Promoting unity among Arab, Jewish and Western Christians

We’re living in a time of division, hate, ignorance and untruth.  No group is unaffected, including the Christian church where there are more denominations than you can shake a stick at, and numerous divisions within each of these groups.  Tonight, we’ll be focusing on relations between Jewish, Arab and Western Christians.  We’re joined by Eric Teitelman, a Messianic Jew, and Jed Robyn, a Gentile Christian who will talk about how they’re working together to promote unity among these groups as well as a recent gathering of Christians they attended in Israel.

Styrofoam Mom and the #holdthefoam movement

A few weeks ago, Mariam Gennari and I (Ed) were chatting outside the entrance to WERA’s building while a lone Styrofoam cup swirled around in a gentle breeze on the ground next to us. It was a symbolic moment. Mariam, also known as Styrofoam Mom, has been on a crusade to address the staggering problem of Styrofoam waste. She’s the Executive Producer of the 2018 documentary Styrofoam Mom – The Movie, the host of the Sustainable Scoop on AIM’s Arlington Weekly News, and a determined environmental activist. Mariam joins us to talk about how she became Styrofoam Mom, the problems our excessive use of Styrofoam present, and what regular folks can do to address the issue.

A counterintuitive approach to work

Back in 2007, Ryan Haley was an overachiever and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy who was living the good life in beautiful San Diego, California. That all changed following a helicopter crash on July 31st that year, about a month before he was scheduled for his first deployment. Following the accident, Ryan began to reconsider his views of success and how we earn it as well as the faith he had largely walked away from and misunderstood. Ryan joins us to talk about the lessons he has learned over the past ten years, and to discuss his podcast and upcoming book – both aptly named A Better Way.

Responding to the rise of the "nones"

We’re hearing a lot these days about the rise of the “nones,” i.e., people who check “none” on survey questions about their religious affiliation.  The “nones” are particularly prevalent among young people, with 36% of Millennials identifying as such.  Should we care about this phenomenon or just let “you do you”? 

Tonight, we’re joined by Dr. Matt Nelson, the Assistant Director of the Word on Fire Institute, an organization formed by Bishop Robert Barron to respond to the rise of the “nones” in our culture. Matt is a Doctor of Chiropractic who lives and works in Canada with his family and the author of the book Just Whatever: How to Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs That Really Matter. Matt joins us to talk about the spiritual indifference that is increasingly prevalent in society as well as the importance of what we believe, who and what we worship, and the source of truth and authority.

One couple's experience treating pancreatic cancer

In July 2016, Diane Melick discovered she had a mass in her pancreas that was later diagnosed as pancreatic cancer.  This kicked off a 21-month journey where she and her ex-husband, Ed, considered various treatments from conventional medicine, alternative care, and the realm of supernatural healing.  Ed joins us to talk about some of their experiences and share some advice for people facing a similar diagnosis. 

The death of a daughter drives home the reality and power of the Gospel

Back in 2008, tonight’s guest pulled up to his house after a day at work and was greeted by his 10-year-old daughter, Irene, who asked if she could go swimming at a friend’s house.  Two hours later, Irene was pronounced dead at a local hospital.  Later that evening, he called his mother in Africa and told her what had happened, and her reaction was something few people could imagine. 

Tonight, we’re talking to Cyrus Mad-Bondo, the Executive Pastor of Global Impact at McLean Bible Church, and Irene’s dad.  Cyrus joins us to talk about what he learned from his daughter’s death as well as from his work around the world in challenging environments. 

Insights from a data analysis of healing in the Bible

Are you or someone you know fighting a life-threatening illness?  Have you been looking for answers that go beyond conventional medicine?  Has someone’s illness driven you more deeply into your faith or even caused you to question your faith?  Have you wondered, What does the Bible really say about healing, health and wellness?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’ll find tonight’s program of particular interest.  Sal D’Itri will be interviewing his Grace in 30 co-cost, Ed Melick, about his journey walking alongside his ex-wife as she battled pancreatic cancer.  They talk about a number of interesting things Ed learned including the results of a deep-dive data analysis of healing in the Bible that he performed. 

Divorce, cancer, grace and healing

In April 2008, Ed Melick’s wife, Diane, told him she wanted a divorce following 22.5 years of marriage.  What happened three weeks later gave him a glimpse into the realness, power, practicality, and beauty of God’s grace, and became the biggest turning point of his life.  Ed joins us to talk about the restoration of his relationship with Diane over ten years and his journey alongside her as she battled pancreatic cancer. 

