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Whirled Views

Background on trending (and otherwise notable) news, and a short list of dinner table prayers

Whirled Views

People affected by Hurricane Maria collect water and while others bathe in water piped from a mountain creek in Utuado, Puerto Rico. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

About Whirled Views: Readers often ask me how they can help people they learn about in WORLD or other places. I often reply: “You can pray for them.” Sometimes I get an earnest response: “Yes, I’ll pray for them. But what can I do?”

I love when readers want to respond by donating money or volunteering. When we can make suggestions, we do. But I stick by my first reply too: Prayer really is a deeply important kind of front-lines help.

The Apostle Paul knew most of the Christians he wrote to in the New Testament couldn’t come to him personally. Not all of them could give large gifts. But again and again, Paul asked: “Pray for us.” 

What if we did that with the news—or at least some of it? 

Each edition of Whirled Views aims to bring a little reporting on a few big stories (or otherwise notable news). At the end, I’ll suggest a couple of short ways to pray for news-related items, maybe even around the dinner table.

Puerto Rico: A century after Puerto Ricans gained U.S. citizenship, life on the Caribbean island has snapped back to 1917-like conditions for many of the 3.4 million Americans still reeling from Hurricane Maria.  

FEMA reported 84 percent of the island remains without power, and only 64 percent of residents have potable water.

David Nakhla, disaster relief coordinator for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, recently visited the denomination’s two churches and one church plant in Puerto Rico. He tells me washboards are in high demand, as citizens turn to washing clothes by hand. Some residents without water are contriving ways to collect rainwater or pull it from streams.

For some congregations, there’s another long-term concern: whether their members will stay. Since they’re U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are free to enter any of the 50 states and resettle. 

More than 27,000 Puerto Ricans have entered the United States since Oct. 3 through three Florida airports alone. Many may return, but relocating may be an appealing option, especially for younger citizens. 

It’s a huge burden for churches, and Nakhla says he’s encouraging congregations to seize new ministry and outreach opportunities: “It is clear that Maria may decide the future of these churches. …”

John Locher/AP

People pray at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

Las Vegas: Speaking of new ministry opportunities, churches in Las Vegas worked to care for their city after the horrendous mass shooting that killed 58 people at an open-air concert. 

One often-quoted statistic surfaced: That there are more churches per capita in Las Vegas than in any other city in the country. Well, not exactly.  Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church Las Vegas told WORLD radio’s Sarah Schweinsburg those numbers include wedding chapels known for quick nuptials but not Sunday services. 

Pastors at Hope Church opened their doors the day after the shootings, and saw hundreds of people come to pray or talk. A first responder who worked the scene—and whose teenage niece had suffered a gunshot wound—told pastors: “I just needed to come because I saw things yesterday I was not trained to ever see.”

The U.S. border: A heartbreaking story from the U.S. border: The ACLU is suing to force the U.S. government to allow a 17-year-old girl to have an abortion, after authorities detained the minor for crossing into the U.S. illegally.

An attorney told the Associated Press the teenage girl from Central America wants an abortion, and that she may be up to 14 weeks pregnant. HHS and state officials object to allowing it, but a federal judge in San Francisco ruled authorities cannot stop her. The case remains ongoing, and we’ll keep following it.

SNEAK PREVIEW: I’ve been learning about how evangelical churches in Russia are faring a year after the government passed a law restricting some forms of evangelism. While the growing restrictions are worrisome, and have ensnared some churches, one Moscow pastor tells me his church continues to grow: He has 69 men and women in his fundamentals of Christianity class. Stay tuned for a full report in WORLD.


A suggested short list for praying about the news, maybe even at the dinner table tonight:

• Puerto Rico: Pray for churches looking for ways to help their neighbors and share the gospel, and for their long-term health. (Getting specific: Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada del Caribe in San Juan.)

• Las Vegas: Pray for those mourning, and for churches looking to bring gospel-based help. (Getting specific: Hope Church Las Vegas.)

• U.S. border: Pray officials will intervene to save the unborn child of a 17-year-old girl, and that the young mother will get the care and help she needs.