Basque Country Prayer Points for April 2024

Prayer Points and verse for the month:

Prayers points:

  • Elections for Basque Country happened on April 21. Part of the coverage included an article stating that ~94% believe corruption was present in the political system. Part of this they felt was due to some old cases that have been re-opened for both socialist and populist parties. The results saw very little change from the previous 4 years. The majority party will still be a pact between PNV and PSOE, though EHBildu did gain 6 seats in the election.
    • Pray for the newly elected leaders as they look to make decisions that impact the people
    • *Note*: Last week Pedro Sánchez announced that he was evaluating his future leading the Spanish government due to an investigation of his wife. On Monday he announced that he was going to stay in office while the investigation was going on. This situation should also be held in prayer. 
  • On April 15 a new center was opened that has 10 spots to host children and young adults who are having problems within the family. Currently ~81% of the need are  female, with an average age of 14. This was created due to the increasing demand being seen with them needing a safe space due to violence or difficult situations in the home.
    • Pray for the leaders of the center, the family and children/young adults dealing with these difficult situations and the allocation of the limited spots currently available.
  • The Basque Country are the leaders in Spain for sports betting, betting on almost any sport: soccer, pelota, tennis, basketball, etc.. The average person is spending 25€/month/person. It was also reported that ~30% of men between the ages of 18 and 30 have placed a sports bet. Most people think they can control it, though some are unable and it causes quite a lot of problems in their lives.
    • Pray for those that have a gambling problem, the families that are impacted and organizations that attempt to help them stop.
  • Praise that wages in Basque Country are increasing and are showing to be the highest in Spain. On the other side though food costs are high and continue to be a large part of the budget for families.
    • Pray for families as they look to spend money wisely

The verse for the week:

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

‭Zephaniah 3:17 NIV‬

Basque Country Prayer Points for March 2024

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Recently the Basque police visited the local schools to talk with students about the dangers of social media. They have seen a rise in Sexting, Grooming, Sextorison and cyberbullying.
    • Pray for the young people, parents, school staff, and government officials as they work to address this problem.
  • Farmers in the Gipuzkoa region have recently held protests in the streets due to laws being in place that do not allow them to make a livable wage and bureaucratic processes. These protests are happening in several other regions of Spain and greater Europe as farmers look to address these issues.
    • Pray for the farmers and political leaders as they look for solutions to address these problems.
  • Young adults trying to start life in Basque Country are finding it challenging with salaries not being high enough to live on their own. Most young people are having to live with their parents into their late 20s/early 30s due to wages required to be independent.
    • Pray for young people, their parents, businesses and the government as they explore options to help young people start life.
  • The Spanish Catholic Church has elected new leadership with Luis Argüello being president and José Cobo being the vice president. They will face many challenges in the upcoming 4 years of their term with the number of priests reaching retirement age, the abuse scandals and the continued secularization of Spain.
    • Pray for these church leaders as they look to guide the Catholic church over the upcoming term.
  • Basque elections will be happening at the end of April and 25 seats in the congress will be elected, which could result in a change in the controlling party.
    • Pray for the political candidates and citizens as they prepare to vote in the upcoming elections.
  • Spain has chosen to continue with the budget from 2023 and not make updates for 2024. They will work to make changes for the 2025 budget. One reason for continuing with the 2023 budget is because it took quite some time to elect new leadership after the summer elections.
    • Pray for political & government department leaders as they work through having the same budget as the previous year when changes may have been expected.

The verse for the week:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 

‭Romans 1:16 NIV‬

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of January 22, 2024

Prayers points:

  • The number of healthcare workers in the Basque system who requested mental health assistance has almost doubled compared to what was seen in 2019. The treatment is for anxiety, depression and for burn out. The increase in requests are also being seen across other communities in Spain.
    • Pray for the mental health of healthcare workers.
  • Suicide continues to be one of the leading cause of death for all ages and for youth it is currently near the top. This has raised concerns and they are working to understand them while looking to provide solutions for the causes identified. It is also being seen across the world as an issue. One solution for Basque Country has been to provide training in primary schools (US elementary school), talking with health care professionals on how to see at-risk people and have a special number for people to call for help.
    • Pray for those who are contemplating suicide, their families and leaders as they look for ways to address the situation.
  • The results for a EU wide evaluation exam of the education system showed that Basque Country had a significant drop in scores across language, reading and science. In Math, Basque country, even with the fall, was still above the rest of Spain & EU countries. However in reading and science they were below the averages.
    • Pray for the educators, students and leaders as they investigate the drop in test scores and look to improve them for the future.
  • Since 1975 the King of Spain has delivered a message on Christmas Eve at 9pm. For 2023 King Felipe VI started talking about the different problems in Spain. The focus then shifted to 45 years of the constitution for Spain, what it provides and how it needs to be protected, as well as the importance of unity in Spain as it looks to move forward in the future.
    • Pray for the future of Spain and all the different regions that make up the country.
  • Inflation is currently at 3.4% in Basque Country and is expected to continue to be high in 2024. The cost of food for the Christmas meals was higher than last year, as a result some families moved to other non-traditional foods for the meal. People are continuing to make changes to their regular purchases to get the most of the money they have.
    • Pray for the population as they look to spend the money they have wisely
  • Basque Country will be having elections sometime before August 11, 2024, with them likely happening sometime in April. The parties have started to circulate candidates for the open positions. At the national level Sánchez and the PSOE party continue to face opposition from the PP party due to the amnesty agreement.
    • Pray for the upcoming Basque Country elections and that the national politicians would work together.
  • Statistics about pornography were recently reported with ~63% of young people (13-17) have seen it for anywhere between 300-400 hours. Boys are more likely to consume ~82% compared to girls at ~40%. The government has attempted to put a verification system in place, though it does not seem to be working. The Basque school system currently has sex education in 5th/6th grade, though is thinking of moving it back to be in 3rd/4th.
    • Pray for leaders as they look for solutions and young people to not be drawn to this form of media.
  • Pope Frances is nearing the completion of his 11th year. Recently he stated that priests are permitted to bless same sex marriages or those who were divorced previously and remarrying. This is also after his announcement about baptisms for trans-sexual and babies of some sex couples.
    • Pray for the catholic church and the impacts of these decisions.

