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Celebrating endurance

A big prize for a doctor who lived through Ebola, and honor for a genocide survivor

Celebrating endurance

Sacra at his home in Holden, Mass. (Elise Amendola/AP)

A New York moment:

Dr. Rick Sacra, one of the American missionary doctors who contracted Ebola in 2014, is back serving in Liberia. But he was in New York this month to collect a $500,000 L’Chaim prize for his remarkable work, money that will go to expand the work of the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, a ministry of the missions organization SIM. Several Liberians based in the United States came to the prize dinner too—the Liberian community in Worcester, Mass., recently raised money for the first residency program at ELWA. 

The likelihood of dying from Ebola, as Sacra put it in New York, was “more than 50 percent.” When he had just recovered from Ebola in 2014, I interviewed him at his U.S. home in Massachusetts, and he was impatient with all the questions about his own health. “Are we going to talk about Africa?” he asked. Sacra, his wife Debbie, and their three sons lived in Liberia through the country’s brutal civil war, so Ebola wasn’t their first brush with difficulty. 

It’s nice to see these folks get some recognition for their decades of work, even if Sacra doesn’t love the spotlight.

This week I learned: 

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities named Jacob Atem its young alumni of the year. Atem was a “Lost Boy” who escaped genocide in Sudan and won refugee status in the United States. He completed his undergraduate degree at Spring Arbor University, and has since gathered degrees in public health. 

He’s now a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health. He founded the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization and opened a clinic in his hometown. WORLD reprinted a story about Atem back in 2015. Atem is my age, but he says, “Every day is my birthday.”

Worth your time:  

If you’ve not yet heard about “The Nerdwriter” (aka Evan Puschak), now is the time. Puschak posts fantastic video essays analyzing films and other pop culture on YouTube, and has garnered nearly 2.5 million subscribers. And while Christmastime is past, it’s never a bad time to watch his commentary on It’s a Wonderful Life, a commentary I found incredibly moving. For example, I had never heard someone contrast Mr. Potter with Mary Bailey rather than George.

A court case you might not know about: 

While reading old Supreme Court rulings for an article I was working on, I came across Goesaert v. Cleary. The 1948 case challenged Michigan’s ban on female bartenders, a law that included an exception for the wife or daughter of the bar owner. The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban, concluding that the state was trying to prevent “moral and social problems” and that “ownership of a bar by a barmaid’s husband or father minimizes hazards that may confront a barmaid.” Michigan wasn’t the only state with such a law. California had a ban on female bartenders until 1971, when the California Supreme Court tossed it. 

Culture I am consuming: 

Silas Marner by George Eliot.

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org