Hurricane Nicole hit Florida on 10 November with 70 mph winds before being downgraded to a tropical storm. States of emergency remain, and evacuation orders are in place, with heavy rain and storm surges forecast. Nicole, which had also lashed Grand Bahama Island, will soon strike Georgia, South Carolina, and possibly other states. Storms of this size so late in the year are extremely rare: since 1853 Florida has only been hit twice. 45 of the state's 67 counties are under a state of emergency, and four counties are under mandatory evacuation orders. Over 100,000 customers are without power. Orlando airport grounded commercial operations.

After an assassination attempt on ex-PM Imran Khan, the born-again Muslim, a political battle between him, the civilian government, and its military backers is spilling onto the streets. Khan is campaigning for snap elections and his return to power. The flurry of accusations, questions, and investigations after he had been shot in the leg does not bode well for political and social stability in the world’s fifth most populous country, the only nuclear-armed Islamic republic. Within 24 hours of being shot, the physically fit 70-year-old went on camera to deny that he was the target of a lone-wolf attack; rather, he blamed it on a plot hatched by PM Shehbaz Sharif, the internal security minister, and a senior military intelligence officer. Without offering any proof, he demanded they all resign and encouraged his supporters to keep protesting. Pakistan has lost many leaders whose killings have never been properly investigated.

Uganda’s education minister has decided to shut all types of schools from 25 November after 23 Ebola cases were confirmed among pupils and eight children died. The virus circulating in Uganda is the Sudan strain of Ebola, for which there is no proven vaccine, unlike the more common Zaire strain which spread during recent outbreaks in neighbouring DR Congo. Ebola is spread through bodily fluids; common symptoms are fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea. Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban settings. Ebola generally kills about half the people it infects. The decision to close all schools came because densely packed classrooms were making students highly vulnerable to infection. On 5 November the three-week lockdown on Mubende and Kassanda districts, which are at the centre of the outbreak, was extended. The measures include dusk-to-dawn curfews, banning personal travel, and closing markets, bars and churches.

Fritz Dorilas is the eighth journalist killed this year in Haiti. There is surging gang violence, political instability and targeted attacks on the media. The capital’s increasingly powerful criminal gangs battle for control in a political vacuum after President Moise’s assassination. Haiti has security and humanitarian crises after weeks-long blockades on key petrol terminals caused electricity and water shortages that exacerbated already-high rates of hunger. His killing came shortly after Romelson Vilsaint died during a Port-au-Prince protest when police threw tear gas and opened fire on journalists demanding the release of a colleague. Mexico has been plagued by journalists’ killings since the government’s war on cartels began. It is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist: 13 had been killed by the end of August. A web of violence, corruption and impunity has plagued Mexico and despite government efforts to protect journalists, the situation has worsened.

Mubarak Bala, an outspoken Nigerian atheist, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to blaspheming Islam. The landmark case placed freedom of religion and expression under new scrutiny. A BBC Africa documentary entitled ‘The cost of being an atheist’ revealed the challenges which atheists face regarding freedom of speech and thought. Many disengage from social media activities because emotions and outrage are high. Once people discover someone is not a Muslim, they target them. Despite being a minority atheists face discrimination, harassment and persecution in the Muslim north and also in the Christian south.

Yuriy Kulakevych, a leader in the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church, says Ukraine’s churches were the first to respond when Putin attacked. While the government scrambled to mobilise defences, it was churches that began evacuating civilians from combat zones, offering them shelter in church buildings and members’ homes. Within two weeks, many churches had exhausted their funds buying gas to transport refugees and food to feed them. With trusting relationships already forged, existing financial agreements allowed the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to transfer money directly to the churches and ministries in Ukraine, while many organisations were still arranging logistics. By the fourth week of the war, the WEA had provided $210,000 to Ukrainian church networks. The WEA is a church-focused alliance with a vision beyond the immediate relief efforts. They want to come alongside and strengthen the Evangelical communities in Ukraine and other countries as they serve people affected by the war.

While volunteering at our church’s free clothes closet, I interact with our visitors who struggle to put food on the table, pay rent or purchase basic needs. Although some of our shoppers allow their situations to define their lives, others share their stories of God’s grace. They express gratitude for our ministry and the ministries of others in our community. While volunteering recently, I met a woman who wasn’t just a recipient of our ministry. She volunteers to help others in need, sorting clothes, organising racks, and assisting shoppers. She admits she hasn’t always made the right choices but knows she can’t make it through life without her Saviour and Lord. She relies on our church’s hospitality while boldly sharing her stories of how God is working in her life.

The Trussell Trust needs people to raid cupboards for unwanted food to donate in the weeks before Christmas. Parcel costs have rocketed. Some food banks have seen the cost of a food parcel rise from £39 to £58. Many face a difficult winter with rising costs of heating and food. Food banks - many operating through churches - are expecting more demand than ever before, with volunteers giving out 1.3 million emergency food parcels over the next six months. The cost of providing vital food parcels to families in need has risen significantly as the cost-of-living crisis worsens. National Statistics data shows that the price of vital items usually included in the parcels has risen by 17% in a year. Lack of understanding contributes to food going to waste, or donations not being given. Trussell Trust have joined with Deliveroo takeaway service to ensure more donations get to the centres this Christmas.

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