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
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
“I am Merlyn, from Mindanao. When I was 15 years old, I was forced to seek employment after my parents died. I said I was 18 years old and boarded a ship with a recruiter to the big city of Manila. The agency assigned me to work for a family and I worked almost 24/7 without a day-off. After 3 months, I did not receive any salary, so I resigned. My employer filed a complaint against me for qualified theft. She accused me of stealing. I was put in a detention cell for 3 days. With the help of a Christian lawyer, I won my case against my employer on unfair labor practices and received compensation.
My story is that of many young girls who come from rural areas, and the ones that leave our country as overseas workers. Forced by economic circumstances, we migrate to the urban centers and abroad. We are often abused, and experience economic injustice…”
This excerpt was taken from the World Day of Prayer 2017 worship service program written by the WDP Philippines committee. Given the theme “Am I Being Unfair to You?” based on the bible story Matthew 20:1-16, the committee decided to focus on the unjust labor practices in their country and bring awareness to the struggles the women, men, and sometimes children, face. The men face high unemployment rates and the women are overworked, underpaid, and taken advantage of.
Due to increasing costs of living, many men and women decide to work abroad in order to find better paying jobs. This often impacts the family negatively. Families break up and children begin to do poorly in school. The country has passed laws to protect workers but implementation is lacking.
With the support and offering received from the World Day of Prayer, the WDP Philippines committee took its first steps in tackling these issues. They supported two Mangyan (indigenous people) lay missionary empowerment projects. The first entails Bible study sessions for the women participating. They are mentored by women leaders to attend conferences, WDP events, seminars, and training sessions. The second project involved teaching the Mangyans of Mindoro, to weave baskets and trays so they can promote their culture and simultaneously make a living. Their products were marketed at conferences and community events to support their progress.
Through the WDP service the question presented is - What can be done to create a better world? Every day, women and men in the Philippines bear the responsibilities of providing for their families in the face of unfair labor practices. Through these offerings the WDP Philippines committee was able to make a small change in the lives of some.
“We will not lose hope. We will continue to be resourceful and mentor our children until even just a glimmer of light shines through to guide us.” – Prima Formilleza, WDP Philippines Chairperson
- Based on reports received from WDP Philippines
En 2016, el comité del Día Mundial de Oración de Cuba escribió el programa bajo el tema “Al recibir a las niñas y los niños, me reciben a mí” basado en Marcos 10: 13-16. El tema nos llevó a crear nuevas iniciativas, que con gratitud en nuestro corazón hemos dado seguimiento a la atención a los niños y las niñas, los protagonistas de la celebración en 2016. Les compartimos un poco de lo que hemos hecho.
Al coro creado de niños y niñas provenientes de zonas vulnerables, les impartimos clases de música y de formación de valores. Hemos trabajado también con niños y niñas con síndrome de Down usando las artes visuales como instrumento para su inclusión social. En Holguín, hemos dado acompañamiento material y pastoral a niños y niñas cuyas madres están presas. Y hemos propiciado el compartir celebrativo de niños y familias en situaciones vulnerables, tanto en los barrios como en las iglesias.
Gracias a una ofrenda para apoyo psicológico, pudimos apoyar y acompañar a algunas familias de las víctimas del accidente aéreo de Mayo de 2018, donde 17 niños provenientes de las familias pastorales se quedaron huérfanos.
Muchas mujeres se han capacitado y hemos podido desplegar un trabajo de prevención con mujeres y adolescentes que estaban viviendo en situación de violencia. En algunas escuelas secundarias en Cuba se introdujo la temática del “anti-bullying” (acoso escolar).
En la zona oriental del país, organizamos un evento formativo con 300 mujeres de diferentes denominaciones donde promovemos el movimiento del Día Mundial de Oración. En el marco de este evento apoyamos a mujeres jóvenes que perdieron sus casas a raíz del paso de un terrible huracán. Muchas personas e iglesias que no conocían el DMO se animaran a celébralo por primera vez.
Uno de nuestros encuentros más transformadores ha sido la colaboración con el Proyecto Cuidándonos entre Hermanas. Este es un espacio de convivencia formativa y terapéutica para que las mujeres desarrollen la sanación personal y se capaciten con herramientas para el cuidado pastoral.
A partir de la celebración del DMO 2016, el movimiento del Día Mundial de Oración en Cuba se ha fortalecido con numerosas alianzas ecuménicas y la inclusión de mujeres jóvenes. Durante todo el año nos involucramos con las actividades formativas del Programa Mujer y Género, que movilizan a mujeres de diferentes denominaciones, incluyendo a la Iglesia Católica. Dentro de estas actividades se cuentan la Jornada de la No Violencia hacia las mujeres y las niñas, los cursos de promotoras, la Semana de Oración por la Unidad, los encuentros de comunión y retiros de la red de mujeres Débora.