The verse for the week:

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.

‭Hosea‬ ‭10:12‬ ‭NIV‬

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 27, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Recently the Spanish government reduced the hours for a work week from 40 to 37.5. Employees will still be paid for the 40 hours, though employers will have 2.5 less hours of their time. Spain already had a lower productivity rate than the rest of Europe, so greater concern now exists with the reduction in the work week hours.
    • Pray for employers and employees as they adjust to the new work week changes.
  • The sexual abuse that happened in the Spanish Catholic church continues to be discussed. Some of the current points under discussion are the number of victims, the damage it caused and justice for what has happened.
    • Pray for those leaders, counselors, perpetrators, victims and their families as they search for answers and healing.
  • Pedro Sánchez has been re-elected as the leader of the Spanish government. This happened through an agreement to grant amnesty to Carles Puigdemont and others that were part of the Catalan separatist movement. This has caused quite a bit of concern in the political parties and with the citizens.
    • Pray for peace as Sánchez looks to lead another 4 year term.
  • The Basque language is facing challenges from the judicial system as some of the Basque people want it to be a primary language for Basque Country. They made changes to the employment requirements for the language and the priority it is given for being taught in school.
    • Pray for those who see the Basque language as part of the heritage and how leaders can support it to continue to be so for future generations
  • The number of marriages that happened in 2021 increased. Last year saw the highest number since 2017. While many of these were civil marriages about ~10% were done in a church.
    • Praise that the number of marriages is increasing, pray this continues and existing families are strengthened.
  • The region has seen a couple of large protests. The first was on November 25 and was to continue to call attention to gender violence caused by males. Then on November 30, was one for equality of women and was quite large. The November 30 protest saw impacts into the workforce as several different unions supported it with some business closing and buses running on reduced schedules.
    • Pray for those impacted by male violence and for equality of women.

The verse for the week:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‭-‬9‬ ‭ESV‬

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of October 9, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Statistics for crime were recently released for the first half of 2023. An upward trend was seen in some areas: sexual violence was up ~20%, Cybercrimes was up ~30%. With a down trend being seen with robberies using violence and intimidation down ~10% and forced robberies in homes or other premises down ~10%.
    • Pray for those who are victims of crime, the police officers who protect the city and those who commit the crimes to have their eyes opened to its effects.
  • The Catholic Pope recently announced 21 new cardinals, with 3 of those being from Spain. The Pope has been working to make changes to the organization to have more representation from Catholic minorities. With the recent announcement Spain still has the 3rd most in the organization, behind Italy and the United States. Their purpose is to elect the new Pope.
    • Pray for the Pope as he makes new appointments and for the cardinals when the time comes to elect a new Pope.
  • A new president still has not been elected in Spain. Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) has until November 27 to rally enough votes, should that not happen. Spainards will once again be heading to vote in January. He is facing a lot of pressure as he looks to gain support from Catalonia, specifically Puigdemont who is requesting amnesty from the judicial process he is currently facing. Feijoó (PP) is also working to be elected, though he does not look to be able to gain enough alignment from others to get the needed votes.
    • Pray for the legislatures as they look to elect/re-elect a President for Spain.
  • The number of small businesses closing is quite large for the Gipuzkoa region of Basque Country. In the last 4 years ~1300 small businesses have closed, with ~60% of them having been open for 5 years or more. The service sector was most affected, seeing ~75%. One of the biggest reasons for the closures are the effects from the pandemic.
    • Pray for small business owners, workers and the government as they look to navigate the current economic environment
  • Last week Iñigo Urkullu (PNV), who is the leader of the Basque government, participated in a meeting sponsored by the local newspaper. During the discussion he talked about how the coalition between PNV and PSE was making progress even though another political party felt they were not making progress. He presented numbers showing how in the last 10 years GDP for the region has grown and that unemployment is down close to ~10%. He also talked about the current status for electing a new president of Spain and the desire to have healthcare wait times reduced to what they were before the pandemic, as they have increased afterwards.
    • Pray for Urkullu as he works to lead the Basque Government with wisdom and peace amongst all the different parties.
  • The concern for the mental health of youth was described as serious and increasing, as the professionals see higher cases of anxiety, depression and attempted suicides. They are seeing the causes be more than from COVID, as some students feel isolated and do not have a group of friends. Due to the situation the Basque Government put a strategy in place to address this and over a year 613 incidents for suicide prevention were opened in Basque Country. This is currently the highest non-natural cause of death in Basque Country and they are putting protocols in place to try and address it.
    • Pray for the youth that have these thoughts that they find the right help, as well as parents, school administrators and leaders as they look to develop systems to help youth in these situations.

