News for prayer for Week of May 16, 2022

Headline News:

Addictions are seeing a rise here in Gipuzkoa. One organization that helps people with addictions saw a ~18% increase in people seeking them for assistance. While alcohol is the largest substance abuse, they say it has stabilized. Cocaine saw the greatest increase for substances people needed help with.

The celebration of first communion is quite large here. For the first time in 2 years they are being celebrated without restrictions. Some 2000 young boys and girls will take part in the ceremonies. Restaurants, dress and suit stores, photographers and hairstylists are reporting a significant increase in use of services for this celebration. The paper reported that families usually spend ~2600€ for the event.

COVID cases were not mentioned in the papers I bought. It seems to be focused currently on the impacts and not so much on the number of cases. I’ll include updates as appropriate moving forward.

Economy:

Amazon has decided not to open a second facility here in Basque Country. This had been in the planning stages for over a year and several businesses were not excited about the facility opening due to the impacts to businesses that could happen. The owner of the facility believes others will be interested in using the space for transportation.

Inflation in the Basque country was reported at 8.4% in April, slightly down from the 9.5% in March. During this time salaries have only increased 1.5%. Questions are being asked on what to do in order to help with the situation. 

The IBEX35 ended last week on a small upward trend closing at 8,338.10,  a 0.19% increase last week.

Political:

The number of ETA prisoners in jails that are in Basque Country or Navarra is currently at 104. While the remaining prisoners are in other parts of Spain (65) and France (29). Most of the moves to bring the ETA prisoners closer to Basque Country have occurred while Sánchez has been the leader of the Government.

The national security agency in Spain continues to make headlines for the installation of spy software on cell phones. New leadership has been installed and they realize the difficult road ahead of them as they try to re-establish confidence in the job needed to be done to protect Spain after the incident. This is also affecting Pedro Sánchez as he looks for how to manage the crisis that happened during his leadership. The judicial system is also reviewing what role it played in the approval given to the agency and sees some faults.

International:

The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to carry a significant portion of international coverage. A few other headlines were: COVID cases starting in North Korea, elections in the United Kingdom and Finland and Sweden requesting to join NATO.

Sports:

Real has won the last two games they played and secured a spot in the Europa League for next year. The team has one game left in the season on Sunday against Atletico Madrid.

GBC is currently in 11th place and in order to qualify for the end of the season playoffs they will need to move up 2 places. They play the 9th place team this weekend, so a chance does exist that they qualify though it requires help to do so.

The women’s handball team Bera Bera won another league title over the weekend. This team has had quite the history over the past 15 years. They have won the league title 8 times and 13 other titles from tournaments. Quite the accomplishment for this club!

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Addiction Recovery
  • Inflation Impacts
  • Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the wide reaching impacts

The verse for this week was focused on lament, this one seemed to fit well.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!

Psalm 130:1

News for prayer for Week of May 2, 2022

Much appreciation to Jeff for writing an extra news for prayer while we were out for family vacation. Thanks also to Jeff for all the years of writing the newsletter and providing us all with information on how to be in prayer for the Basque people. Wishing you well as you move into the next season of your life after all the years of service here in Basque Country. For the future, my plan is to write these twice a month.

Headline News:
For COVID it’s been a little over two weeks now that masks have been removed from being required indoors. For numbers, it’s hard to share anything as it’s not being reported on any more. The COVID news has almost gone away and it is hard to find much about the current situation.

The president of the Bishop’s council is working to provide protection to health care workers who want to consciously object for reasons of faith to abortions and euthanisims. The bishops produced a document on March 25 that expanded on the theme. The president commented that even in the military it is possible to be able to serve with a conscious objection to carrying a weapon, the same should be the case for healthcare workers. I normally do not read/talk about opinion columns. However I’m including one this time. The title was about the future of faith and the Church (Catholic). The opinion talks about how the area is waiting on a new bishop. In it he talks about waiting patiently for the new bishop and the importance of connecting with the next generation of believers. He talks about the confidence they should have in God to provide the right person to help address these areas and others as the church looks to impact the area. (I’d add in a bit about how you responded to reading this… )

Last weekend was Mother’s day here in Spain. The Sunday paper included several pages highlighting different mothers and the appreciation for them. An article was also written about birthing in Basque Country. 30% of babies born are from mothers outside of Spain, ~40% are born to mothers who are not married and the number of mothers over 40 increased by ~1.5%. They also shared that only ~65% of Basque under the age of 30 want kids, a 17% drop in the last 5 years.

Economy:
In Europe the unemployment numbers are at historic lows after the pandemic. The numbers in Spain however have not been recovering as well, they are also seeing high numbers (high unemployment rates?) for young workers.

