For the last seven years or so, at the end of every month, I’ve summarized local, national and international “stories of need” from local, national and international news sites, blogs, press releases and editorials. The following are some of January’s most need-in-the-news-worthy stories:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — High-profile cases of deportations dominated headlines as Republicans and Democrats continue sparring over their “good” and “bad” approaches to immigration and local churches shelter targeted immigrants. Weather disasters cost a record $306 billion in 2017. Almost 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents remained without electricity and many face foreclosure as moratoriums since Hurricane Maria hit have expired.
MEXICO — Faced with ongoing drug-related violence and corruption, and caught between cartels and government forces, some towns and communities have quietly taken matters into their own hands.
YEMEN — Citizens of Taiz have learned to negotiate the misery brought about by civil war.
ETHIOPIA — Parliament passed a bill banning adoption of Ethiopian children by foreigners.
SOUTH SUDAN — Thousands struggle to survive during the current “hunger season.
At times, what gets lost in the concern and clamor over major local, national and international events and issues, are ordinary people, communities, businesses and other groups doing extraordinary things. Here are a few I’ve heard about recently:
DALLAS (Texas) — A South Dallas middle school recently started a ‘Breakfast with Dads’ program, but many dads couldn’t participate and some students had no father figures to attend. After the school posted a Facebook request for 50 volunteers, 600 fathers responded.
SARAJEVO (Bosnia & Herzegovina) — Jovan Divjak, a former Bosnian Serb general founght to defend Sarajevo and his Bosnian Muslim neighbors during the Bosnian War in the ’90s. Today he runs a charity for Bosnian orphans.
Florida — Nora Sandigo, aka “Mama Warrior,” cares for 1,250 children whose parents have been detained or deported.
THE AMERICAN SOUTH — A recent piece in The New Yorker honored the original “Freedom Riders” of 1961.
JERUSALEM — Chefs for Peace, founded in 2001 by a group of four Jewish, Christian and Muslim chefs, cook and eat together to lead by example in building trust and working toward peace.
JAKARTA (Indonesia) — Resa grew up in Jakarta’s largest landfill, now 267 acres of trash which is home to 3,000 families. Kids at Resa’s school called her “princess of the dump” because she smelled. Still her parents made sure she attended university, and she has since started a recycling business and returned to the dump to inspire kids there.
BETHLEHEM (West Bank, Palestine) — After her arrest by Israeli forces for slapping an Israeli soldier who raided her home, activist Ahed Tamimi has been called “the Palestinian Rosa Parks.”
SAN DIEGO (California) — The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a family of five from a dangerous mudslide.
BROOMFIELD (Colorado) — Our church, The Refuge, began a weekly remembrance and reading of the names of the 238 people who died on the street in the Denver area in 2017.
BERLIN (Germany) — Bernt Pickert founded Garage10, and along with a group of volunteers, he repairs and donates bicycles to help his refugee neighbors get around town.
DENVER (Colorado) — Hundreds of residents attended a local Gentrification Summit to encourage politicians and developers to integrate rather than remake area neighborhoods.
Thoughts and stories worth reflection:
THE FOUR ‘I’s OF OPPRESSION — Check out this instructive video summary of oppression by Eliana Pipes.
THE BLESSING OF THE EPIPHANY — From an early January tweet by Sara Miles (@SaraMilesSF), one of my favorite authors — “The Epiphany unveils a powerful truth: that if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not Lord, nor Herod, nor all the violence of the world. Remember: ‘when Herod heard this, he was frightened.’ Amen. May it be so.”
FLOODING DANGER — The state of Louisiana has warned thousands of residents to move from flood-prone areas, but has been unable to fund a program to help fund their moves.
TITLE IX INVESTIGATION — In December, I lauded Terrence Phillips, a junior point guard for the Missouri men’s basketball team, for starting a non-profit called Beyond the Ball to provide Christmas gifts for needy kids. In January, Philipps was indefinitely suspended from the team due to allegations that he physically abused a woman on campus.
LGBT YOUTH AND HOMELESSNESS — LGBT kids who are homeless face tougher odds than straight youth. These are not just statistics, these are real people with real stories.
THE GENESIS OF NIMBY — How the American dream of home ownership came to mean owning a neighborhood.
FROM #MeToo TO ENDING HARASSMENT — Some experts say the online #MeToo movement won’t end sexual harassment, but this will.
MENNONITE SPLIT — One of my favorite Christian traditions recently split over the definition of marriage.
SURVIVING IN DENVER — According to self-sufficiency studies, it takes a family of four $63,000 per year just to survive in the Mile High City…Those who suffer from substance abuse lost an important (and primary) treatment option this month when Arapahoe House closed…Advocates also proposed including pets of people in SNAP (food stamp) benefits. (Note: Many people who are homeless that I’ve met have pets with them.)
SLEEPING CARS — For people who are homeless in New York during cold weather snaps, the subway is their moving hotel.