Here in our little country town - there is LIFE!!!
For more than 15 years, women from the Catholic, Reformed and Free Evangelical (that's us!) churches have been getting together to organize the local version of the Women's World Day of Prayer (that is now open to all, by the way.)
When I arrived as the new Pastor's wife, it was expected that I get involved. The first year was 2009 - Papua New Guinea. Quite close to home really! It was a nice, staid experience, but not necessarily my cup of tea. However, I was called up for the next year's organisation. The group was getting older and looking for younger women to take over. The several women that I took along with me to the meeting were all younger and very involved in the children's ministry in our church. We said that if they wanted younger participants, they would have to reach a younger age-group in order to pass on the richness of the idea of Christian unity and prayer along with the discovery of a different country each year.
The Catholic church was in the process of holding a Mission in the region; their version of evangelizing their own people to re-awaken believers and renew the church.
So our mixed group of women, including Catholic nuns involved in their mission, came up with idea of involving children in the WDP celebrations.
In practice, this meant organizing activities and an introduction to the World Day of Prayer and the featured country on the Wednesday afternoon preceeding the first Friday of March. Probably the only time I thanked God for the French education system of no Primary School on Wednesdays, and only the mornings for the Junior and Senior High Schools!
The kids came along for the afternoon, then we invited them to take part in the Friday evening celebration. Of course, this meant that the families would come with them. We held a traditional celebration in the afternoon for those who preferred it and who don't like to go out at night, then the family celebration in the evening. It worked really well - great attendances and a generally positive attitude to the different churches getting together. It's always held in our church, too, so we are better identified now.
To these celebrations, we added a participative Bible study in the morning to get the most out of the prescribed texts and a meal based on the recipes of the featured country.
This year is a little different. We held a meal and Bible study earlier, in order to recruit new people to help with the kids' section and the actual celebrations. Now we are finalizing our preparations for Wednes 27th Feb for the kids afternoon. Then we'll have the 2 celebrations in our church on Friday 1st March.
This is also an opportunity to invite kids from non-practising families, especially since the issue of migrants in France is a hot one now. How do Christians understand their rôle in welcoming/integrating foreigners? What does Jesus ask us to do? Compare what He says with the Old Testament rules stated in Leviticus 18 and 19. What is the definition of 'foreigner'? In French, the word for 'foreigner' is 'étranger' which means 'stranger' as well, so this year's celebration, written by the French committee, asks participants to define "who is a stranger to me?" In the kids' section we are going to help them to understand that anyone who is different to me could be considered as a stranger/foreigner, so Jesus is asking me to accept that person and to value his/her differences as if we were reaching out to Jesus Himself.
A precious lesson.
And a bit ironic that I'm involved in promoting a positive attitude to foreigners as I am one myself!!!
May His kingdom come ....
See the Aussie WDP web page : http://www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org/world-day-of-prayer/2013-france