The verse for the week:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Mark 8:35 ESV

Which Direction are You Running?

I was recently asked a question that stuck with me for a while. The question was: How do you balance the desire to be a Christian with the desire to simply avoid going to Hell?

My short answer was that you must decide the motivation, whether you are running away from something, or running towards something.

Here are a couple examples to consider:

Politics: There are two candidates to choose from. One of them (candidate A) is hated and some people want ANYONE other than them, it doesn’t make any difference who it is. Some people truly love and support the other candidate (candidate B). If you are voting for candidate B, is it because you love them or because you hate the other option? What is your motivation?

Sports: There are two teams playing soccer. One team (team A) is mediocre at best without a winning record this season. The other team (team B) is spectacularly bad. Throughout the course of the game team B commits so many errors that team A has no choice but to win. Would it be better to say “Team A won that game”, implying that they outscored and outwitted their opponent,  or “Team B lost that game”? Both are technically true, but which is a more accurate statement?

So what is your motivation? Is your desire simply to avoid Hell? Are you trying to “be good” to avoid the eternal pain and suffering of an eternity separated from the Creator of the Universe? Or is your motivation to better know that same Creator? To be in relationship with the One who created the whole beautifully amazing world, while specifically creating humankind in His own image? Simply desiring to avoid Hell does not lay the foundation for the kind of relationship that God desires for us. It is a “self-focused”, “all about me” response to an eternal problem. However, an intentional desire to know God and to be known by Him is the foundation for a true, lasting relationship with God. It’s a “God-focused” response. 

So what direction are you running today? Are you simply running away from Hell, or running towards the God who is waiting for you with open arms?

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of June 19, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • After the recent local and regional elections, the different parties are having to renegotiate the relationships to determine how they will co-govern as no single party won an absolute majority. This has been completed and leadership in the various levels of government is in place including the ceremonies to present the new leaders.  The other parties in Basque Country who were trying to gain influence are having to rethink their strategy given it will be another 4 years before the next elections. The national elections have been set for July 23, which was a bit of a surprise. The political parties have been working to organize themselves in preparation for these elections. The PP party is hoping to gain additional seats in congress which would result in a change in the majority party.
    • Pray for the newly elected leaders and the coalitions that will need to be formed over the coming weeks to start the legislative process. Additionally, pray for the upcoming national elections.
  • A local college professor published a book on suicides and was then interviewed. He pointed out several different facts about suicides. The most critical age currently are people between the ages of 40 to 60. In 2021 that age accounted for 50% of the total ~4000 suicides. They also said that currently a system of prevention does not sufficiently exist.
    • Pray for those who are contemplating and those who have been impacted by suicide. 
  • The number of women leaders for businesses in Basque country is at ~22% which is lower than the 40% required by the law in 2023. Some do not like the quota though understand the need to start the change. The women also talked about the difficulty they have faced as they have moved into positions of leadership.
    • Pray for business leaders and women as they look to fill leadership roles in different businesses.
  • The previous leader of the Spanish pension system committed to bring it back in balance in 2023. However, that was not possible and it will run a deficit through 2025. Part of the impact was the record number of new applicants to the system and the cost of inflation.
    • Pray for the new leader of the pension system as they look for ways to bring the system into balance as it supports millions of Spanish citizens.
  • This week was the end of the 2022-2023 school year and families have had to determine how to care for their kids during the break. This year summer break has ~80 days. Families are exploring the best option(s) available between day camps, staying with relatives or hiring a sitter. Each family has its set of challenges to get the coverage in place: financial, aging parents and number of vacation days for the parents.
    • Pray for families as they look to make plans for child care for the summer and that kids have a nice summer break.

The verse for the week:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of May 28, 2023

Prayers points:

  • On May 28 elections were completed for the local (city) and regional level. I was incorrectly stating the national level in the past editions. The regional and local levels have several different political parties who are looking to either maintain or gain power to make changes. In the Basque region the party who was currently in control retains that control, though the margin is much lower than 4 years ago. Other places in Spain saw a similar shift with several regions moving to be more conservative. Pedro Sánchez, a member of the socialist party, and the current PM called for the national elections to be pulled in from December to July 23. That was quite a surprise after the results that happened on Sunday.
    • Pray for the newly elected leaders and the coalitions that will need to be formed over the coming weeks to start the legislative process. Additionally, pray for the upcoming national elections.
    • *Note: If you’d like to have more information on the voting process let me know and I’ll share what I’ve learned thus far.
  • Young people are looking for more security, flexibility of hours and other advantages offered by the public sector compared to the private sector. Over the last 4 years the public sector has been hiring more workers than the private sector. The private sector has been highlighting this gap and they are looking to understand what can be done to ensure they get the talent they need.
    • Pray for the public and private sectors as they look to find solutions in hiring young people.
  • A cold front recently came through that was very wet. One area saw the rain falling at the rate of ~65 gallons/minute. With that amount of rainfall in a short time it caused some significant localized flooding for those residents. One area saw damage to 240 homes and businesses and 95 vehicles.
    • Pray for those who have been impacted by the floods and as they look to recover
  • On Tuesday, May 16 a woman was shot and killed by her ex-partner, who then killed himself. This happened in a public park while several people and children were also in the park.
    • Pray for those who have been impacted by this event and search for answers.
  • The EU has communicated to the Spanish Government that adjustments need to be made to adjust their spending to be within a 3% deficit. This means the Spanish government will need to reduce ~9 Billion euros from the current budget. One area to be considered is the government subsidies that are in place, which have an anticipated cost of ~14 billion euros.
    • Pray for leaders as they review budgets and make adjustments to satisfy the request from the EU.
  • Recently a few fans made racial remarks towards a professional football (soccer) player, which is not often talked about here. The government has a number for people to report these incidents should they witness them. The local paper also interviewed 6 different people who live in Basque country who shared their experience with racism.  Some have experienced name calling and another was detained in Germany in security while traveling without explanation.
    • Pray for those who commit and are impacted by racism

The verse for the week:

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭143‬‬:‭10‬

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of May 8, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • On May 28 elections will be happening at the local (city), regional and national level. The regional and local levels have 5 different political parties who are looking to either maintain or gain power to make changes. Leaders across the different parties are communicating messages for why people should support them and their party.
    • Pray for the people as they look to determine which candidate will best represent them in the coming years to make legislative decisions.
  • The regional government is building a new location for those who are affected by male violence. It will have space for women with children, women who are solo and for people who are in need of additional privacy or monitoring. They have double the number of spaces available over the last 5 years.
    • Pray for women & children impacted by the violence, men who are acting in this manner and workers who support those impacted.
  • Concern about the Basque Pubic health care system continues. A couple of weekends ago thousands of people in the 3 Basque capitals took to the street to protest the situation. Many are seeing that making certain types of appointments are taking months to get or that the local health care centers do not have enough staff to support the needs of the community. The leader of the system provided comments that contradict this view talking about the investments that are being made in the system, which have increased over the last 10 years.
    • Pray for those who are looking for care, the workers and leaders as they all work to navigate the current situation.
  • The effects of the low national birth rate are continuing to be seen. The latest area of impacts is in the education system. The number of students enrolled in schools over the last 5 years has dropped by ~8500, which has resulted in reduction in the overall number of classrooms.  Even some schools have closed or consolidated with others due to this drop. Another effect is the decrease in first communion in the catholic church, with another reason being secularization of the population.
    • Pray that young people will start to have a desire to have more kids and for leaders as they navigate the current situation.
  • Last year the price of electricity was the topic of considerable discussion as the price was very high. Thankfully this year the price thus far has gone down, with the daily rate recently being ~62€/MWh compared to ~178€/MWh on the same day last year. Another area where costs have also been high is food items. The local paper over the last year has shared the cost of the same items in February, March and now May. While the overall cost is being recorded at historic highs, thankfully this month saw a slight overall decrease, though some items in the list saw an increase.
    • Praise that people are seeing some lower energy bills after having high electricity  & gas bills. Pray for people as they look to determine the best way to spend their money.
  • Over the last several years a group of historians in Basque Country have been researching the biographies of soldiers with Basque heritage that participated in World War II. They believe in total ~2500 soldiers are in that profile, and they are working on biographies of 1600. Recently they made a presentation in Texas about their findings.  They also have a desire to have a monument built for the 85th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in either California, Nevada or Idaho where there is a large population of people with Basque heritage.
    • Pray for these historians as they look to show the contribution of Basque people during World War II.

The verse for the week:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of April 17, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Over Holy Week the province of Gipuzkoa saw a significant increase in the amount of tourists both national and international, with hotels being filled to somewhere between 85% to 95%. Also restaurants and tourist spots saw a similar large increase in tourism.
    • Praise that over the Holy Week Gipuzkoa saw a rise in tourism which is good for the economy
  • Basque Country is continuing to see the population between 18 to 29, which is ~44% of the population, not being involved in associations (sociedades, cultural clubs, etc.).  Several reasons where shared from they do not connect with them, change in habits and values.
    • Pray for the young people and organizations as they look to find ways to support each other
  • With the upcoming election in Spain on May 28 one of the local newspapers had an interview with the current President of Spain. A variety of topics were covered: unintended consequences of the new “only yes is yes” law, education, pension and labor reform.
    • Pray for the people as they look to determine which candidate will best represent them in the coming years to make legislative decisions.
  • Part of the economic engine in Basque Country is manufacturing. During the 1950s through 1980s it made up between 45% to 48% of GDP. It was declining to a low ~21% in 2010, recently it’s started to pick back up with 2021 showing an increase to 22%. The gap in the economy has been filled by services and construction.
    • Pray for the different economic sectors of the Basque Country as they look to provide sustainable jobs and income
  • The Basque Government shared recently that the fraud department, which is focused on job related incidents, had 24 cases of sexual or gender-based harassment reported in 2022. The previous 2 years they had 0. They are working to understand the difference. One reason stated is people are more aware of this type of behavior. Overall 2022 saw ~400 more reported irregularities.
    • Prayer from employers as they look to provide good working conditions for the employees.
  • Point of Interest: The recent winner of the Master Golf Tournament in Augusta GA was Jon Ram. He was born in Barrica, Biscay, Spain which is part of Basque Country. I just wanted to highlight that this region has a rich participation in international sports.

