MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Medical bills can drive you into bankruptcy. But some churches are paying off those debts en masse.
MCQUAY: We were able to completely wipe out the debt of about 20 different communities in the south suburbs.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also the Oregon bakers shut down after complaints of discrimination get another day in court. We have an update.
Plus one man’s quest to redeem buildings in Toledo, Ohio.
CAPERNA: Toledo is influential, and I believe that God has a heart for that city and I want to be a part of Toledo’s story of fulfilling its purpose in God.
And we’ll hear from an author who recommends saying no so that more often you can say yes.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, January 23rd. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: House impeachment managers begin opening arguments » House Democrats will be back on the Senate floor this afternoon—making their case for impeaching President Trump.
Impeachment managers began opening arguments on Wednesday. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts opened the proceedings.
ROBERTS: The managers for the House of Representatives have 24 hours to make the presentation of their case. The Senate will now hear you.
Among those managers is House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler. He told senators it is clear that the president abused his power and must be removed from office.
NADLER: President Trump unlawfully withheld military assistance appropriated by Congress to aid our ally in order to extort that government into helping him with his reelection.
And fellow impeachment manger Adam Schiff pushed back against those who say the Democrats should leave the president’s fate in the hands of voters this November.
SCHIFF: The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.
Impeachment managers have two more days, including today, to make their opening arguments. Then, White House lawyers will get up to 24 hours over three days to argue their case before the Senate.
Utah bans conversion therapy » Utah is now the 19th state to ban so-called conversion therapy for minors. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Republican Governor Gary Herbert called on state regulators to make a rule against conversion therapy for minors after legislation that would have banned it failed.
Officials confirmed that they finalized the rule late Tuesday. It prohibits therapy aimed at changing minors’ sexual orientation, even if they ask for it.
Latter-day Saints leadership opposed the proposed legislation because it didn’t include certain exceptions for clergy, so the state worked out new compromises in the regulation version.
The rule won the support of Mormon leadership with assurances that religious leaders and LDS therapists could still provide spiritual counseling for members.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
COVINGTON: Weinstein trail beings in NY » Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein went on trial Wednesday on rape and sexual assault charges. He exited a courthouse in New York, leaning on a walker amid a mob of reporters as his attorneys expressed confidence that he will be acquitted.
Moments earlier, they argued to the court that Weinstein’s encounters with his accusers were consensual. Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis laid out plans to use friendly sounding emails from his accusers and other evidence to back that claim.
But prosecutor Meghan Hast told the jury of seven men and five women that the former studio boss was—quote—“not just a titan in Hollywood—he was a rapist.” Prosecutors said he used his Hollywood clout to abuse women for decades. She then described some of his alleged crimes in detail.
The trial is expected to last about six weeks. When it’s finished, Weinstein will face charges rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles.
UN: Saudis hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone » Experts with the United Nations say the phone of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was hacked and the evidence points back to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones has that story.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Two UN experts say Bezos’ phone was hacked after he received a video file sent from the Saudi prince’s WhatsApp account in 2018. They say it happened after the two exchanged phone numbers at a dinner in California.
The file was sent to his phone five months before Saudi government agents killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Khashoggi was a frequent critic of the Saudi royal family.
The independent UN experts said the evidence suggests the crown prince may have been involved in spying on Bezos “in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.”
They also said the Saudis “clandestinely” waged a “massive online campaign” against Bezos.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.
COVINGTON: Protesters denounce new Lebanese government » In Lebanon, a riot erupted in downtown Beirut, as protesters voiced their anger over the country’s new government.
AUDIO: [Lebanon riot]
Demonstrators shattered windows, ripped down fences, set fires, and hurled rocks. Security forces responded by firing tear gas … and dousing protesters with water cannons.
For months, demonstrators have condemned corruption within the government. And this week, Lebanon announced a new 20-member Cabinet— mostly made up of specialists supported by Hezbollah. Protesters say it’s a rubber stamp Cabinet for the same political parties that are to blame for the corruption.
Lebanon is facing its worst economic and financial crisis since country’s civil war ended in 1990.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: churches forgiving medical debt.
Plus, reclaiming buildings built for sin.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Thursday, the 23rd of January, 2020. We’re so glad you’ve joined us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Before we get started today, Nick, I’ve been reading the mail, and I think we need to clear up something.
