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?