Editor’s Choice – Best features of 2020

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, December 29th. We’re so glad you’ve joined us today for The World and Everything in It. 

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

A hearty word of thanks. We have reached our December Giving Drive goal! 

Our most ambitious yet, and you continue to shower generosity on our work here. 

We still have a few days to go, so let’s see how far we can take it. 

Every additional dollar goes to additional WORLD reporting … as we’ve heard so frequently from you, that’s what you want.

EICHER: It’s a consistent message, “just do more.” 

REICHARD: But I just had to take a minute to say thanks for what you’ve done. What an encouragement.

This week, we’re going to take a couple opportunities to think again about some of the most memorable stories of the year. On New Year’s Eve, we’ll look back at the most significant news events and play excerpts of some of our coverage.

EICHER: Today, Executive Producer Paul Butler highlights our top five feature stories of 2020. These picks are based on your downloads and positive feedback. We’ll post links to each of the complete stories in today’s transcript.

Our first story may not be suitable for younger listeners. So if you have children around, this is the time to pause the program and come back a little later. The subject is the abortion issue and, while important, some of the details may not be appropriate for your younger ones.

Here now is Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER: The best feature stories include memorable people that make news personal. A year ago, Congress was debating the born alive infant protection act. Many politicians argued that there wasn’t a compelling reason for the proposed bill. Lora Geer disagreed. Les Sillars reported on her story in January

In 1998 Geer was a seminary student doing a chaplain residency at the University of North Carolina Medical Center at Chapel Hill. 

One night she awoke to a phone alert from the hospital. When she arrived at the maternity ward, she was ushered into a utility closet. 

LORA: [And I] walked in and there was a baby that was laying naked on the counter…

LES SILLARS: A mortuary tag said his name was Brian. Brian looked to her like a postcard baby, far beyond 20 and a half weeks’ gestation. Abortion was supposed to be illegal after that point in North Carolina. She picked him up.

LORA: Then one of the nurses, she said, this baby’s survived an abortion and she turned around and left and I was by myself. I rocked him and I sang to him like I would want his mother to do. That was one of the hardest things to be honest to turn around and leave that child there. 

BUTLER: Next, an anniversary that led to one of our most listened to stories of the year. In summer 2017, Cory Godbolt killed eight people in rural Lincoln County, Mississippi. Kim Henderson spoke to members of the victims’ families, and a reporter who closely followed the story. 

KIM HENDERSON: The American justice system attempts to set things right with penalties, and that’s fitting and proper. But Christian hearts long for the “something more” of Biblical justice: the “making victims whole again” dimension. 

Myrtis May gets that. She lost her daughter and son-in-law in Godbolt’s rampage three years ago, but trusting in God keeps her hopeful. She believes He is at work.

MAY: The community as a whole may not see it, but I see a bigger picture…

And Apel, still pumping out daily news reports, admits this story and its people changed her life.  

APEL: I don’t want them to ever be forgotten. Because, I mean, even I refer to it as the Cory Godbolt case, but it’s not. It’s William Durr. It’s Barbara Mitchell, Brenda May, Tocarra May, Austin Edwards, Jordan Blackwell, Sheila and Ferral Burage…

BUTLER: Kim Henderson produced this story as a four part serial for the program, and a stand alone special episode. Another serial story we produced this year took you to the California town of Paradise—two years after the costliest wildfire in U.S. history. 

WORLD reporter Sarah Schweinsberg travelled to the region and produced a three-part serial and 38-minute special episode. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG: Down in Chico, authorities closed any uphill traffic. That meant panicked Paradise residents couldn’t rush back up to their houses to save pets or grab things from their houses. 

But it also meant cars leaving Paradise could drive in all four lanes of the Skyway Highway, moving traffic faster. As the Harps started down the Skyway, flames licked their vehicles. Trees and houses on either side of the road burned. They were driving through a tunnel of fire.

DONNIE HARP: When we started heading down, that uphill lane… the flames were blowing, and getting real close to the truck. It was so hot. That was the first moment that we got to see the flames and people’s houses burning, literally everything else was just black.

That’s when Donnie had a stark realization.

DONNIE HARP: The whole trip, I was looking at my mirror, is my wife behind me is my wife behind me, you know, headlights. And all of a sudden the Lord revealed to me right there, that if Tanya stop, I couldn’t. And realizing that I had three of our six kids with me. If she stopped, I had to keep going. And that was the most humbling moment of my life. That’s when God really, really clarified how little control we have.

BUTLER: Every month, all of our feature reporters gather for a Zoom meeting. One of the things we do each time is review one story. We walk through the whole production process and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the story.

One of our reporter’s favorite features of the year was a beautiful profile written by Myrna Brown. She introduced us to home cook Robin Dill who makes pies with dementia patients. 

ROBIN DILL: Ok, you crank. Perfect. Keep going. Look at you.

DENISE: I love it!

ROBIN DILL: Isn’t that cool?


MYRNA BROWN: Rod, burly and at times impatient, mixes the apples and the spices.

ROD: Can I go ahead and put my top on?

ROBIN DILL: Not yet. We’ve got to have apples in there. He’s so funny.

ROBIN DILL: Even people whose brains are failing them, they still want to be purposeful.

Denise, Rod and Steve will get to share the fruits of their labor with their caregivers, another benefit of apple pie making.

ROBIN HILL: My tummy says it’s happy, what does your tummy say?



BUTLER: And finally, during 2020, there were of course many COVID related stories. One of our most inspirational profiles was of 83-year old Atlanta bus driver Tommy Bates. During the city’s stay-at-home orders, he continued to drive his bus route—not to pick kids up, but rather, to deliver school lunches to the students.

Bonnie Pritchett told his story.

BATES: Good morning Alexis! 

BONNIE PRITCHETT: Bates is aware of his potential influence on the students. He’s the first person associated with the schools the students encounter each day. And now, during the global pandemic, he and his partners may be the only ones. 

BATES: I’ve got a ready smile and I’m a happy guy. And I’m an up guy. And they see that. And that’s just naturally who the Lord has made me. And the way I see my relationship with them, the hope that I see, is kinda like, kinda like a ripple on a lake. You know. You throw a rock in the lake and it creates ripples and the ripples go and go and go and go. You just don’t have any idea what influence you’re having. I hope it’s good.


Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

BUTLER: And I’m Paul Butler.

One more thing, since 2018 I’ve been the features editor for WORLD Radio—meaning I get to work everyday with our full-time and freelance reporters as they put together stories like these you’ve just heard. Every one of them started as just an idea, and together we worked through how to develop them into memorable and inspirational stories. 

As we approach the end of our December giving drive, I’d like to thank you for your faithful support of biblically sound journalism. Your gifts make these stories possible. Whether traveling to Paradise, California, Duluth, Georgia, or Lincoln County, Mississippi. 

This is WORLD’s December Giving Drive. Every gift serves only to strengthen this work and make more of it possible. Please visit WNG.org/donate and help secure the future for sound journalism … grounded in God’s word. WNG.org/donate.

Runners up:

  1. Vivian Jones — Finding a New Love for Mountain Music (Sep. 2)
  2. Michelle Schlavin — A One Woman Wax Factory (Jan. 21)
  3. Jenny Rough — A Footpath Education (Oct. 27)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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