We’ve talked about offering to put WORLD Magazine in the hands of your friends, and that’s clear enough. What’s not, and this is the interesting part, many of our listeners aren’t reading WORLD. And to that end, I’ve seen a few people writing in and wondering, well, I’d like to refer myself. Is that OK?
EICHER: Right, right. Short answer, yes, you can do that! We want you to do that. You can refer yourself.
So when you go to Getworldnow.org, in section 1, where it says who would you like to share WORLD with? Just fill in your own name and address. Then in section 2, where it says, tell us about yourself, just enter your own information. It’s totally OK that both of them are the same. It’ll go through. We’ll know it’s a self-referral.
REICHARD: That’s good, OK, great. So getworldnow.org. And do yourself a favor! Refer yourself for WORLD. 4 free issues, 2 months. Great magazine! Getworldnow.org.
Well, next up today, medical debt. Lots of it.
Americans spent more than $3 trillion on healthcare in 2016. Much of that is covered by insurance, but some ends up as debt that families struggle to pay.
Some estimates put the total amount of unpaid medical bills at $80 billion. That can have dire financial consequences. Half a million Americans file for bankruptcy every year because they cannot pay their medical bills.
EICHER: In September, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders teased a plan for taxpayers to pay off part of that debt. But some churches aren’t waiting for politicians to ride to the rescue. They’re taking matters into their own hands. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen reports.
JERRY MCQUAY: I first heard about, uh, a church…in the Dallas area and they gave a substantial amount of money to retire medical debt in the Dallas area.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Jerry McQuay is the pastor of Christian Life Center in Tinley Park, Illinois.
MCQUAY: And I thought that’s, that’s kinda weird for a church to do something like that.
But McQuay kept hearing about other churches doing the same thing. He wanted to know more about how this worked, so he contacted the organization these churches had partnered with. It’s called RIP Medical Debt.
MCQUAY: It’s a nonprofit organization…they, uh, buy for a penny on the dollar, basically, uh, medical debts that have been turned over to collections.
Craig Antico is one of the organization’s founders. He used to be a debt collector, so he knows how the process works.
ANTICO: You go to the hospital and you get a bill and you can’t pay it. Then it goes to a collection company… Then it gets progressively more assertive to the point where if you don’t pay, they could threaten to sue you and bring you to court.
Sometimes, if you can’t pay the debt, it gets sold to another collector for a fraction of the original bill. And that agency can then come after you for the full amount. That’s where RIP Medical Debt comes in. The organization uses donations to buy up batches of medical debt. Ten dollars can buy about $1,000 of debt. But instead of collecting on it, the group forgives it.
ANTICO: In our contract we state that once we buy this debt, we will not collect on it… We are unable to resell it and we’re unable to collect on it and that right there is the definition of abolishment.
Any person or group can donate and abolish debt. The organization uses an algorithm to identify the people who need help the most—if they make less than two times the national poverty level or if their income is less than their assets.
Donors can’t target a specific person for debt forgiveness. But they can request their donation go toward a certain geographic region or demographic. Antico says more and more churches are forgiving debt in their communities.
ANTICO: It started in Texas. A church…Covenant Church heard about it…and decided for…an Easter service that they were going to forgive $10 million dollars of debt. And we were like, Holy cow. That was our, one of our biggest donations. And it was our first donation of a church.
Since then, the number of church-run campaigns has skyrocketed. Antico says they accounted for half of all the debt abolished in 2019.
Carlton McCarthy is the chief financial officer at McQuay’s church in Tinley Park. When he does financial coaching sessions for church members, medical debt is one of the biggest sources of trouble.
MCCARTHY: Cause you go to the emergency room and you don’t have a price list of what the, of, of the services that you’re receiving.
McCarthy says the church chose to help with medical debt because it’s different than credit card debt or student loans.
MCCARTHY: It happens all of a sudden and you can’t control the type of expense either or the amount of the expense. It’s not like they went out and made a bad purchase or anything like that.
The Tinley Park church banded together with several others in the Chicago area. McQuay says, collectively, they took in $40,000 in donations for this campaign. That enabled them to forgive over $4 million in medical debt.
