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Biblical principles in secular media

Amy Writing Awards | The Amy Foundation and WORLD News Group award $34,000 to 15 writers in the Amy Writing Awards

Articles about missionary doctors in Zambia, a restaurant for the poor in North Carolina, a widower bonding with a stepson in Mississippi, a woman undergoing chemotherapy in Maine, and a prison ministry in South Carolina are the major winners of the Amy Writing Awards for articles published in 2013. WORLD will republish those five winning articles along with two Outstanding Merit winners online starting tomorrow.

The Amy Writing Awards are designed to recognize both full-time and citizen journalists who report and write real-life stories that show biblical principles. Articles need to be published in secular journalistic outlets, with feature articles that include original reporting receiving preference. This is the 29th time the Amy Foundation, founded in 1976 by Jim and Phyllis Russell and named after their daughter, is presenting the awards. It is the first time WORLD News Group has administered the story acquisition and judging process.

The first prize award of $10,000 goes to Carolyn Kimmel, a freelance writer who traveled to the Macha Mission Hospital in southern Zambia to write about what Christian doctors do there. Kimmel began her story by showing Dr. John Spurrier using a paper clip to pull a peanut from a child’s nose. Later, she summarizes Spurrier’s satisfaction after 12 hours and 22 surgical procedures: “If he hadn’t set that arm, amputated that leg, drained that cyst, resected that bowel, these people may have died.”

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Kimmel described limitations of life in the bush: If Spurrier “was lucky, he could end the day with a hot shower—if the water came on and the electricity didn’t go off.” But the story ends with the joy of seeing “a 1-year-old go from almost dead with malnutrition and tuberculosis to a smiling, healthy child within a year.”

The second prize award of $5,000 goes to Jeff Chu, editor at large at Fast Company magazine, for his story about King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, N.C., which displays a large poster, “WANTED: FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD: Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, pimps, all sick people, gangbangers, gamblers, strippers, AIDS victims, homosexuals, blind, confused, shoplifters, depressed, suicidal people. …”

Chu showed how Jim Noble, a successful Charlotte chef, has made his restaurant a haven where homeless individuals come for Bible study and a hot meal on Wednesdays and church on Sundays. Chu noted that Noble still prepares “fried chicken so perfectly cooked that, on my visit, the battered skin nearly shatters,” and “biscuits, tender and flaky at heart but unusually crisped on the outside … heart-stoppingly topped by shards of crisp bacon.”

Third, fourth, and fifth place awards go to (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger columnist Billy Watkins, retired clinical hematologist/oncologist Delvyn Case, and (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier writer Jennifer Berry Hawes.

Hawes’ story about life within a Christian prison program ended with a scene in which “inmates open cards made by local children. Bittersweet tears of thankfulness and anger flow—for the inmates’ own childhoods lost to drugs and violence and for their children, now growing up without them. … With Saturday evening comes the traditional Burning of Memories ceremony. Inmates jot down the worst of their sins on paper and ask for forgiveness. One man stands before his fellow inmates and tells how by killing another man, he wrecked the lives of the man’s four children. He wrecked his own life. And he wrecked the lives of his own children. … Rev. James Cuttino says, ‘That’s where the grace of God comes in.’”

This year’s Amy judges included two WORLD magazine editors, two Amy Foundation representatives, and two outside evaluators. They asked questions, including: Does the story show strong evidence of on-the-ground reporting so the writer is not relying on organizational spokesmen, publicity releases, or information recycled from others? Does the story have sensory detail so readers feel they can see, hear, smell, or touch scenes, subjects, and objects?

Ten other Outstanding Merit awards go to Rusty Wright, Charles D. Perry, John S. Dickerson, Christina Ryan Claypool, Kira Nelson, Janet Galyen, Paul Kengor, Doris Mataya, Mark Hendrickson, and Henry G. Britton. Judging was blind, with judges not knowing the names of the articles’ writers. Size of the publication did not matter: This year’s award winners appeared in publications ranging from The Dillsburg Banner and the Snoqualmie Valley Record to Forbes and CNN.com.

Writers wishing to submit articles published in 2014 for next year’s awards can find out more information by going to the Amy Writing Awards section of WORLD’s website. 

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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