This past Sunday the paper had an interview with a leader from the Central European Bank. Three key points from the article were about the current economic crisis and pensions. On the topic of pensions they said it was a political decision, though they have methods to help guarantee the system is sustainable. On the current economic situation, the comments were positive, though tough decisions need to be made to prevent a recession. A positive for Spain is they see it as a stronghold in the current situation versus a burden it had been in the past.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 8584.20, a 0.79% drop for last week.

Political:
The leader of the Basque government has not left Spain for almost 3 years. The last trip was in August of 2019, when he traveled to the Vatican. Over the coming months he has plans to visit Japan, Corsica and Paris. An objective of the trip is to discuss political strategy with other international leaders.

In 2016 CNI (National Intelligence Center) for Spain purchased a license for Pegasus. This is software that allows you to spy on smartphones. Two weeks ago it was reported that this software was initially used to spy on Catalonian political leaders. However that was expanded in 2019 until now to include several other people. The CNI is now under investigation and lots of push back on the government about who has been spied on.

International:
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to carry a large portion of international coverage. Immigration of Ukrainian refugees to Basque Country has been increasing. They are seeing that ~10% of them who came are starting to return home. The last number I’ve seen for immigration was ~3,250 in all of Basque Country. The paper also carried an article about the Roe vs Wade conversation with an article from a New York correspondent that shared a little historical context, current response and potential impacts. There was also a small article talking about the history of Roe vs Wade.

Sports:
Real Sociedad has had a tough stretch the past couple of weeks. Last week they played to a draw, then last night they lost 2-1. They have 3 games left in the season and are currently in 6th place.

GBC has won 2 games and lost 2 games since the last news for prayer. With three games to go the team is trying to move up one place in order to qualify for the playoffs. They are currently 2 points behind.

Real Sociedad women’s team for the first time in its history qualified to play in the Europa League. The team has been playing well over the past couple of years winning tournaments against other women’s teams in Spain. This will put them in the next level to compete against other women’s teams in Europe.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:
Those looking for employment
Catholic Church Leadership
Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the wide reaching impacts

The verse for this week was from a recent daily verse:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
Romans 8:26 NLT

News for prayer for Week of April 4, 2022

Headline News:

New COVID cases are continuing a downward trend. One of the big discussions is when do masks go away for indoor spaces. Initially they were talking they would go away before Holy Week, however today it was communicated that it will be going away on April 20. Places where you will still need to wear one are hospitals, public transportation and assisted living homes. The majority of people who have had the vaccine are reporting very mild symptoms. However, 76% of women who have symptoms are reporting them to be severe.

The truck strike finally ended last Wednesday March 30 after 17 days. One of the changes that happened is the government is providing a 0.20€ rebate on gasoline. This does help, though the cost is currently up over 50%, which has far reaching impacts. Not everyone supported stopping the strike, as the vote was 50 for stopping, 31 to continue and 8 abstained. The traffic in one of the busiest ports here in Gipuzkoa reported that truck traffic returned to normal on April 1, the day after the vote happened.

There was a headline story about the increase in opioid use. In the last 6 years they have seen it double. They believe that between 11% to 17% of the population in Spain has chronic pain. To help with the control of opioid use moving forward they are looking to put additional measures in place given its addictive nature. Another story explained that Gipuzkoa has approved space for the burial of Muslims. They have made adjustments in the laws to accommodate Muslims since they do not use coffins and need to face Mecca. They have been working on this approval since 2018.

Economy:

Bars & Restaurants are having to raise prices due to the increase in the cost of electricity and impacts from the Russian invasion of Ukraine on some items. The owners of restaurants feel they have to increase the prices in order to survive the current environment. The increases are small, 0.10 € on drinks and .50€ on plates, though menus and other material will need to be updated to reflect the change.

The IBEX35 ended last week on an upward trend closing at 8503.70, a 2.08% increase for last week.

Political:

Urkullu, the leader of the Basque autonomous region, has started his talks with the other political parties. These are regular talks he has with all the different political leaders represented in the legislature. He plans on discussing the recent trucker strike, the energy crisis and impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The PP party held its 20th congress to approve new leadership. After the recent departure of its leader Pablo Casado, new leadership was elected. Alberto Nuñez Feijóo was elected with 98.35% of the votes and the other leadership roles in the party were filled. This Thursday April 7, Feijóo will meet with Pedro Sánchez for an initial conversation.

International:

The big item here continues to be the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To date they have seen 1500 to 2000 Ukrainians move into Basque Country. The school system has seen an increase of ~250 students (including a girl in our daughter’s class). Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, gave a speech to the Spanish congress on Tuesday April 5.  During the speech he referenced the current situation to similarities of an attack that happened in 1937 to the Basque town of Guernica. Spain also deported 27 Russian diplomats yesterday for security and Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

French elections for president happen on April 24. Macron, the current leader, has been in power for 5 years. He is currently the favored candidate, though Éric Zemmour, a strong candidate on the extreme right, is making a big push. 

Sports:

Real Sociedad had a special pullout in the paper on Sunday as it was the 1 year anniversary after the team won the Kings cup against Basque Country rival Athletic Bilbao. It was such a special win for the team and city last year. They played Espanyol on Monday April 4 to a 1-0 victory. With that victory the team is in 6th place overall. 

GBC has played two games. The first was against Basquet Girona and was a 88 – 91 loss in overtime. Next they played against Oviedo and it was a 79-77 win. Two very close games the past couple of weeks. They are currently in 11th place overall and play again on Friday against Forca LLeida.

Itzulia is a cycling race that started in the Basque country city of Hondarribia on Monday April 4th and will go for the next 6 days. The race has 23 different teams, even some of the contenders for this year’s Tour de France.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the wide reaching impacts
  • Truckers Strike
  • COVID-19

The verse for this week was from a recent daily verse:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Psalms 40:1-2 NLT

News for prayer for Week of March 21, 2022

Headline News:

COVID coverage has been greatly reduced. Overall the number was up double compared to last week, though they are not seeing an impact in the hospital system. They are currently saying the increase is from the large gathering of Carnival that happened. The territory map is showing considerably more color, as previously it was all red. It was noted that positives in the residential homes increased 45% in our region. Also they are not planning to provide a fourth dose of the vaccine for those in residential homes or those over 65. Thankfully the number of positives in the workers of those facilities continues to be low.

Last week the Basque Country experienced winds that contained Sahara sand. This resulted in the air quality being very low for a couple of days. Additionally everything was covered in sand particles. Since it’s passed the lines now at the car wash places have increased as people look to have their cars cleaned as even after it rained a thin layer of the Sahara sand was still present.

Economy:

We are now into our second week of the truck driver strike. They are on strike as the price of fuel has increased 50%, without them being able to compensate for the increase. It is also impacting the delivery of fresh fish from the docks, as the ships arrive they are not finding the transportation for the fish to the fish markets or distributors. It is also starting to impact deliveries to the supermarket and the paper is reporting some of them are having shortages of different items.

The living cost for a family has increased ~350€/mnth. That was comparing Feb 2021 to Feb 2022. The largest increase was in the housing category which was impacted due to increase in energy cost. The only category that had a decrease was communication, which was a very small decrease. Inflation for the month of February in Gipuzkoa was reported at 7.1% which is the highest level in 30 years.

The IBEX35 ended last week on an upward trend closing at 8417.60, a 3.38% increase for the week.

Political:

The leaders of all the autonomous regions in Spain gathered last week for the first time in a decade. Pedro Sánchez gathered the leaders so they could talk about the current humanitarian and economic crisis that is happening due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One key point was how to address the continued increase in energy cost that is affecting everyone. During the week the Spanish government put forward a request to limit the cost of electricity to 180€/Mwh. They also talked about how to help the Ukrainian refugees who will be making Spain their home.

Pedros Sánches also made a visit to Morocco. The visit has not been viewed well by several different parties. This is because of what happened 47 years ago when Spain transferred control of Western Sahara to Morocco. While this was a strategic discussion, it is causing quite a stir politically for him. It seems the United States was putting pressure for him to have the conversations.

In Basque politics, it looks like the education reform will finally be passed. Conversations for changes began in February and it’s been quite an effort to get the reform passed. They believe this is a good pass for the future of the Basque Education system. Though not everyone is in agreement with the direction of the reform as the teacher’s union was calling for a strike on March 25. To date the document has not been published publicly. It will be a couple of weeks before that happens as it works its way through the approval process.

International:

The only story covered in the international section has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last week the leaders of Poland, Scotland and Czech Republic traveled to Kiev. The purpose of the trip was to ensure that Ukraine knows they have the full support of the EU in its effort to defend themselves. A lot of concern existed for the safety of travel given the Russian missile strikes, which is why they chose to travel by train. People in Gipuzkoa have been very generous and last week 5 trucks from the area were driven to Ukraine with donated items. The Basque government is working on a plan on how to help those who will be arriving from Ukraine. They are expecting between 350-700 people, though the number could be more.