A Messianic Jew and a Christian team up to promote unity in the church

America is divided on many fronts – racially, politically, socioeconomically…  There is a lot of pain, hate, anger, and polarization in our country.  We have heard many times on Grace in 30 about the importance of proximity and listening to tearing down the walls that separate us.  Tonight, we’re joined by two very different men – a Jewish man who grew up the son of hippies and went on to work as a civil servant, and a Christian man who grew up as a military brat and went on to work in education and the food service industry.  They have joined forces to provide an example of how to eliminate the barriers that separate us, starting with the age-old barrier between Jew and Gentile.  Eric Teitelman and Jed Robyn talk about the importance of intentionally bringing people of differing beliefs together and encouraging them to empathize with and love one another. 

Challenging underserved youths to dream big at the Southeast DC Dream Center

Back in 1996, two men launched a mentoring program in an underserved Southeast DC neighborhood where far too many youths grow up without appropriate role models.  Twenty years later, the Dream Center opened a new facility just behind its original home in the Southeast White House with the goal of encouraging local children and adults to dream big while receiving a range of services designed to help them honor their God-given potential.

Today we’re joined by Ernest Clover, the Director of both the Dream Center and Southeast White House.  Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ernest began volunteering at the Southeast White House in 2007 while serving as an intern on Capitol Hill.  His experience left such an impression on him that he decided to return as a mentor after completing his master’s degree seven years ago, and he has been there ever since.  Ernest joins us to talk about the Dream Center’s approach of letting the community inform what services they provide, and the new facility they opened in 2016.   

A story of extreme middle school bullying gives hope to other victims

My guess is that most of our listeners have heard about the sexual assault case involving junior varsity football players at Damascus Senior High – an assault that one prosecutor described as “astonishingly cruel.”  While it’s easy to dismiss such occurrences as extreme and rare, it does beg the question, is this evidence of a much broader culture of abuse and bullying in our schools? 

Tonight’s guest is here to answer that question.  Just a few years ago, Knott Kavanaugh was the target of never-ending abuse at the hands of fellow students at a Fairfax County middle school.  The bullying got so bad, and the teacher apathy so persistent, that he attempted suicide at age 13.  After Knott’s mom pulled him out of the school and became a home schooler, Knott wrote a book about his experiences as part of a class assignment.  When he saw the affect his story had on other bullied children and their unaware parents, he knew he could make a difference by sharing it with people – and he’s here to do that tonight.  We’re also joined by Knott’s mom who will give us a parent’s perspective on bullying. 

Surfing North Korea, and other stories from inside the DPRK

Tonight’s guest, Gabe Segoine, was born in Maui and grew up in California.  At age 19, he moved back to Maui to live what he calls the dream surfer life, but he realized after six years that he was miserable.  Following a series of life-changing events, Gabe found himself in North Korea where he was working to bring clean water, heating coal, medicine, and other necessities to its people.  When he saw some waves he asked about surfing and the rest, as they say, is history.  Gabe has been to North Korea 18 times since that original trip and founded Love North Korea Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to helping the people of North Korea improve their lives – and surf!  He recently published a book about his experiences entitled, Surfing North Korea: And Other Stories from Inside.  Gabe joins us to talk about the love he’s developed for the people of North Korea, the challenges Westerners face working in their country, and misconceptions about North Koreans, their government, and its relationship with the West. 

The radical prison transformation of a violent white supremacist

Russ Kloskin grew up in a family marked by violence, drug use, and poverty.  At age seven his mom got him high on marijuana, and at age 11 she took him with her to perform a burglary.  At age 12 he was arrested for the first time, and at age 15 he was arrested for armed robbery and tried and convicted as an adult.  Russ would spend 27 of the next 35 years in prison where he became a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, one of the most violent white supremacist prison gangs in the U.S., briefly rising to the level of President during the late 90s.  During a 7-year stint in solitary confinement, Russ began to see the anger and rage that had come to fill his heart and radically changed his life.  He joins us to talk about his experiences and the work he is now doing to help prisoners successfully re-integrate with society when they are released.

Welcoming hungry, exhausted, and distressed refugees along our Southern border

A caravan is headed to our Southern border, and it’s filled with criminals and terrorists bent on invading our country.  At least that’s what the highest level of our government is telling us.  But is that the real story?  Tonight, we’ll get a report from the front lines of the immigrant surge that started four years ago.  We’re joined by Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Texas who helped organize their response to the 2014 surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.  Sister Pimentel is a 2018 Hispanic Heritage Award recipient, an award established by the Reagan administration, and the 2018 recipient of the Laetare Medal at Notre Dame University’s commencement ceremony honoring her work with migrants and refugees, the highest and oldest award given to a U.S. Catholic each year.  Sister Pimentel joins us to talk about her experiences working with refugees and seeing God himself in them.