The verse for the week:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of March 20, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The Basque Government is offering several different options to help families offset some of the costs associated with having children. Historically the requests have been made by women, however over the past 2 years the number of men who are requesting these options have increased.
    • Pray for mothers and fathers as they look to make the best choice for supporting their families and decide about having more kids.
  • The Basque police recently reported the crime statistics to the Basque Legislature. One statistic that is being highlighted is the number of sexual aggressions in Gipuzkoa. In 2022 the number was 128, which is double from 2021 (57). Another area that was highlighted was inter family violence, which also saw an increase in 2022.
    • Pray for the victims of sexual aggression and against family violence along with the police officers that respond to assist in these situations.
  • March 2023 marks 10 years since Pope Francis was elected to be the new leader of the catholic church. The paper had an article discussing several different topics from this ten year period: potential for schism, receiving two leaders from South Sudan and mass for 6 million in the Philippines.
    • Pray for the Pope’s leadership of the catholic church 
  • Mental health education and support for minors is undergoing changes. On the education side they are planning to start offering some classes starting at 12 years old. The Basque Public health care system saw an ~16% rise in the number of minors needing such help.
    • Pray for education system leaders and the health care system as they look to support the youth’s mental health
  • Iñigo Urkullu, president of the Basque government, is on a push to show the importance of the Basque region in Spain and Greater Europe. To accomplish this, early last week meetings were held with other key Spanish regional presidents. Then later in the week he attended meetings with leaders from different regions in Europe.
    • Pray for Urkullu as he communicates with other leaders about the Basque Country and it’s offerings
  • Young adults looking to move out on their own continue to face challenges. One is the cost of rent, which currently has a minimum of ~500€/month. With the median salary being ~1400€/ month, that does not leave much room for the other expenses in life.
    • Pray for young adults as they look to start life in Basque Country
  • The increase in building materials and energy costs are impacting public construction projects in Basque Country. Currently there are 40 projects that do not have bids on them due to these factors, which is another economic impact for the region.
    • Pray for rising material & energy costs as the impacts are felt across several different sectors

The verse for the week:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of February 13, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The government sponsored family mediation service is reporting an increase in use with a large percentage of the overall request being couples conflicts.
    • Pray for the mediators and couples as they work to find common ground, along with the health of families.
  • The Spain & Basque governments are exploring laws to limit rent prices as prices have been increasing over the last several years.
    • Pray for the legislatures, property owners and renters
  • Crime statistics were released for 2022 recently. Violence against women saw an increase of ~16% and homicides were almost triple from 2019.
    • Pray for the women who are/will experience violence, greater peace and the officers responding to these situations
  • The public healthcare system (Basque name: Osakidetza) communicated several requests for better working conditions and are awaiting a response to those requests. 
    • Pray for the healthcare workers, leadership, politicians and those needing care as they work through the situation.
  • General elections are planned for May 28 in all of Spain and you can see tension building between the different parties PSOE, PP, VOX, PNV and others.
    • Pray for the people as they vote for who will lead them and the candidates as they share their plans.

The verse for the week:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of January 23, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The Basque region was the second most generous region in Spain with donations to charitable organizations. The data showed the region had a 4% increase from the previous year.
    • Praise that the people in the Basque region continue to be generous with their money.
  • The general cost of food at the supermarket has increased ~16% which has impacted the types & quantities of foods being purchased, according to one of the local supermarkets.
    • Pray for families as they look to adjust to the rise in food costs.
  • Last year saw some changes to the labor laws for employee contracts with businesses. One year later some of the news is positive and some not so positive.
    • Pray as businesses look for employees & employees as they look for work.
  • This is an election year in Spain. Several primary races have already been held and Sunday May 28 is the date for general elections.
    • Pray for the candidates and those voting as they look to elect leaders for the next term
  • The public healthcare system (Basque name: Osakidetza) continues to have tension and negotiations are ongoing.
    • Pray for the healthcare workers, leadership, politicians and those needing care as they work through the situation.
  • The current Basque legislative had plans to address 36 different laws, to date they have only addressed 17. They are hoping to address the other 19 before the end of the legislative session in 2024.
    • Pray for the political leaders as they look to work through the remaining legislative calendar.

The verse for the week:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of December 12, 2022

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The public healthcare system (Basque name: Osakidetza) is having lots of tension as several leaders have resigned after a couple of leaders were let go. The system was already under quite a bit of strain and this is adding to it.
    • Pray for the frontline healthcare workers, leadership, politicians and those needing care
  • For conversations between the Basque and Spanish Government as they work through items that would give the Basque Government more autonomy
    • Pray for the political leaders on both sides as they work through this situation
  • Last time I talked about the historic low of low income housing. A shortage of housing in general exists across all economic levels. In Gipuzkoa they are now saying that 40,000 homes are needed.
    • Pray as the city looks to build the necessary housing for the city across the different needs of the citizens
  • The new catholic bishop for the diocese of Donostia, Fernando Prad Ayuso, was officially ordained for the office yesterday.
    • Pray for the new leader and the diocese as they go through this transition period
  • Salaries for young people are not high enough to live independently, wage increases on average in the 3rd quarter were much lower than inflation. Pension payments, while increased, are still not enough to keep up with inflation
    • Pray for people as they evaluate how to spend their money

The verse for the week:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 28, 2022

