Trust, the Mucheke Old People's Home and Omni Village Rehabilitation and Skills Development Center. Also, it helped birth relationships that empower women to share ideas on how to manage challenges in life and be self-sufficient.
This entire experience has reinforced how important it is to pray without ceasing for others and for ourselves. Without God we are unable to do anything. We depend on God for everything. God is God of the impossible. Is there anything too hard for God?
- WDP Committee of Zimbabwe
The WDP Zimbabwe Committee's report was published in the 2020 WDP Journal. The Journal captures the lively presence of this worldwide ecumenical movement of informed prayer and prayerful action. Each country's story helps weave the wisdom and enthusiasm that the annual celebration generated in each part of the world. We invite you to view the Journal on our website and read the stories of this year's celebration.
The Bahamas joined the World Day of Prayer movement in 1950 when the wife of a Presbyterian Minister in Nassau, invited the wives of ministers throughout New Providence to celebrate the day. The early services were held at the Presbyterian Church and later moved to other denominations and other islands.
World Day of Prayer was celebrated on every island of the Bahamas in 2015, when our committee was tasked as the writer country and the world prayed for us and with us. Since 2015, five islands have continually observed WDP in schools and in ecumenical services.
Our 2020 celebration was scheduled to take place on Cat Island, where we have the highest hill in the Bahamas, ‘Mount Alvernia’! This service was scheduled for the month following the annual service, and was to include women from every island! However, on March 15th, our country was shut down and international travel was prohibited, except for cases of emergency, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was providential that the WDP Committee of New Providence (Nassau) observed seventy years during the annual service in Nassau. At the conclusion of the prayer service for Zimbabwe seventy candles were presented, each candle standing in a large delicious homemade cupcake, and placed on a cake rack resembling a sea-grape tree. The beautiful six-tiered cake-stand was created by Tyrone Ferguson, whose artwork was used on one of our postage stamps in 2015. The cupcakes were made by Julia Burnside, a member of our committee and the daughter of Gertrude Burnside (also featured as our historian in 2015).
On the table decorated for Zimbabwe stood nine large candles commemorating the lives of members ‘In Memoriam’ and these were lit by members of their families. Two of these candles represented the souls that perished in Abaco and Grand Bahama during Hurricane Dorian. The chairperson of the Abaco Committee traveled to Nassau for the service, and the former High Commissioner to the U.K lit the candle for Grand Bahama. A moment of silence was observed. On the top tier of the stand was one very large ‘sparkler’ candle, the last to be lit by all the children present.
The first candle was an international candle, lit by Annette Poitier, WDP Bahamas President. Then followed three candles for Zimbabwe, lit by three ladies from Zimbabwe, followed by candles representing the region. We are fortunate to have committee members from Canada and the United States as well as from seven other Caribbean countries. The islands of the Bahamas and the denominations represented in our committees were all included and well represented.
A great applause went up after the children lit the last candle, sending sparkles high into the air, and the band played, in calypso style, an old Bahamian New Year’s Eve chorus: ‘Thanks for another year O Lord!’ We danced, ate meals prepared by the Zimbabweans and of course we ate the cupcakes!
After another half hour of greetings, dancing, and building fellowship, we left thanking our hosts and thanking God for the growth of our work in the Bahamas.
- Annette Poitier, President of WDP Bahamas National Committee
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.
As we get closer to what we have been preparing with enthusiasm and creativity, the voices of the women from Zimbabwe, intertwined with our own, bring alive a message of love, peace and reconciliation.
The WDP women of Zimbabwe invited us to pray with them. Many communities gathered together to deepen their reflection on the theme based on the story of John 5, 1-9a. The three verbs - “Rise, Take and Walk” – indicate action. Jesus used those verbs on two occasions: to a sick man (John 5) and to the paralyzed one carried by four other men (Mark 2). The verbs indicate the change for those in the stories. These verbs are still powerful for us, today!
Our Zimbabwean sisters showed us the way. “Jesus empowers us to be made well by doing something for the transformation that God is offering—to rise and take up our mat, whatever that may be for us, and walk. Jesus empowers us to choose to be healed, to be made whole, perhaps physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially. When we are made whole, we are reconciled to God, to ourselves, and to our community. When we are reconciled, we can truly love, and when we truly love, we are able to walk toward peace. So, “Rise! Take your mat and walk.” (Extracted from the Worship Service 2020)
“WDP encourages responsible action that grows out of the worship service” (WDP Guiding Principles, 9, b). What are the actions that the worship service will inspire you to take? In that way, WDP will fulfill its motto “Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action.”
We join you, and especially the people of Zimbabwe, in prayers for the Holy Spirit to be at work in our hearts, so we can feel the push that makes us Rise, Take and Walk!
We wish you a blessed and happy feast!
Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson & Rosângela Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
How does World Day of Prayer tell the story of united prayers led by women around the world? For almost 100 years, women have been inviting the communities to listen to each other and to create common responses to help the ones in need.
The themes that motivate the prayers since 1927 up to 2026 are a testimony of how women commit to putting their hope into action. From the 1927 service entitled “Pray Ye Therefore”, written by Mary Hough, USA, to the 2020 service written by women in Zimbabwe under “Rise! Take your Mat and Walk”, we underscore our way of being active listeners to foster ecumenical solidarity.
The faces of the communities in prayer around the world are displayed on the WDP Timeline poster, released in 2018. They represent the prayers that come from Samoa, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Uruguay, Hungary, Taiwan and Bahamas (from top left to bottom right). Let’s learn the stories behind the faces!
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.