MCQUAY: We were able to completely wipe out the debt of about 20 different communities in the south suburbs.
After forgiving the debt, the organization sends out letters to each recipient telling them their debt has been paid in full: a “no strings attached gift.” The church doesn’t know who the recipients are. But the yellow envelopes include the church’s contact information, so the recipients know who forgave their debt.
And hopefully it points them to the one who forgives our ultimate debt.
One pastor from Kansas explained it this way to Wichita news source KWCH.
TODD CARTER: The last words that Jesus says before he dies on the cross is, ‘It is finished.’ And literally what that means is ‘paid in full.’ And to me that was just a great lead in to be able to pay in full somebody else’s debt.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen reporting from Tinley Park, Illinois.
NICK EICHER: Next up on The World and Everything in It: Christian bakers head back to court.
It’s a familiar storyline: In Oregon in 2013, bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein turned down a request to bake a custom wedding cake for two lesbian customers. The Kleins were polite about it, but firm. They cited their religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The two women complained to the state, which eventually fined the Kleins $135,000 for not making the cake.
The Kleins appealed the judgment—and lost.
MARY REICHARD: But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision and sent the case back to the Oregon Court of Appeals for another hearing. This time, the state court must consider the Kleins’ case in light of the high court ruling in favor of another Christian baker: Jack Phillips of Colorado, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Joining us now with an update on the Kleins’ case is Keisha Russell. She’s an attorney with First Liberty, the law firm representing the couple.
Good morning, Keisha!
KEISHA RUSSELL, GUEST: Good morning!
REICHARD: Aaron and Melissa Klein were back at the Oregon Court of Appeals earlier this month. Tell us how that went and whether it differed from the first time around?
RUSSELL: So, yes, Aaron and Melissa Klein were grateful to the Supreme Court for giving them another bite at the apple, so we went back to the Oregon Court of Appeals January 9th and they heard arguments mostly focusing on the hostility of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. So, it did differ a little from the first time because the first time was about the merits—the merits being whether you can force religious clients to violate their religious beliefs by endorsing messages that, again, violate their religious beliefs. This time it was more about whether the state of Oregon violated Aaron and Melissa Klein’s right to neutrality and whether the government officials violated the requirement that they respect all religious beliefs and provide Aaron and Melissa Klein with an impartial adjudicator. So, the Oregon Court of Appeals asked a lot of questions about the differences between Aaron and Melissa Klein’s case and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and whether the same type of hostility was present. Of course we know it doesn’t have to be identical, it just has to be present. And we think the judges did a really good job of asking both sides some really difficult questions. We’re excited to see what happens next.
REICHARD: Now, the Supreme Court ordered the Oregon Court of Appeals to reconsider this case in light of the Masterpiece ruling. But that doesn’t mean an automatic win for the Kleins, does it?
RUSSELL: Right. It doesn’t. It just means that we get another chance to present our case before the Oregon Court of Appeals for them to examine whether the state of Oregon behaved with hostility towards Aaron and Melissa Klein, which we believe that they did. Some of the commissioners who were charged with investigating the case posted public comments prior to the investigation stating things about Aaron and Melissa Klein’s religious beliefs. We think that that shows that they win bias and they did not in fact consider Aaron and Melissa Klein’s case with neutrality the way they should and are required.
REICHARD: And as we know, in Masterpiece the court didn’t resolve the question whether Christian wedding vendors can be forced to participate in same-sex ceremonies. They didn’t really get to that. Do you think the Kleins’ case end up back at the Supreme Court and give us a definitive ruling on that issue?
RUSSELL: It’s definitely possible. If we don’t get a favorable ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals, we do intend to appeal again to the Supreme Court of the United States and we are hopeful that we can get an answer to this question. And we feel like the First Amendment is pretty clear about this that the government cannot force religious objectors to violate their religious beliefs and endorse messages that they don’t agree with. And we think it’s a decision that the Supreme Court really needs to come to and finally decide. I think the Jack Phillips’ case was so outrageous how Colorado treated him that the Supreme Court didn’t even have to get to that issue. They were able to decide it on basic premises of the First Amendment. That is, that the government must be neutral to religion.
REICHARD: I’m wondering just on the personal side of things. This has been a really long slog for the Kleins. How are they holding up?