Al mismo tiempo, dimos continuidad a proyectos apoyados por la Sociedad Bíblica de Australia y la Comisión Bíblica de Cuba. Esta alianza de colaboración nos provee de literatura para el trabajo de prevención de la No Violencia entre las nuevas generaciones, así como la disponibilidad de la Biblia ISHA para el trabajo con mujeres.
En Cuba hoy hay una serie de actividades y programas que resultaron de las ofrendas recibidas de la red internacional del DMO. El impacto es sentido desde nuevas iniciativas en conjunto con el Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba hasta el fortalecimiento del DMO en las comunidades reportado aquí por Midiam Lobaina, Reverenda María Yi Reyna y Ruth Trueba. Con el apoyo de los coordinadores territoriales del Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba en la difusión de los materiales del DMO (vía impresa y digital) y la coordinación de las celebraciones en las varias de las provincias de Cuba, hemos logrado fortalecer la presencia de un comité provincial del DMO. Hemos estado presentes en cada región del país, como por ejemplo, Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, y Guantánamo. Esto hay permitido que nuevas iglesias se han sumado a las celebraciones.
El Día Mundial de Oración en Cuba, no sólo se activa durante el primer viernes de marzo sino que permanece tejiendo acciones concretas orientadas hacia el empoderamiento de la mujer cristiana, promoviendo espacios de espiritualidad, formación y oración.
- Ruth Mariet Trueba Castro (Coordinadora del DMO en Cuba), Midiam Lobaina (Miembro del Comité Escritor del DMO Cuba 2016), y Reverenda María Yi Reyna (Iglesia Los Amigos Cuáqueros en Holguín, Coordinadora del Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba en la provincia de Holguín)
Par la guérison du paralytique (Jean 5:2-9a), Jésus révèle le don du Père. Le paralytique dans son état d’isolation a besoin d’une présence pour le jeter dans l’eau au moment de l’agitation afin qu’il recouvre la santé. Mais le Seigneur se présente à lui dans ses moments de découragement et d’angoisse, non pas pour le jeter à l’eau, mais pour lui dire une parole forte et d’engagement : « veux-tu être guéri ? » La réponse du malade montre sa volonté et la reconnaissance de la puissance de Jésus, qui lui dit : « lève-toi, prends ton grabat et marche.» Trois expressions d’action : se lever, prendre son lit et marcher.
La foi du paralytique lui permet non plus de se faire jeter dans l’eau, mais de guérir par la parole prononcée par Jésus. Passer de l’ignorance à l’écoute de la parole, de la séparation à la communion, de l’isolement à la rencontre, de l’incrédulité à la foi sont les transformations du paralytique qui vient d’accueillir le Seigneur avec foi accédant ainsi à une nouvelle vie.
Le monde traverse aujourd’hui des crises de tout genre, les sinistres causés par les inondations, les incendies, les guerres etc…
Le thème « Lève-toi, prends ton grabat et marche » est un thème d’encouragement qui nous fait comprendre que tout n’est pas fini, et qu’il y a encore de l’espoir car le Dieu d’amour et de miséricorde est présent pour nous sortir de nos prisons de résignation.
A travers le thème du Zimbabwe, les femmes de la JMP en particulier et les femmes du monde au lieu de sombrer dans les maux qui minent les pays, doivent se lever pour dénoncer toutes les formes de violences qui au lieu de promouvoir l’être humain l’anéanti plutôt. Nos voix doivent s’entendre à travers nos prières, et nos actions en faveur des nécessiteux.
Accueillons la parole du Seigneur qui nous donne la force et le courage de nous lever et de promouvoir le mouvement de la Journée mondiale de prière dans nos communautés et dans le monde entier!
- Henriette Mbatchou, WDPIC Regional Rep. Africa
In 2012, the women of WDP Malaysia wrote the World Day of Prayer worship service under the theme “Let Justice Prevail” based on Luke 18:1-8. The WDP offering is a sign of our worldwide prayers, as we can learn with our sisters in Malaysia, who dedicated the offerings to support the following projects that involve women and children - Elshaddi Learning Center, Project Hope, Malaysian Care, Single’s Mothers Home, Sengoi Educational Development Program, and Indigenous women’s training.