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Violence against women has seen a 14% increase over the last year. This information was shared in the lead up to International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. A call center has already received ~2500 calls this year from women requesting help.
    • Pray for women, children, families and men impacted by these actions.
  • Currently ~80 minors are needing a foster home in Gipuzkoa. There are already ~380 in foster homes.
    • Pray for those who are in foster care and those still needing to be placed with a family.
  • A shortage of ~5000 skilled workers for Basque businesses such as plumbing, bakeries and construction are having a hard time finding trained workers. While others workers trained in fabrication, industrial robots and computing are having a hard time finding employment. A general concern exists with an aging population and not enough births the labor shortages will worsen.
    • Pray for those businesses needing workers and those looking for work.
  • Since 2015 the percentage of young people that want to have kids has been decreasing, with a 17.8% drop in the last 7 years. The reasons noted for the decrease are economic insecurity, culture changes and social priorities. Additionally, COVID-19 added to the uncertainty of them wanting to bring kids into this world.
    • Pray for those who are trying to determine if they want to have a child.
  • The debate about how Basque Country and Catalonia relate to Spain is a topic that will likely be put on the legislative calendar for 2024. Leaders from both regions believe now is the time to once again have conversation.
    • Pray for political leaders as they look to determine how these regions interact with Spain, the EU and the world.
  • In Gipuzkoa the number of homes that have been built for the different social programs are at historic lows. To address this shortage, plans are being made to start construction on 500 new homes before the end of the year.
    • Pray for those who are building them and those who are needing to find affordable housing

The verse for the week:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14–16

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 14, 2022

Prayers points:

  • Rising energy costs and inflation continue to be a concern for businesses, families and those on fixed incomes
    • Pray for all those who are being impacted by these rising costs
  • In 2021 people who desired to have their sex changed has doubled in Basque Country
    • Pray for the participants and those facilitating these changes
  • In Gipuzkoa aggression against women has seen an increase of 20% this year
    • Pray for the women, the men and other family members who have been affected by these aggressions
  • November 1 was a National Holiday for All Saints day
    • Pray for those who have lost loved one’s in the last year and that they may seek to better understand God’s plan for their life
  • Donostia’s new Catholic bishop Fernando Prado
    • Pray for him as he looks to guide the city’s Catholic churches
  • 2023 budget process for the Basque Government
    • Pray as leaders review spending and determine which projects to fund
  • Cost of medical care has doubled in the last 10 years as treatment costs have increased
    • Pray for the public system as it looks to secure funding to run
  • Spain has submitted its request for the next payment from the Next Generation fund
    • Pray for approval as the European Commision reviews the information submitted as these funds several different planned national and local government projects

The verse for the week:

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

Colossians 3:2 NLT

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of October 24, 2022

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Government making plans to increase pension payments for those receiving retirement benefits
    • With rising costs and inflation at historic highs, retired people have been asking for an increase in how much they receive each month.
    • Pray for the government as it looks to meet this need for those living on fixed incomes
    • Medical system as it faces a shortage of workers
  • Some health centers are having to restrict available hours due to a lack of doctors, nurses and healthcare staff
    • Pray for those seeking medical care and desires for people to begin a career in medicine
  • Winter Heating Costs
    • With the increase in gas prices and other basic necessity costs also increasing, people are concerned about how they will pay for heating
    • Pray for those who are unsure how they will stay warm this winter
  • Victims of the terrorist organization ETA, Gal and other politically motivated crimes
    • Pray for those who are helping the victims as they work toward healing and reconciliation among ~400 victims

The verse for the week:

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Colossians 3:16 NLT

News for prayer for Week of October 3, 2022

Headline News:

The Basque medical system is continuing to feel the effects of the pandemic. The number of people waiting for an operation has increased 20% over the last 2 years. In 2006 the Basque Government established that the maximum time to wait for surgery should be less than 180 days. Currently about 1000 people are outside of that limit. Also, the wait time to enter a residential home for older people is seeing improvements down to 3 months. Before the pandemic it could be up to 7 months. For a person with a disability, they may have to wait up to 500 days before entering a facility.

With school starting statistics are starting to be released about the makeup of classes. A statistic that was highlighted is the number of foreign students in the education system. The number has increased 15% over the last 5 years. A majority of those students are coming from North Africa, with South America also being a large percentage. Also, the legislation approved changes in the school system which are still working to be finalized. They were hoping to have those finished before this school year; however, it’s now looking like the changes will need to be implemented next year with the delay in government finalization.

Economy:

The Euribor, which is how interest rates are set for mortgages in Spain, has been climbing since the start of 2022. This is affecting people buying houses. The government is looking at alternatives on how to address the problem given the rise in the rates. A rise is also being seen on consumer loans and credit cards given the changes with the Euribor.

The Basque government is attempting to do all it can to help the business sector. They recently passed a 14 million € package to help them during the current economic situation. September also saw inflation fall to 9%, with the main driver of the reduction being reduction in electricity and fuel costs.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 7366.80, a 2.86% decrease over the previous week.

Political:

The end of September 2022 marked 40 years since ETA started the process to disband due to the initial violence not having the intended effect. It would take another ~30 years before the organization was fully disbanded. With that they started to shift their strategy.

Last week Pedro Sánchez tested positive for COVID and had to cancel some of his engagements while he recovered. The new leader of the PP was recently interviewed. The interview covered a range of topics: Spain’s financial situation, status of Catalonia, lack of meetings between him and Sánchez since April and the upcoming election. Urkullu’s interactions with Sánchez were recently documented. The most recent request was an email sent on September 21 about the Basque’s desire for self-government, although to date no response has been received.