RUSSELL: They’re troopers. The Kleins are willing to go the long haul. They think it’s important to have this precedent for America and for other religious Americans who might face these kinds of conflicts in the future. And, of course, it’s been a long time since 2013 at least since this has been going on, so I think they’re willing to keep going. But we’re glad that they’ve been courageous.
REICHARD: Keisha Russell is an attorney with First Liberty. Thanks so much for joining us today!
RUSSELL: Thank you.
NICK EICHER: Maybe something like this has happened to you before. You put an address into the GPS and expect it’ll get you where you want to go.
Well, some gamblers made a bad bet with their Waze app. They were looking for a particular casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Put the address in and just started driving.
But instead of neon lights, they wound up stuck in mud on unpaved roads. In the middle of nowhere. “Nowhere” being the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area—50 miles from Atlantic City.
Jackson Township police have been busy bailing out stranded drivers. They’ve contacted Waze about the issue, and the company is working to correct the problem.
On the bright side,
REICHARD: Always look at the bright side!
EICHER: …let’s look at it this way: they didn’t lose any money in the slot machines!
EICHER: Well, not that either.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Thursday, January 23rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.Coming next on The World and Everything in It: reclaiming property for God.
Now, before we go any further here, just as with yesterday, this is another story with some details that may not be right for younger ears. So you may want to hit pause if you are concerned about that and come back later.
EICHER: This story is set in Toledo, Ohio. Population over a quarter million, it’s the state’s fourth biggest city.
Toledo was once a manufacturing town. But the manufacturing slump over the last century is one the town is still struggling to overcome.
Now Toledo is in some ways is typical of the rest of the country in its cultural dichotomy: two state universities pull in one cultural direction, the surrounding rural community pulls in the other.
And we’re going to introduce you to a Christian businessman who’s trying to improve his hometown, one building at a time.
Here’s WORLD Radio’s Maria Baer.
CAPERNA: I believe the world should be a better place because we’re in it.
MARIA BAER, REPORTER: Al Caperna has been going to the same church for 46 years.
CAPERNA: What church is it? Bowling Green Covenant now.
Caperna met Jesus as a college student at nearby Bowling Green State University. He said he’s felt called to serve the Toledo community since his conversion in the 1970s.
CAPERNA: Toledo is influential, and I believe that God has a heart for that city and I want to be a part of Toledo’s story of fulfilling its purpose in God.
Caperna started a printing company in 1980. He taught himself about the industry and owns over a dozen patents related to printing holograms. CMC group is now international. As a result, Caperna has substantial financial resources to pour back into his community.
That’s why, a few years ago, he bought a former abortion center.
CAPERNA: When God creates a piece of land, He has a purpose for it…
To bridge the gap between printing holograms and buying an abortion facility, we have to meet Caperna’s close friend, Denise Emerine.
Emerine runs the Greater Toledo House of Prayer. It’s part of the larger charismatic house of prayer movement. They’re not churches, exactly, but along with other such ministries across the country, the Greater Toledo House of Prayer hosts worship and prayer meetings several times each week.
Emerine used to pray outside the Center for Choice Clinic, an abortion facility in a low-income area of Toledo. But it closed in 20-13 after announcing it was unable to comply with new state regulations. That’s when Emerine said God told her to buy the property. She appealed to Caperna for financial help, and he said yes.
CAPERNA: And I believe that God wanted to not only redeem that piece of land, but honor the 50,000, the 60,000 babies that were aborted on it.
They bought the property at auction, and now it has a new name. Hope Park.
AUDIO: [SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS IN GRAVEL]
The first thing Caperna and his team did was tear down the old building. Today, the small lot is paved with stone pebbles. A dogwood tree stands in the middle. Caperna, along with designers and builders, crafted a rudimentary memorial — a horizontal triangle of narrow wooden beams that stands about 10 feet high. Each side features a word carved into the wood: faith, hope and love. In the middle of the open-air structure is what looks like a giant cube of concrete.
When Caperna and company took possession of the old building, they found patient files and an old refrigerator in the basement. They put the files in the refrigerator and filled it with concrete. Now, it memorializes its victims.
