When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Morgan Lee, CT’s global media manager, asked herself,
“How can we launch a new podcast from CT, speak into what’s happening, and hear from people around the world?”
Lee’s Prayer Amid Pandemic podcast went from a glimmer in her eye to recently winning a first-place award for the episode, “Even Fellow Believers Didn’t Understand Her Love for AIDS Patients” from the Evangelical Press Association (EPA) in the inaugural year of the podcast category.
“Being open about your Christianity is a massive hurdle for so many Christians, even those who serve as His hands and feet,” said an EPA judge. “To hear that people see Christ through her is huge.”
Lee, Matt Linder, a freelance podcast producer at CT, Mike Cosper, director of CT podcasts, and Erik Petrik, chief creative officer at CT were all credited with a first-place Higher Goal Award from the EPA in the podcast category.
The EPA judges rate podcasts on a set of criteria including originality of treatment, effective topic development, cultural relevance, clarity of thought, and production quality.
Lee’s search for stories of people facing sickness led her to Philomena Percival, a woman who has cared for hundreds of AIDS patients in Guyana in the last 25 years.
At the beginning of the AIDS crisis, few people wanted to visit HIV patients in the hospital because they were afraid of getting infected, Percival explained. It all stemmed from fear, even fears that weren’t grounded in how the sickness spreads.
“You don’t have to be a medical person to share God’s love with a sick person. Most people with AIDS got infected because they were looking for love,” Percival says on the episode.
Lee is a veteran podcaster; she hosts and produces CT’s longest running show, Quick to Listen, a news podcast that comes out each Friday. In 2019, she attended several Christian global meetings in South Africa and Indonesia which partially inspired her to launch the Prayer Amid Pandemic podcast, telling stories of Christians from around the world doing beautiful things for the kingdom of God.
“As Morgan helped us see the heart of Philomena Percival, it inspired the listener to consider how they might better love the sick and suffering near and far to them,” Cosper said. “Ira Glass often says that stories are a vehicle for empathy. I think this episode illustrates that beautifully.”
Prayer Amid Pandemic released 16 episodes over three months in 2020. Many of the podcasts’ subjects are recognized as saints by the Church today, including Julian of Norwich, Cyprian of Carthage, Catherine of Siena, Gregory of Nyssa, and Perpetua—all who faced sickness and their faith was strengthened by it.
“I love learning about a new saint in a relatable manner. The show is concise, engaging, and inspiring in short enough lengths that it doesn’t overwhelm our digitally overloaded days,” one of those listeners shared. “It can be listened to worldwide across religious sects.”
As Lee started her research in preparation for the podcast, she knew she needed to find people to profile. She turned to Daniel Silliman, CT news editor with a PhD in history, for suggestions.
One of his suggestions led to the episode, “They Named a Pandemic After This Church Leader,” telling the story of Cyprian of Carthage who became a bishop shortly after his conversion to Christianity.
“He refused to flee from a plague—and they ended up naming it after him,” Silliman said.
Lee also wanted a global and current feel from the podcast, sharing, “I met all of these folks from around the world and invited them to join us by praying a prayer in English for COVID-19 in their countries.”
Constantin V. Lysakov, pastor of Moscow Bible Church, offered one of those prayers:
“Lord, I pray right now that you would send your shalom to the city of Moscow in the midst of very trying times—that you would teach us by the power of your Holy Spirit to take care of one another.”
Men and women from sixteen countries all prayed on the podcast, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, England, Finland, Germany, Guyana, Nepal, Nigeria, Uruguay, Japan, Russia, Singapore, Spain, and South Sudan.
Part of the podcast also includes news segments from around the world, a part that Lee admits was more challenging as she scoured for Christian COVID news happening outside of the US.
“One thing you can learn from history is we’ve been here before. This is not something new. That thing can be a hardship, a pandemic, or a divide in a country,” Lee said.
Kelsey Bowse is a UX Strategist at Christianity Today. Follow Kelsey on Twitter @ kelseybowse