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Streams in the desert

Celebrating the Women’s World Day of Prayer (7 March 2014)

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To encourage students to reflect on how they can be streams in the desert in their everyday lives.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three readers to sit around a table, acting out preparing a class assembly.
  • Familiarize yourself with the story in John’s Gospel, chapter 4.
  • More information on the Women’s World Day of Prayer can be found at: www.wwdp.org.uk.
  • Have available some Egyptian music and the means to play it as the students arrive at and leave the assembly.

Assembly

  1. Leader Take a look at our three students around this table. They are hard at work. They have been asked to prepare their class’ assembly, which is to take place today/on 7 March/ on Friday.

    This is the date of the Women’s World Day of Prayer. It is a global, non-denominational movement organized and led by Christian women all over the world. Women gather together on the first Friday in March every year to observe a day of prayer. The service is written and prepared by women from a different country each year. The first service of the day takes place on the island of Samoa and the last on American Samoa, so the world is circled by prayer for 36 hours. 

    Let’s listen in on how our young people are getting on with their task.

    Reader 1 Why on earth have we been picked to do this? I don’t know where to start.

    Reader 2 Because we’re all girls, I guess. This day of prayer is organized by women for women.

    Reader 3 Prayer? Really? This is going to be sooooooooo boring.

    Reader 1 Well, it’s up to us to make it interesting. So, this year, the day is going to be organized by the Christian women of Egypt. What do we know about Egypt? 

    Reader 2 I remember doing Egypt in Year 6 at school. I loved it. It’s one of the oldest civilizations in the world, with pyramids and mummies and pharaohs and sphinxes. It’s in North Africa. The River Nile is the second-longest river in the world, but most of the country is covered in desert. The Egyptian cobra is an important symbol, but the camel is the most well-known Egyptian animal.

    Reader 3 Oooh, the camel  . . .  let me be the camel! I could dress up. I’d be really good. That wouldn’t be boring.

    Reader 1 Well, you’re ugly enough, but I don’t think that’s the point. All you’ve talked about is Ancient Egypt. Modern Egypt is quite different from that. Tourism, agriculture and natural resources are important to the economy. Over 90 per cent of Egyptians speak Arabic and the country is predominantly Muslim. There has recently been an increase in violence between Muslims and the Christian minority. An uprising in 2011 led to the country’s first elected president in 2012.

    Reader 2 That’s all very interesting, but how are we going to get any of that across without it sounding like a geography lesson or a history lesson?

    Reader 3 I still think the camel idea is a winner.

  2. Leader Let’s leave them to it for a moment. The Bible passage for the Women’s World Day of Prayer is taken from John’s Gospel, chapter 4. It’s about a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman beside a well. He asks her for a drink of water. Let’s skip forward and see how our three friends are getting on with their discussion about this encounter.

    Reader 1 Wow. This isn’t an easy passage to get our heads around either. We don’t really understand the context properly, I think. The Jews had a massive problem with Samaritans back then – and women were seen as second-rate citizens, too. It was a big deal for Jesus to talk to an unknown Samaritan woman, even if he was just asking for a drink of water.

    Reader 2 Jesus was good at that. He’d talk to all kinds of different people, even those disapproved of by others. He would talk to all the weirdos and nerds and geeks and freaks that we all avoid communicating with.

    Reader 3 Geeks and freaks  . . .  catchy. We could do a play and I could be the freak. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be ignored and teased and bullied.

    Reader 1 Are you for real? Anyway, it is pretty cool how he is prepared to talk to her and drink from the same cup as her. She must have been buzzing. Then he goes on to say that he can give her living water and she will never be thirsty again. That’s not normal water he’s talking about. It’s the gift of life that will never run dry. Hard to understand, but she gets it.

    Reader 2 Too right she does. She runs back home to tell everyone about her encounter with Jesus. He has changed her life.

    Reader 3 That is just downright weird. How are we going to get anyone to understand the idea of some water that isn’t really water and never runs out and changes lives? I don’t understand it myself.

  3. Leader She’s right, isn’t she? It is a really hard concept to understand. The title of the service for the Women’s World Day of Prayer is ‘Streams in the desert’. I wonder if that title will help our group focus their thoughts.

    Reader 1 Come on, we haven’t got very far and we’re running out of time. The title is ‘Streams in the desert’. How does that help us? I guess, without the River Nile, Egypt would not have flourished. It is the water from the River Nile that brings life to the desert. Water helps the plants and crops grow and flourish. Water brings life.

    Reader 3 That’s it! I could throw a bucket of water over someone and see how that brings them to life. It will change them for sure.

    Reader 1 No, you can’t do that! You could, though, find a clip on the Internet of water streaming into a dry place and the change it brings about. One of those slow motion videos, like on David Attenborough programmes.

    Reader 3 Ooh, I know exactly what you mean! I’ll get on to it straight away.

    Reader 3 gets up and leaves. 

    Reader 2
    Sometimes people can feel really dry and uninspired and then something happens, like water streaming in, and they are changed. I can relate to that. Sometimes just a word of encouragement from a friend can make all the difference and bring me back to life.

    Reader 1 That sounds great! Do you think you could ask around and get some other examples of what brings life to people’s everyday existences?

    Reader 2 Sure. I know who to ask. I’ll get started now.

    Reader 2 gets up and leaves.

    Reader 1
    Finally, we have a plan! I’ll start with Egypt and how the River Nile is the ‘gift of life’. Then [Reader 3] can show the clip of the difference water can make. Then [Reader 2] can show how we can experience streams of water in our own lives, like the Samaritan woman experienced when she met Jesus. Sorted!

    Reader 1 gets up and leaves.

Time for reflection

Leader Sounds like a good plan to me! I think we have learnt a huge amount from just listening in to the group’s thoughts and preparation. As we bring this assembly to a close, let us take a moment to reflect on water and the difference it can make to the world and to our lives.

Let us think about the 884 million people worldwide who do not have easy access to clean water. Water is even more important than food for survival. Humans rely on clean, fresh water for growth and good health. May access to clean water for all be a priority in our world today.

Prayer
Dear Lord,
Let us remember the Women’s World Day of Prayer on 7 March. 
We think of the Egyptian Christian women who have written and prepared the service. 
May it be a blessing to many, a stream of living water in the desert. 
May the whole day be a day of power and action as women all over the world join together and pray.
Let us consider how we as individuals can be a stream in the desert in our everyday lives.
May we bring encouragement to others. 
May we bring kindness to others. 
May we be an inspiration to others. 
May we bring life and happiness to others.
Amen.

Music

Egyptian music

Publication date: March 2014   (Vol.16 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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