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Rough weather

Two weeks of meteorological and political storms, with more brewing 

Rough weather

A man walks over what remains of homes in the area called “the Mudd” after it was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian on Abaco Island, Bahamas. (Fernando Llano/AP)

It could have been much worse in the United States. On Sunday, Sept. 8, many church prayers included thanksgiving for deliverance from Hurricane Dorian, which could have been another Katrina or Maria. Dorian did spin into the Carolinas, flooding towns and shooting off tornadoes, and at least four people died while preparing for the hurricane.

It could not have been much worse in the Bahamas. Dorian hit those islands on Labor Day weekend as a Category 5 storm and stalled there for more than a day, lashing everything in its path. “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. A week after the storm, reporters said bodies of residents still lay decomposing and uncollected (and presumably uncounted) in some neighborhoods: By Sept. 10 the official Bahamas death toll had reached 50, but the figure was sure to keep rising. Christian relief agencies were among the first to mobilize.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a different kind of storm blustered: political hurricane Brexit. Though British voters in 2016 chose to leave the European Union, politicians continued fighting about evacuation routes. Conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants to leave with or without a deal with the EU by Oct. 31—but the Labour Party and some Conservatives say leaving without an agreement would be an economic disaster.

On Sept. 9, after Parliament rejected Johnson’s calls for snap elections that could give him enough votes for a no-deal Brexit, a recently passed law suspended Parliament until Oct. 14. But not before it passed a law saying Brexit should be delayed until Jan. 31 unless the government strikes a deal to leave. Johnson remained stalwart. Both sides were hunkered down with no sign of a break in the weather.

Matt Dunham/AP

Boris Johnson speaks to the media outside 10 Downing Street in London. (Matt Dunham/AP)

The skies turned dark in West Texas on Aug. 31 as a gunman killed seven people and wounded 25 others in Odessa and Midland. Seth Ator had lost his job as a truck driver at an oil field earlier that day. He called 911 and ranted on an FBI hotline. When police tried to pull his vehicle over for a traffic stop, he fled. Along the way he opened fire, stole a U.S. Postal Service truck after killing its driver, then shot more people before crashing. Police eventually killed him. The attacker had previously failed a background check while trying to buy a weapon. He bought the AR-15-style gun he used in the shooting from a private seller.

The shooting caused some political rumbling (but no lightning yet) after Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a profane T-shirt and campaign video decrying gun violence. He also declared that if he’s elected president, owners of AR-15s and AK-47s would have to sell them to the federal government. O’Rourke was one of 10 candidates who qualified for a Sept. 12 debate. Candidates who won’t move on include hyper-feminist New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, relatively moderate former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton. Billionaire businessman and independent Howard Schultz has also called off a potential run.

The political storm surge is sure to wash more candidates away in the next few weeks, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be one. He faced backlash after saying in a CNN town hall on Sept. 4 that more women in the developing world need access to abortion to curb overpopulation—a myth busted long ago. That same day, Planned Parenthood said it wants to make its mobile app, Planned Parenthood Direct, available in all 50 states. It’s currently available in 27, offering users birth control pills shipped to their front door. Planned Parenthood says it does not “yet” offer so-called emergency contraceptives via the app, but given the organization’s promotion of “telemedicine” abortions in 14 states, could abortifacient-by-app be far behind?

Pete Buttigieg blew hot air on Sept. 6 when he defended abortion all the way up to a baby’s first breath. The Democratic presidential candidate told The Breakfast Club radio show the Bible says life begins at first breath. Democrats defending abortion—even to the point of birth—isn’t breaking news, but Buttigieg’s Scripture-twisting is Category 5. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees found himself in a tropical storm of media criticism after he recorded a video for Oct. 3’s Bring Your Bible to School Day, sponsored by Focus on the Family, which—gasp!—supports Biblical marriage.

Dark clouds may be lifting for pop music phenom Justin Bieber, 25. He posted a long statement on Instagram acknowledging that his adolescence and early adulthood storms included drug use, broken relationships, and depression—but he’s “navigating the best season my life” after getting married last year. The attention stardom heaped on him at an early age was too much, Bieber said. He encouraged his fans: “Be bold today and love people today not by your own standards but by Gods [sic] perfect unfailing love.”

Earl Richardson/Genesis Photos

Watered Gardens (Earl Richardson/Genesis Photos)

And the winner is …

Effective compassion always requires hard work. Helping those who have spiraled into drugs, homelessness, and despair is the hardest of the hard. That’s one reason why the votes of WORLD readers from late July through Sept. 6 made Watered Gardens of Joplin, Mo., the 2019 grand prize winner of the Hope Awards for Effective Compassion.

The name “Watered Gardens” comes from Isaiah 58:10-11: “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted … you shall be like a watered garden.” Watered Gardens emphasizes work by having a “Worth Shop” that teaches residents to work for their room and board. An hour of work earns groceries for a week, and 12 hours a week earns a bed. Those who have worked there for three months can move on to the Forge Center for Virtue and Work, which by teaching Biblical truths and work readiness helps residents to transition to financial independence combined with dependence on God.

WORLD is giving $10,000 to Watered Gardens and $2,000 each to four regional winners, but the biggest prize is publicity and increased credibility. To read WORLD’s story about the big winner, go to wng.org/2019winner. To nominate a local Christian charity for next year’s contest, please send Charissa Koh—ckoh@wng.org—an email with its name and your reasons for recommending it.

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau is WORLD’s deputy editor based in East Tennessee. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelReneau.