We greet the New Year with busy WDP hands in supporting the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities. We feel empowered by the collective hope to build together the foundation for peace and justice.
Our attention now turns to the theme that will engage World Day of Prayer (WDP) in conversations and celebrations over the 2021 year. The program was developed by the WDP Committee of Vanuatu under the theme “Build on a Strong Foundation.”
Vanuatu is a beautiful country, located in the South Pacific Ocean, of many islands and people of many ethnic groups. World Day of Prayer can be traced back to Canadian missionaries holding the first service at the Presbyterian Paton Memorial Church in Port Villa in 1946. Since the early 2000s, with the creation of the Women’s Desk of the Vanuatu Christian Council, an ecumenical committee was formed and connected with the local WDP groups.
The current committee, who developed the WDP worship service materials, hopes that this year’s prayer experience will meet the grace of God, and that they will have the strength and resources to be in action. There are many needs in the communities that women in the churches are working together to address. During the “Let’s Talk with Vanuatu” conversation, held online in October 2020, we heard from their representatives the concerns about the situation of child malnutrition, violence against women, and natural disasters.
The Bible story that guides World Day of Prayer in 2021 is based on the sermon that Jesus told to the crowds on the hill. It is a simple story that most of us have heard since childhood (Matthew 7:24-27). “Through the comparison of two house builders, Jesus asked the listeners to act on his words. But what words? In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12). This is our solid foundation.”
We are invited to listen to Jesus’ words in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. What does it mean for you? One of the meanings we find is that healing comes when we raise our own awareness for our actions and we care for the common good. As it is said in the Bible study written by WDP Vanuatu, “The essence of the story of Jesus is to HEAR accurately the word of God, and ACT accordingly and precisely. We shall act inspired by God’s love and know that our faith without action is dead (James 2:14-16).”
#WDPUnitedInPrayer on the First Friday of March
The World Day of Prayer movement comes together united in prayer and action in the local communities across the world. This year is no different. We will pray together, but not as we were used to. We are living under the COVID-19 pandemic, and WDP cares for the wellbeing of our communities.
In many places, the restrictions for in-person gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are keeping the churches and schools closed for worship services. In places where in-person services are allowed, there are a series of restrictions and guidelines to congregate. WDP committees must abide by the local health protocols to keep people safe. This is one of the prayerful actions we can collectively offer to our communities.
During the pandemic we have learned that we can be physically separated but still connected. Slowly we introduced the technological learnings acquired during the time of the pandemic to our own WDP activities. Many WDP committees hold their board meetings or workshops via online conferencing, or continuously catch up with each other over mobile chats or social media. Many studied the Bible and prayed together over the phone or online. We may be astounded at this new way, like the crowds were at Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:29); but, creatively, we can affirm that we are #WDPUnitedInPrayer and we hold onto the motto “Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action.”
Separated but connected, let’s pray together with family or friends over the phone or via online platforms, alone or in small groups. Let’s participate in the action by giving to WDP to empower the communities. Let’s stay together to “Build on a Strong Foundation.”