Navigating the false choices in today’s highly partisan environment

Tonight’s guest is well-versed in the false dichotomies between the political right and left – the lie that we must choose one side at the expense of the other when addressing issues like the rights of the unborn and the rights of women, domestic job security and immigration, and systematic racism and supporting our servicemen.  He points out that Christians have allowed themselves to be divided by the ideologies of men instead of uniting under the banner of being made in the image of God.

Moses Lee is an ordained minister who works as the Director of OneU DC, the college ministry of Redeemer Church of Arlington, focused on serving the students at American University.  Moses joins us to talk about the origin of these false choices, what we can do to take away their power, and what he has learned working to serve and share the gospel with college students. 

A father’s love for his disabled son sparks the creation of a world class retirement investment business

About 19 years ago, Mitch Tuchman was sitting in a McDonalds when he saw a school bus unloading a group of severely disabled teenagers.  The sight and proximity of the teens rattled him, and he wept.  Two years before, he and his wife had given birth to a disabled boy named Jack and the teens provided a glimpse into their future.  Mitch joins us to talk about the many lessons he has since learned from Jack, and the company that grew out of his motivation to ensure that Jack would never become a financial burden to his siblings or others.

A Messianic Jew works to tear down boundaries between Christian denominations

Tonight’s guest, Eric Teitelman, grew up in a Jewish family in the 1960s and 70s.  His parents were hippies who lived in places like Berkeley, California and Bat Yam, Israel, and they were no strangers to communes, nudist colonies, and kibbutzes.  He also watched his parents struggle through issues like mental illness, unfaithfulness, and abandonment.  Through all of the craziness, though, Eric had a vision of God as a loving father, and that knowledge made him determined to live a different kind of life than his parents.  Thirty-plus years later, Eric is a happily married family man who works as an Engineering Chief in the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.  He also volunteers his time with various local ministries including OneHeartDC, a group working to tear down the barriers that separate DC Metro area churches.  He joins us to talk about his experiences growing up, how he was able to avoid the mistakes his parents made, and OneHeartDC’s upcoming Washington Prayer Gathering on the National Mall on Saturday, September 22nd. 

An eco-warrior works at the intersection of law enforcement and conservationism

Between 2009 and 2016, nearly 600 park rangers were killed in the line of duty in Africa by men poaching elephant tusks and rhino horns.  In Namibia, where poaching was seen as the only way some families could stay fed, the government instituted a program in the 1980s where they began to convert poachers into “game guards.”  It was a novel idea, and as the program matured the government began forming community conservancies where communities were given the rights to the animals on their land in exchange for agreeing to look after them.  Today the program is seen as a huge success with the populations of cheetahs, black rhinos, and elephants all increasing dramatically.   

This is the sort of project that today’s guest, crime-fighting conservationist Jessica Graham, works on.  Jessica spent the past ten years working first at the US State Department where she created an environmental crime program; and most recently at INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organization.  Jessica recently returned to the U.S. from France to start a consulting business focused on environmental and international security issues.  She joins us to talk about the intersection of conservation and law enforcement work, and to share insights she has gained traveling to over 40 countries. 

Creating a culture of grace

All of us have our fair share of challenges at work, including working with people we don’t get along with and perhaps don’t like.  What would you do if you found out that one of your coworkers was actively trying to get you fired?  Would you mount a counter campaign and maybe even try to get them fired?  Or would you take the high road and ignore them, letting your work speak for itself?  Is there another option?  What would you say to the idea of actively trying to make that person’s day better every day without regard to how they react – perhaps even working to get them promoted?  Does this sound ridiculous?

Today we’re joined by John McGowan, the Lead Pastor at Restoration City Church in Arlington – a four-year-old church that meets in Gunston Middle School.  John joins us to talk about the prevalence of un-grace, the importance of countering it, and what grace looks like in its most powerful form. 

Helping ex-offenders stay out of prison and succeed

The U.S. prison system is broken and badly in need of reform.  One case in point is the recidivism rate – the percentage of prisoners who return to the prison population after their release.  Despite the fact that one of the primary goals of the system is rehabilitation, one study showed that over half of the people released from prison returned within one year; two-thirds returned after three years; and three-quarters returned within five years. 

Today we’re talking to Rickey Brown, the Founder and CEO of Transitional Associates, a non-profit he established in 2014 to provide services to men, women and juveniles entering and exiting the prison system.  Rickey joins us to talk about his passion for prison reform, what he has learned working both inside and outside of the system, and his perspective on why things are broken – and how he’s working to improve them.