There are more than 19,000 refugee children in Malaysia and the numbers are increasing. These children are denied entry into government schools and private schools are very expensive. Education is the basic right of children and without an education these children face a bleak future. The Elshaddai Learning Center caters to refugee children and offers both primary and secondary education. Currently the school has 550 students from Myanmar (Rohingya and Chin tribe), Indonesia, Pakistan and Cambodia. This education gives the students a basic foundation while their families await relocation to other countries. Similarly, Project Hope aims to provide indigenous children with housing closer to schools so they may have easier access to their education and prevent drop outs. Donations are used to buy books and provide tutors to help the children meet the proficiencies required by the Ministry of Education.
Malaysian Care is a Christian organization that provides diversified services for rural and urban communities. The WDP offering was used towards a project dedicated to helping women and children affected by substance abuse and living with HIV/AIDS. These people are often abandoned and need urgent assistance for basic necessities like medication.
The Single Mother’s Home is a local community based project which was started in 2011. It currently houses eight single mothers, who are either widows or victims of domestic abuse, and their children. The home is rented and relies on donations to continue operating. Without this home the women and children could potentially face a hard life on the streets and be exposed to dangerous situations.
The Sengoi Educational Development Program was initiated by a Methodist Church as part of their mission work among the indigenous Sengoi tribe. The program aims to educate the Sengoi and empower the new generation to raise their standard of living and economic welfare. Their action plan is to train secondary school students to become pre-school teachers and earn a degree in Early Childhood Education. Other programs in development with the Council of Churches of Malaysia and Indigenous churches involve leadership training for rural women. Regular seminars and workshops are held where indigenous women are encouraged to become more active in their church and community life. They are taught how to identify the issues faced in their community and consider solutions.
The Women’s Work Committee of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, who organizes the WDP services, is grateful to all of the countries who donated their offerings to support these projects. The opportunity to put into practice the WDP motto of ‘Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action’ and make a difference in someone’s life is something the committee is incredibly thankful for.
- Based on reports by Mary Thomas Mathew
Moderator, Council of Churches of Malaysia, Women’s Work Committee
Last year, the German World Day of Prayer Committee collected more than 30 tons of used pens for Syrian girls in Lebanon. The revenue of this campaign made school education and psychological support for many girls possible.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria, more than one million people have fled to the neighbouring Lebanon. Among them were around 400,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17. Two thirds of them have not seen the inside of a classroom for years.
This is why the partner organisation of WDP Germany, Beit el-Nour ("House of Light and Hope"), has set up an educational programme that serves around 200 girls. The girls go to school and have a chance to learn in a quiet environment away from the refugee camp, where they face so many hardships. War and terror have severely traumatized most of the girls who were forced to flee their home. At Beit el-Nour they receive psycho-social and pedagogical support too.
True to the theme of World Day of Prayer 2018 from Suriname "God’s Creation is Very Good!", the German World Day of Prayer Committee has launched the recycling campaign "Pens Make Girls Strong". For more than a year, people all over Germany have collected used pens at over 2,000 collection points: in parishes, schools and kindergarten classes, offices, stores, supermarkets, medical clinics, universities, libraries and even at police stations.
The pens all ended up at a recycling company and were converted into watering cans or pen holders. For each pen, the company donated one cent to the World Day of Prayer. The money collected was used to support the educational project of Beit el-Nour. For 450 pens, the equivalent of 4.50 euros, a girl can be provided with school materials. So far, more than 30 tons of pens have been received, which corresponds to the possibility of supporting the education of more Syrian refugee girls.
- Corinna Russow, WDP Germany
“Come, everything is ready” – with the invitation from Luke 14, 15-24, the Word Day of Prayer (WDP) services were celebrated all over the world united by the prayers written by women of Slovenia. On Friday March 1st 2019, the Slovenian women celebrated the 2019 service and the 20th anniversary of the very first WDP service held in Slovenia simultaneously.
In 1999, Ljudmila Smid, a Slovenian migrant worker in Switzerland, first encountered the WDP movement while working there. When visiting with a group of Slovenian migrant workers back home, around the first Friday in March, she took the initiative to organize a local WDP celebration. She encouraged Greta Rothmeier Klancnik to invite some friends in Rogaska Slatina to the first worship. They were inspired by the movement and continued to organize services every year.
In 2001, the first WDP service organized by a German speaking parish was held in the capital, Ljubljana. The two groups connected and expanded their community by inviting women from different parts of Slovenia to a preparatory workshop. By 2002, the service was celebrated in four places and the movement started to grow.
