OSJ Prayers: June 6, 2018

“Hospital Desert” in Rural America

Since 2010, 83 rural hospitals have closed in the United States, many in counties with poverty rates higher than the national average. About half of the 53 hospital closures in 11 southern states have occurred in counties with a large percentage of people of color. According to the National Rural Health Association, 673 rural hospitals are at risk of closure; of those, 210 are at “extreme risk.” Many people in rural areas work contract jobs, which often do not offer insurance. Various state legislatures have rejected Medicaid expansions in their states; a resultant effect is that hospitals end up covering the healthcare costs of the “poorest and sickest” people who lack insurance. The unprofitability of many rural hospitals is a key factor in the decision to close.

God, we lift prayers for the ways that the expense of healthcare is impacting people who are poor, and think especially of people living in rural areas in the U.S. today. Protect them, Lord. Call people to bring help, to treat rural residents with dignity, and to advocate on their behalf for policies and practices that bring sustainable care.

Volcanic Eruption in Guatemala

Guatemala’s Mount Fuego erupted on Sunday, leaving at least 69 people dead. Many have been injured, dozens are still missing, and thousands of residents have evacuated the area and have been placed in temporary housing. The death toll is expected to rise as officials continue to search for missing people amid the accumulated debris. This is the most violent volcano eruption in over a century. There was no advanced warning given for Fuego’s eruption, in contrast to the weeks of warning given for Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

God, we pray for those gripped with worry — over missing family, over lost homes and livelihoods, over an unknown future. We pray for those gripped with grief in the wake of this disaster. We pray for those who are helping. We pray for those who must try to predict what the volcano may do next. For the safety and protection of Guatemala, we pray.

Socioeconomic Gaps remain for First Nations

A new scathing audit report states Indigenous Services Canada has not adequately collected data — and sometimes reported inaccurate data – about the well-being of First Nations living on reserve. With incomplete information on factors like education, income and health, Indigenous Services Canada has also failed to track the country’s progress in closing socioeconomic gaps between on-reserve First Nations and the rest of Canada, the report concludes. According to Auditor General Michael Ferguson, the gaps are not closing.

We lament, God, what this report exposes: incomplete, inaccurate, and even wanton errors. We lament what this says about the value placed on Indigenous lives by those in power. God, renew hearts and minds, that we might live as people who are committed to the holiness found in all human lives — the very image of you, our creator.

Kidnapped and Imprisoned Christians

Last week, a representative from Open Doors USA appealed to the United Nations on behalf of Pastor Raymond Koh, who is still missing after being abducted in Malaysia in 2017. Inquiries by the Malaysian government have led to no arrests or location of Pastor Koh’s whereabouts. In Europe, more than 100 leaders have signed a letter expressing their support for Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey since 2016. The U.S. State Department issued its annual report on International Religious Freedom last week, which highlights the suffering of Christians in countries around the world, including North Korea, Iran, and Sudan.

God, we lift prayers for Pastor Koh, for Pastor Brunson, and for all those missing in places where being a Christian is dangerous. We pray for those who are raising awareness about this in the halls of power — bring an effective, swift response. We lift prayers for our brothers and sisters in the world who are persecuted for following you — bring strength, hope, and deep faith.

Canada: Stand Up With Indigenous Kids!

Despite years of promises, education results for First Nations students have not improved relative to those of other Canadians. (Auditor General’s report on Indigenous Services Canada, 2018)

Ask your MP to establish clear steps to address the funding gap and to implement TRC Calls to Action 7-10 so that Indigenous parents can send their kids to schools that integrate their languages, cultures, values, and communities into the educational system.

World Refugee Day Toolkit

World Refugee Day (June 20) is an opportunity to recognize the blessings of refugees in our communities and to educate ourselves about the growing global refugee crisis. How are we as a church - the body of Christ - to respond? We invite you and your congregation to recognize #WorldRefugeeDay throughout the month of June. Check out our World Refugee Day Toolkit for ideas about how to participate.