The Walk and Pray resource which the Evangelical Alliance released during lockdown has proved to be one of their most popular downloads to date, showing that many people have indeed been ‘looking up’ to the Lord for help during this time. Consequently, they have released a sequel, Walk, Pray, Talk, a five-part resource that will help people to explore prayer through the themes of being people of God, present to God and people, participation, and caring for a place.
The only Arabic Christian television broadcaster in Lebanon is airing special live programming, reassuring shell-shocked viewers after the huge Beirut explosion on 4 August. The next day, SAT-7 broadcast a special Arabic-language programme - the Pain and Hope. Local Christian leaders Rev Dr Hikmat Kashouh and Dr Nabil Costa offered reassurance to viewers, and prayed live on air for the families of those killed in the explosion, for those who are missing, and for the injured. Christian TV programmes will continue to provide a platform for grieving and traumatised viewers in Lebanon to find comfort and seek prayer in the disaster aftermath, while continuing to minister to a country beset by political strife, economic collapse, hunger, and social unrest. Lebanese people are looking for others to stand with them grief and in prayer in the wake of this catastrophe. Christian broadcasting offers genuine hope.
Last month you prayed for compassionate provisions for refugees (see). Now Tony Smith, the former head of UK Border Force, said that if the UK and France fail to agree joint Channel patrols, arrivals will reach crisis levels. He said, ‘They need to agree a treaty with a joint patrol where migrants picked up in the Channel can be returned to France to have asylum claims considered there. What I'm advocating is we try as best we can to replicate the juxtaposed controls for legitimate applicants in the same way as for illegitimate applicants. Over 200 migrants managed to cross to Britain in twenty boats in one day. If they want to come to the UK they need to make their case on the French side, and if they are found in the waterways or even make it as far as Dover we say, “I'm sorry but you go back there and that's where you will be interviewed and processed, on the French side”.’
A URC church in Staffordshire, a Grade 2 listed building from 1820 next door to a primary school, had not been used as a place of worship for over twenty years. Then 400 cannabis plants were found growing inside. A police raid at the end of July uncovered the drugs, and a man has appeared in court. This is the second recent finding of a cannabis farm in an unused church as local communities are being overrun by illegal drugs. Fears of gang violence and muggings keep frightened residents at home. Open dealing on the street stirs parents’ fears for their children. Pray for God to help citizens and community groups to recognise the roles they can play helping authorities eradicate the problem. Pray also for addicts to receive support and help to find a path away from substance abuse.
Nearly one in five private renting parents are now more concerned their family will become homeless as a result of the Covid crisis, new research from Shelter shows (see). As the country moves out of lockdown, the chronic lack of social housing has left struggling families with few options to escape the insecurity of private renting. A third of parents who rent from private landlords are more negative about their long-term housing situation. Shelter reported that 49,000 have resorted to using foodbanks since lockdown and cut back on food to help pay rent; 550,000 took on debt (overdrafts, credit cards, payday loans, borrowing from bank/family/friends) to help pay rent since lockdown. Pray for people in poverty to have a home they can afford. See also the next article, ‘Outdated Planning System’.
Sweeping changes to the ‘outdated’ planning system in England will make it easier to build much-needed new homes, said Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary. But critics say they could lead to bad-quality housing and loss of local control over development. The Government wants to reduce the number of planning cases overturned at appeal by creating a clearer, rules-based system. He said we have a major housing challenge and a major economic challenge with a lot of people's jobs depending on this industry. The new system will still be democratic with local engagement, but will be faster and help meet the needs of the next generation. A national charge for developers will be introduced, replacing the existing agreements, and used to fund schools, roads and GP surgeries; and there will have to be a fixed proportion of affordable homes in a development. Pray for the success of homes and hospitals being built on land earmarked for development.
August is a time when agricultural crops, vegetables and fruit soak up the warmth of the sun and ripen ready for harvest. This year more people will experience its richness as they stay at home for their holidays and appreciate afresh the beauty of our islands. May we never cease to enjoy and to praise God for the beauty of His creation, our green and pleasant land, and for the rhythm of the seasons (Psalm 8:1). As the new Agriculture Bill continues through Parliament, there is still uncertainty and concern over new trading agreements and their effect on home produce. A government commission to advise on seizing export opportunities for UK farmers and maintaining current welfare and environmental standards was launched on 28 July and will report at the end of the year. Pray for policies to emerge from this that will secure justice for farmers, farm animals, consumers and the land (Psalm 33:5).
Scotland's schools have been given the go-ahead to reopen from 11 August. The Child Poverty Action Group, which supports low-income families, has called for more financial help for parents and carers in Scotland struggling to pay for school uniforms. Eligible pupils currently receive a £100 school clothing grant, with some primary school starters eligible for a further £250. The group said some parents faced ‘extraordinary financial pressure’, and the grants were a good way of getting additional support directly to families. It is urging local authorities and the government to work together to increase the value of the school clothing grants or provide additional grants this year, in recognition of the unexpected extra financial pressures that families face.