International:

With Putin having made a military requirement for males to show up for recruitment, the Ukraine SOS in Basque Country received about 50 calls for assistance from Russian’s trying to flee the country. It was also noted that the number of Ukrainians still in Basque Country has reduced as they return home or seek refuge in other parts of Europe. Currently ~900 students have registered and are making plans for education in the Basque system, which is slightly less than last year.

Other international headlines included: Political changes in Italy, Brazilian presidential election results, hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida and various themes regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sports:

Real Sociedad played against Sheriff Tiraspol, with the result being a 2-0 victory. With that victory the team is in 7th place overall in LaLiga. The next game is Sunday October 9 against Villareal.

Gipuzkoa Basket had its first game on Friday October 7. The result was a 68-62 win. The next game is on Tuesday October 12 against Castello and will be the home opener to the season.

The Spanish national soccer team has played two games in the UEFA Nations League. The first was a 1-2 loss against Switzerland. Next was a 1-0 win against Portugal. The next game is November 23 against Costa Rica in the World Cup group stage.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Basque Medical System
  • Political Interactions
  • Economy

The verse for the week:

No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

1 Samuel 2:2 NLT

News for prayer for Week of September 19, 2022

Headline News:

Non-government organizations are seeing a decline in volunteers, especially in young people. Most of the new volunteers are those over 30. The last study of people that volunteered or helped socially was from 2017, with 14% of the general population participating. That was ~6% higher than when the study was done in 2012. The smaller organizations are really feeling the effects, while the larger organizations (Red Cross & Cáritas) seem to be stable.

Last time I talked about people feeling a pinch while in group settings, like a shot being injected into the body. The government reported that ~120 cases were reported. A majority of those occurred with women, though a small number was seen against men. Thankfully the blood analysis did not show any form of toxic substances. The government is still investigating several reports of assault from the summer.

The sexual abuse that happened in the Spanish Catholic church is getting some coverage. One case was escalated to the Vatican and the Pope pressed for reopening the case. The request was approved and the judicial system is once again going to look at the case. They are also continuing the investigation of the 201 cases that were reported. A committee of 17 members met with them and those results are being reviewed for next steps.

Economy:

The cost of living continued to be highlighted on the front page. Over the last year across energy cost, food, transportation, the return to school and a few other areas, costs have increased 400€ over last year. Another article talked about how food costs, across different products, have gone up 20% from September 2021 to September 2022. The grocery stores are seeing more and more people look at the generic brands to save costs. The 2.6% wage increases Spanish workers have seen between April and June of this year are the lowest in the EU.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 7984.70, a 0.60% decrease over the previous week.

Political:

The Spanish government made a request to the European parliament to include Euskera, Catalan and Galician as additional official languages for its sessions. Currently 24 languages are in the list. The Spanish government is willing to absorb the costs for the request.

The polling data for the month of September was released. The PSOE party had a small increase while the PP party saw a small decrease. The PP decrease is due to decreasing confidence in the leader Feijóo. Also, in the polls for leadership Pedro Sánchez, current president, was in third place behind Yolanda Díaz and Alberto Feijóo.

On Thursday September 22, the Basque legislature returned to session. For the first time in two years there are no restrictions for masks, social distancing, etc. Urkullu is looking to address the energy crisis and rising cost of living in addition to the regular items that will need to be addressed.

International:

Coverage was across these topics: Several articles about Queen Elizabeth II’s passing and crowning of King Charles, Russian Invasion of Ukraine, and Italy addressing challenges after recent elections.

Sports:

Real Sociedad has had 4 matches since the last edition. The result of those matches was 3 wins and 1 loss. This has them currently in 8th place overall in LaLiga. Last season they qualified for the Europa League competition, where they have won both matches played thus far. The next match is Oct 6 against Sheriff Tiraspol.

Gipuzkoa Basket has been playing a couple of pre-season games. One was against Basket Navarra which resulted in a 82-86 win. In addition, they are playing in the Basque LEB cup. The first game was last night against Zornotza and won 74-56. They will play tonight in the championship game against Juaristi Iraurgi.  The regular season starts on October 7 against Ourense.

The Spanish national teams have also been very active lately. The national basketball team won the Eurobasket tournament this year. A key player on the national team was Dario Brizuela, a native of Gipuzkoa. Additionally, the national soccer team is playing in the UEFA Nations League against Switzerland Saturday September 24.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Decline in volunteers for non-government organization
  • Basque legislature
  • Economic impacts

The verse for the week:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.

James 5:13 NLT

The Church is Out of Style

There was an article in the local newspaper recently explaining how the Basque society is more and more secular. The youngest Catholic priest in our province was interviewed and he was quoted as saying “we aren’t in style”, referring to the church. Part of his reasoning was that as society flourishes from a material and physical standpoint, it’s harder for people to recognize that they NEED God. Only a small portion of Basque society goes without their basic needs being met so many people don’t notice that they are missing something or someONE. It’s a beautiful area with amazing food and an intriguing culture, the world would tell you that it seems like paradise just as it is. 

The young priest went on to say that the church is more “ideological” than “evangelical”, meaning there is more talk about what we believe as opposed to sharing the Good News with those outside the church. He did seem hopeful for the future though as he is seeing more conversions among young people.