The impact of this new movement was marvelous. For most of the women, it was the first time they could meet other women on an ecumenical level. Together they read the bible and shared their experiences of wisdom, joy and sorrow which lead them to prayer. To have women preparing a worship service, and more than that - an ecumenical service, was innovative in Slovenia. For many women WDP has had an immense impact on their growth in faith and self-confidence.
Learning annually about a different country from another region of the world has helped to open up their hearts and minds, to widen their horizons and to share their own lives with others. “Informed prayer – prayerful action” moved the groups to identify people in their surrounding areas living in difficult situations and organize help for them.
Being the writer country for 2019 was at the same time a challenge and a gift for the young WDP movement in Slovenia. After three years of hard work, the invitation has spread all over Slovenia - “Come, everything is ready.” The committee raised support for people and groups in need. The movement was officially acknowledged by church authorities. It is growing and celebrations were held in 8 places. They are on the way to being registered as a non-profit organization.
I have been a part of the process since 2001, and at this moment, I am overwhelmed and grateful for the gift of WDP and its impact on the Slovenian women. The little seed planted twenty years ago has grown into a wonderful tree with branches of ecumenical sisterhood, encouragement, and awareness of the responsibility for God’s creation.
- Corinna Harbig, former WDPIC chairperson and member of WDP Slovenia
The 2019 WDP theme “Come, everything is ready!” reminds me that we have to answer the invitation each day. The invited had said "Yes" and then, when the time came and their host had gone to great trouble and expense, they turned their backs on him.
Our decision to be faithful to Christian values, build ecumenical relationships, and promote World Day of Prayer is not to be taken for granted. Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes it is hard to keep promises. The theme motivates me, as Chairperson of the committee, to use my talents, time and energy for what God has planned.
People all around the world were praying with and for Slovenia. Armenian women in Aleppo, Syria and 3,000 women in South Africa – just overwhelming! I get goose bumps when I imagine that. God was already working and many miracles have happened since the start of the preparations in 2016 in Slovenia.
Being the focus of the WDP program, challenged us to expand our circle, which meant involving people who could help with the writing of the worship service materials and songs, to take pictures that represented Slovenian life, to organize activities, and to promote the celebrations.
As a result, two new WDP local groups were formed and two new children services were celebrated. We hope that more blessings are still to come. Also, we feel ready now to take a new organizational step. We want to grow from an informal WDP committee to a registered legal organization in Slovenia. We feel we can reach out to regions that we are not yet present in and increase participation of young women and new moms.
Our prayers are turning into action through partnerships with different organizations and groups that impact the lives of women and children. A nice relationship grew especially with Home for Mothers and ASPI centre for people with Asperger syndrome. We also are involved with the Trauma Healing project in partnership with Bible Society of Slovenia.
One can see the impact of being a writer country just by realizing how WDP Slovenia is evolving, growing, consolidating, and building communities… like a red carnation flower blossoming from a small bud.
- Tanja Povšnar Vrečar, WDP Slovenia Chairperson
The WDP women of Slovenia invite us to pray with them. Many communities got together to learn and listen with women from Slovenia. Now, the table is set and the invitations were sent. Who would come?
We pray that we will have the wisdom to live in the moment of the feast and rejoice in it. We pray that our hearts will be ready to receive the invitation of Jesus, an invitation to love each other, and to be welcoming. Here is the challenge that Jesus presents us this year: open the heart to those whom you know nothing about. Will we dare to open the door and welcome whoever in our context is like "the lame, the blind, the crippled and the poor"? (Luke 14:15-24)
The WDP Slovenia committee has been engaged in preparations for the celebration since April 2016. Members of the committee, including current president Tanja Povšnar Vrečar, share with us in excitement:
“We want to show Slovenia in all its beauty and needs. We will be present around the world in the prayers, minds and hearts of so many. United in the same prayer, though different languages, we will worship the same God and build this international sisterhood. What a joy to do this all together!
Slovenia is a small country in Europe with a relatively well established economy, with unemployment rates down since the beginning of our WDP worship service material preparation. We have access to education and health services. But still in need to be with God, with our families and with ourselves. We get busy with our lives, forgetting to accept Jesus’ invitation to the feast. Thank you for the reminders. Please, keep us on your list of invitees and let us be the hosts for those who are vulnerable. We wish you a great celebration on the 1st of March!”
Jesus’s message of love is radical and it is expected that we – Jesus’ disciples - will put the teaching into practice. We join you in prayers that the Holy Spirit will be at work at the heart of our services and that we will be able to leave our places of celebration feeling blessed for having taken up such a challenge!
We wish you a blessed and happy feast!
- Laurence Gangloff (Chairperson) & Rosângela Oliveira (Executive Director)