Century Marks

Century Marks

Payback

In 1945, when he was eight years old and living with his family in a refugee camp in Germany, Gunter Nitsch received a CARE package from the United States. Last month Nitsch wrote a letter to an eight-year-old Syrian boy named Zaher living as a refugee in Jordan. “Seventy years ago, when I was eight years old like you, I was also a refugee,” Nitsch wrote. “I’m writing to share my story with you to let you know that, no matter how bad things may seem, there are good people in this world who can make everything better.” Nitsch wrote a book about his childhood, Weeds Like Us, which he dedicated to the Pennsylvania Menno­nite family who had sent his family multiple CARE packages (Chicago Tribune, March 9).

Offering app

Instead of putting money or checks in the offering plate, at some churches people pull out their smart phones and make an offering through apps like Tithe.ly, Pushpay, and EasyTithe. Church members can also set up automatic recurring payments. With Tithe.ly it takes fewer than five taps to complete a transaction. Using built-in geolocation capabilities, donors can give at any of the 1,000 or so congregations that subscribe to the service. The amount of giving increases and more people give at congregations that subscribe to these services (Bloomberg Businessweek, March 8).

Absolution

Bob Ebeling was one of the engineers on the 1986 Challenger space mission which exploded minutes after liftoff. He has carried a load of guilt ever since, though he and other engineers discouraged the launch, saying the weather was too cold. After his story was shared on National Public Radio on the 30th anniversary of the catastrophe, he received an outpouring of letters and e-mails telling him he had done all he could to stop the launch. His burden didn’t ease until he heard from a NASA representative who absolved him of guilt (NPR, February 25).

New platform

Mike McCurry has gone from being President Clinton’s chief spokesman to serving as a teacher of religion and politics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.—the school he graduated from last year. Raised in the United Church of Christ and now a United Methodist, McCurry wondered what he could do to help the common good after his rough-and-tumble years in the White House. While he has had an advisory role for some liberal candidates and religious advocacy groups, he believes religion should primarily affect the tone of politics, especially in treating others with respect (Washington Post, February 22).

Welcome mat

Two Italian organizations, one Catholic and one Protes­tant, are working cooperatively to bring 1,000 refugees from Lebanon and Mo­roc­co to Europe. Their aim is to help refugees avoid the often deadly voyage by sea and to undermine the human trafficking business. These organizations are covering the entire tab, including travel expenses, refugees’ visas, and resettlement and legal aid expenses. The program is looking for the most vulnerable refugees: mothers alone with children, the elderly, and the sick. The ecumenical venture is being presented to the European Union as a model for other countries (NPR, February 15).