Sports:

Real Sociedad played against Sevilla to a 0-0 draw. The team is currently in 6th place overall. They also lost the team captain Mikel Oyarzabel with a knee injury for the rest of the season. The next game is against Espanyol on April 4th.

GBC played against Mallorca Palma to the result of a 85-67 loss. Then they played against Hueseca and lost 68 – 85. Then another loss, 68-74 to Palencia. With the 3 losses the team is now situated in 11th place overall.

The women’s hockey team in San Sebastian won the championship in the Iberdrola Hockey league, for the first time in its history. The team had an incredible regular season winning 17 of 18 games. Then they went on to have victories in semi final and final to win the title. The team has quite the makeup of ages from 16 to 40.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the wide reaching impacts
  • Truckers Strike
  • COVID-19
  • Education Reform

The verse for this week was from my weekly reading:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

News for prayer for Week of March 7, 2022

Headline News:

COVID continues moving in a very positive direction as the overall number of cases continues to be low. With restrictions easing people are returning to activities that they used to do. One of those is going to a Cider house where they eat a meal and drink cider. The Cider houses are seeing a few changes in habits. People want to eat in the afternoons versus evenings/nights and they prefer to eat outside on terrazas versus inside. In the hospital system face to face appointments were very limited during the pandemic. Now with the current state of the pandemic people are able to make in person appointments. Another change is that quarantines for close contacts have been eliminated with or without a vaccine. Lastly they are tentatively talking about a date for the end of masks inside. It looks like it could be either March 21 (start of Spring) or April 11 (start of Holy week and the more likely date).

Tuesday March 8 was international women’s day. The paper had quite the coverage building up to the event. Then in the Wednesday March 9 paper they dedicated the first 7 pages of the paper to the coverage of the event. The focus continues on ensuring that women have the same rights as men. The paper included testimonies from 6 different people where one of them said that equality only exists on paper not in real life. Additionally the Basque Government passed a new law for the equality of women and men and life free of male violence. It includes government monetary assistance for those who have been affected and need economic assistance. It took more than 2 years for this legislation to get approved.

Economy:

The impacts of the Russian invasion in Ukraine on the local economy were starting to be reported on. A study by the Basque government found that 5% of the economy depends on Russia. Additionally they are seeing the impacts on some raw materials and a rise in energy costs due to the cost of oil increasing. They are also starting to limit the purchase of sunflower oil as Spain imports ~20% of it from Ukraine and they are looking to prevent panic buying that happened during COVID. Additionally ~40% of natural gas imported in Basque Country comes via sea from Russia.

I feel like a broken record about the cost of electricity. The thought was the price would stabilize, though with the Russian invasion that has not happened. The costs are beginning to increase and setting records for the maximum for 2022. 

The IBEX35 ended last week on a significant downward trend closing at 7,720.90, a 9.02% drop for the week.

Political:

Juan Carlos I the King emeritus in Spain is back in the headlines as the anti corruption investigation continues. They reported last week that he defrauded the tax authorities between 30 to 56 million euros. Pedro Sánchez believes that he owes the Spanish population an explanation for what he had done. Some are also looking for a way to reform the existing laws that protect the King without touching the constitution. 

Urkullu (PNV) and Andueza (PSE), met to talk about two key items they have not been in agreement on publicly, education reform and autonomy status next steps. They also spoke positively of the collaborative work that exists between the two parties. They cited several different laws that have been passed under the current coalition. The talk for the education reform was timely as also last week results of the academic levels for Basque students were reported on. The results are from 2019 and were the worst seen in the last 10 years. The largest drops were in the areas of science and Basque language, along with lower results in math and English.

International:

The main news item in this section is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several times the invasion was the headline story, including a very graphic and powerful image showing the impacts of war. The people of Gipuzkoa have responded very positively to supporting the Ukrainians. This has been seen by positively receiving refugees, sending supplies, the Basque leaders speaking against the invasion or families who are already living here driving to pick up family members and return here with them. Basque Country currently has a population of ~3000 Ukranians and that number will be increasing as more arrive.

Sports:

Real Sociedad has played against two LaLiga opponents. The first was Mallorca and was a 2-0 victory. Next they played against Real Madrid, who are currently in 1st place. The result was a 1-4 loss. Overall the team is in 6th place. The next game is Sunday March 13 against Alaves.

GBC has only played 1 game since the last news for prayer. It was against Leyma Coruna with the result being a 62-49 win. The current league standings with the win in 9th place overall. The next game is against Mallorca Palma on Sunday March 13.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the wide reaching impacts
  • COVID-19
  • Women’s Rights

The verse for this week focused on being a light and I thought this verse was appropriate:

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

Matthew 5:15 NLT