CAPERNA: About two days before we had the dedication, I was waking up in the middle of the night, like a 5 year old kid, waiting for Christmas. And I felt the Lord say well there’s 50,000, 50 to 60,000 babies excited that they’re going to be memorialized and remembered…
Caperna’s purchase of the old abortion center property went relatively unnoticed. That was not the case when he set out to buy another property nearby.
NEWS CLIP: After 30 years in Toledo, Bretz Nightclub, a popular gay, bar closed its doors back on December 21st. And the new owners are getting… quite a bit of attention.
In late 2017, Caperna and Emerine were looking for a permanent building for the Greater Toledo House of Prayer. The owner of Bretz Nightclub had recently listed her property for sale. The building was just a block or so away from Hope Park, so when Caperna and Emerine saw the listing, they jumped at the chance. That’s when they learned what was inside.
CAPERNA: It was a safe place for bad things in Toledo, before. And now it’s not.
Local lore holds that Bretz Nightclub was the oldest gay bar in Ohio. Before Caperna and Emerine put in their offer, Emerine toured the building. She was horrified.
The club was covered in black paint, from floor to ceiling.
EMERINE: The biggest room to the far left, the first room on the left, that room had mattresses and things in it…
Another was filled with costumes and makeup for the club’s drag queen shows. They found drug paraphernalia in another room.
EMERINE: I think the hardest part for me, it wasn’t that I was angry, for me I was just burning with grief…
It was after Caperna bought the property—again, with his own personal finances—that the Greater Toledo House of Prayer announced it was moving in. Local LGBT activists erupted. Toledo’s daily paper ran a story with the headline: “Bretz Nightclub Purchased by Anti-LGBT group.”
CAPERNA: We had a number of threats.. against the house of prayer and what was going on there. It was kind of gross what people said.
Nevertheless, Caperna and Emerine persisted.
CAPERNA: God wanted – He wanted that piece of land back. He said that’s my land, my country, my world, and I want that one back.
The House of Prayer is open to the community now. Emerine organizes times of worship with musicians and prayer leaders on the building’s second floor, where comfortable chairs, instruments and prayer flags fill the space. She also hosts a weekly prayer meeting at Hope Park.
On one bitterly cold night in early January, a small group of women gathered there, teeth chattering, to worship. They prayed for an end to abortion. They prayed for the city.
AUDIO: (SINGING) NEW IN THIS PLACE
When the center at what’s now Hope Park was up for auction, Caperna bid exactly $61,000 for the property. It was an acknowledgment, he said, of Isaiah 61: “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
For WORLD Radio, I’m Maria Baer, reporting from Toledo, Ohio.
NICK EICHER: Next up on The World and Everything in It: a preview of this week’s Listening In.
Jordan Raynor is an author who is passionate about your calling in life. He says many Christians don’t consider the spiritual value of a calling, because day-to-day life just gets in the way.
MARY REICHARD: Raynor speaks of how Jesus sets the priorities for us. Let’s listen to this excerpt of his recent conversation with Warren Smith.
WARREN SMITH: You begin also with a story about Mary and Martha. Why did you want to begin with that story? How does that story, which of course is very familiar to many Christians who you know know their Scripture even a little bit will probably have heard that story. Why was that story so important to you in this context?
JORDAN RAYNOR: The story you’re referencing is Jesus coming to the home of Mary and Martha, and Martha is busy doing many different things. And Mary’s sitting doing one thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
And Jesus, as we all know, reprimands Martha and tells Mary, few things are needed, indeed only one, right? Which I love this verse and I think it’s representative of a deeper principle that Jesus held dear, right?
Jesus said “no” constantly throughout the gospels, right? Jesus was crystal clear on what his purpose was during his lifetime, right? Jesus came to preach the gospel in word and in deed. And so once he got really clear on that one thing, it led him to constantly say no to really good things in order to focus on the essential work the Father gave him to do.
And if Jesus can’t say yes to everything, neither can we. Right? If we’re going to do our most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others, we like Jesus have got to get in the habit of saying no. And I think this is part of the context of what he was saying to Mary and Martha in that famous passage of Scripture.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: A teenager in Kentucky is expelled from Christian school for having a rainbow cake. Well, maybe there’s a bit more to the story. We’ll talk about it on Culture Friday.
And, Megan Basham reviews a new show for kids that promotes surprisingly traditional values.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.
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