Another issue that should be addressed is that the average age of all of the priests in our province is 74, while the younger half of the priests are under 60. I’ll save you the mathematical thinking and tell you that this means that the older half are significantly older. This means that within the next 10-15 years, the majority of that older half will no longer be with us and there will be a massive shortage of priests, leading to fewer church services and even fewer opportunities for outreach. 

Amongst the other “church people” who were interviewed, one said we need to involve more laity (non-ordained people) and women, another said we need “less liturgy and more action” calling for more social justice work in the community, and yet another says we just need to be faithful and pray. On a personal level, when I tell people I am a Christian but I’m not Catholic, I’m often met with blank stares of confusion. They didn’t know that was even possible. So with all of these differing opinions, it’s easy to see why the church is considered “out of style”.

What would you do if you already thought you were living in paradise, then found out you could have even more? We have all of the physical needs met, but what about the emotional and spiritual needs? Internal peace and security are just as important as physical comforts, and those can only truly be found in a meaningful relationship with our Creator. It’s our job to show people that it’s possible.

Intentionality in Ministry

Ever since we moved to the Basque Country, we’ve been very intentional and specific about where we do our shopping, what restaurants we frequent, and how we spend our time. We make a point to talk to the people who work in the stores and restaurants we go to and have even exchanged phone numbers with some of them. They will stop and speak to us in the street and call us by name when we come into their stores and restaurants. The Basque culture is all about relationships and that requires investment. Yes, we could have the newspaper delivered to our home or buy a printer, but then we would miss out on building relationships with the people in the local office store. There are tons of restaurants we haven’t tried out, but then we miss out on being greeted with “Hola familia!!” when we go to the places where they know us and what we like to order.

These investments are starting to pay dividends. Just this week I went into one of these local shops and greeted the woman who works there like always. When I asked her how she was doing, I got the standard “good, thanks”, but she hesitated a bit and then started opening up about how worried she was about the war in Ukraine and the possibility of it turning into a world war. She exclaimed that there were problems all over the world and she was a bundle of nervous energy. I felt a strong sense from God to share the source of my peace with her, so I explained that when we stay focused on worldly events we will stay worried and anxious, but if we focus on God, we can have peace from Him. I told her that the Bible tells us this world is not our home, we’re only here temporarily. She told me that the fact that I was able to find peace during all of this was a “wonder” and was very interested in what I was telling her. 

This interaction would not have happened if she didn’t feel like I was a safe person to share this with, and that only happened after consistently going into her store for over 2 years. Building relationships with people takes time and a lot of effort, but when it gives us the opportunity to be heard when we share about our faith, it’s all worth it. Our prayer is that God will continue to put people in our paths that are open to hearing about this Good News, and that we can be bold in our faith as we talk to them. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

-Philippians 4:7

Who Causes my Problems?

It was my first outing after a particularly severe case of strep throat during our first year in the Basque Country.

I was getting my hair cut and I was talking with the stylist about all of the unknowns surrounding the current restrictions due to Covid and school for the girls, the seeming impossibility of making any sort of future plans, etc. In a culture where traditions and familiarity are deeply grounded, uncertainty breeds a whole new level of anxiety. She told me there is a common saying here: “Dios aprieta pero no ahoga”. Literal translation is “God squeezes but doesn’t choke”. She went on to explain that it means that even though there are many problems, God will not make it so severe that it kills us. This woman is not a Christian, but was sharing this phrase that she grew up hearing. I felt a strong stirring from God that I needed to respond somehow, even though this woman speaks very little English and I still couldn’t think straight due to just getting over strep throat, much less in Spanish. I told her that I believed God is always with us and helps us when we have problems, but God is not the one CAUSING the problems like the saying suggests. She seemed to be open to that idea (Thank you God for using me when I feel like I can’t be used!!), and we continued talking about other topics, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. How do we share about a loving, trustworthy, gracious God when one of the underlying cultural beliefs is that God is the one causing their problems? The layers of culture are so important to understand in order to effectively do any sort of ministry. 

The culture in the Basque Country is an interesting mix of guilt, shame, and fear. When you share with a Basque person that something difficult has happened like an injury or illness, the typical response is “Que mala suerte!”, which means “What bad luck!”. Cultural norms here will tell you that things generally happen based on luck, or sometimes karma. It’s not uncommon for people to have cultural symbols of good luck near their front doors, along with a witch to protect them, and maybe even a cross somewhere in their house, just in case. Knowing all of this, how should one go about sharing the good news? Where does the God of the Bible fit into their narrative?

We share our personal testimony, but that often leads to them responding with “that’s good for you, but has nothing to do with me”. They don’t see any relevance for them.

We have honest discussions (AFTER listening carefully, addressing misconceptions and/or answering questions) – they are often very open to intellectual conversations/debate. What we have to do is to listen and have conversation without coming across like we’re arguing with them.

What if it’s true? This is a great question that encourages them to consider the possible implications of what we are sharing with them.

Our goal is to point them towards the God who entered the world to save them. This God is not the one causing the problems, though He can and often does use those problems, along with the lessons learned in dealing with them, in order to further His kingdom. The God of the Bible walks alongside us as we face these problems, and wants to walk alongside the Basque people as well. Will you pray with us that they would accept Him?