Immigrating to America, Take 2 (Season 2 final episode)

World to the Wise Podcast

You may remember hearing in the news about a family from the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq, who were on their way to make a new life in the United States when they were turned away at the Cairo airport as a result of President Trump’s executive order, in February 2017, banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. Fuad Sharif Suleman had been employed by the US government, through a third party contractor, as a translator and interpreter in Northern Iraq, and was traveling to the US on a perfectly legitimate Special Immigration Visa.

Thanks to the work of a number of organizations and TN congressman Jim Cooper, Fuad, his wife, and three children were finally cleared to set out once again for their final destination of Nashville, where a crowd of around 200 were waiting for them at the airport with signs and chants of “Welcome home.” My wife Becky and I were in that crowd. A couple of months later, after numerous attempts to track them down, I was able to sit down with Fuad and all but one member of his family. I know you’ll enjoy meeting them.

This is the final episode of Season 2 of this podcast. We’ve had a great time taking you to people and places near and far, and look forward to much more in Season 3.

In the meantime, in just over a week, my wife Becky and I will be leaving for the Greek island of Lesvos, where we will be leading a team from the US to work for a week in a refugee camp run by the UN and the Greek government. After that, we will be welcoming the 2017 World to the Wise cultural tour group in Rome for an unforgettable cultural feast through Italy, Paris, and Amsterdam. You can follow our experiences on the World to the Wise Facebook page (have you liked that page yet?) and here on my blog.

Post-Apartheid South Africa

World to the Wise Podcast

The Republic of South Africa has had a tumultuous history since its inception, dominated for so long by the cloud of apartheid. In 1994 Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned for 27 years, was elected as president of the first truly democratic South Africa. But in 2017, four years since Mandela’s death, many in South Africa feel the country has taken more than one step back, racially and economically speaking.

I sat down on Skype with Rolf Weichardt, a white Afrikaner who has spent the better part of his life working on behalf of racial justice and reconciliation. He shared very openly about his country’s steps forward as well as backward, and how he sees South Africa moving forward.

How do you see post-apartheid South Africa? Are you from there or do have experience there? As always, your comments are welcome below.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

Two Brits in Yankeeland

World to the Wise Podcast

241 years ago, this new country called the United States of America was regarded by many in Great Britain as nothing more than an ungrateful child. Today the relationship between the two nations is arguably the closest relationship the US has. But just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean the two cultures are identical, by any means.

I sat down this week on Skype with Dan and Rachel Wheeler, who have just recently made a big move from the county of Sussex in southern England to Nashville, Tennessee. We had a light-hearted conversation about their adjustment process, any surprises that awaited them despite the fact they had traveled to the States many times, how Brits view the British monarchy on this the Queen’s birthday, the Downton Abbey phenomenon... and we also had a few chuckles about the endlessly entertaining differences between British and American vocabulary.

I hope you enjoy meeting Dan and Rachel Wheeler.

You'll hear Rachel mention the recent book by Queen Elizabeth, entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. You can find that book right here:

We’re nearing the end (already) of Season 2 of this podcast, but have some great interviews lined up before we take a break, so stay tuned. Thanks as always for listening … and please consider becoming a Patron of this podcast so we can continue to bring you great content!

Being Muslim in America

World to the Wise Podcast

I live in Nashville, which is in the middle of a boom. People are moving here in droves, cranes dot the skyline, and we currently bear the moniker of “It City.” In the trendy, extremely gentrified neighborhood called 12 South, among the hip restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, is a building some might consider out of place: the Islamic Center of Nashville.

This is where I met up with this week’s guest. I walked in the front door and took my shoes off, like everyone else, to the sound of prayers being chanted (in Arabic, of course), and a handful of men at the front of the carpeted main room standing with heads bowed. There was no way I was going to go unnoticed here. I sat down on a chair in the small lobby to wait for Rashed Fakhruddin, President of the Islamic Center. But before he came and ushered me into the office just off the lobby, a number of men invited me inside to where the prayer was happening. “It’s OK, please come in!”

Rashed, a mild-mannered brown-skinned man with an easy smile, arrived and we settled in for what I hope for you is an enlightening and interesting conversation on Islam, being a Muslim in America, and common misconceptions many non-Muslims have. Meet Rashed Fakhruddin.

If the end of the interview sounds a little abrupt, it’s because Rashed heard another call to prayer in the main room of the mosque and had to rush in to participate. I’m not sure whether that was because he is president, or just that as a faithful Muslim he is very committed to showing up for prayer five times a day. Whatever the case, I’m sure our paths will cross again, and I’ll likely have more questions for him. Do you have questions about Islam? Comments? Have we sent you running the other direction? Let us know by leaving a comment on this page.

And while you’re here, please consider becoming a patron so we can continue the work of fostering cultural curiosity.

Thanks for listening!

1st Anniversary Edition: the Top 7 Downloads

World to the Wise Podcast

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the launch of the World to the Wise podcast. For me personally, it’s been more fun than should be legal – to talk to so many fascinating people, hear their stories, and pass these stories on to you so we can all grow and be challenged together. Challenged to broaden our perspectives and travel vicariously to other parts of the world; or, as the case may be, to other subcultures within our own borders. To mark the occasion we’ve decided to do a roundup of the top seven downloaded episodes from this first year of our existence. We thought this would not only be a great way to celebrate, but also give you a chance to hear a synopsis of some episodes you might not have caught so you can go back and listen. It’s never too late to catch an episode because you can just click on the podcast tab on this website.

Here are the top seven most downloaded episodes from the first year of this podcast adventure:

  1. Dr. Lee Camp, professor of theology and ethics at Lipscomb University. Lee discusses his insightful and incisive book, Who is My Enemy: Questions Americans Must Ask About Islam -- and Themselves. A great interview with a thoughtful man, and a must read!
  2. Drs. Eric and Rachel McLaughlin, an internist and OBGYN, respectively, at Kibuye Hope Hospital in the impoverished East African nation of Burundi. You'll find their work and their words inspiring.
  3. From the land of New Zealand, our dear friends Neil and Jill White are given the chance to brag on their fair country, where Becky and I enjoyed an unforgettable visit a couple of years ago. You should save your money (or miles, as we did) and go -- and stay at the Whites' Air Bnb!
  4. Author, entrepreneur and adventurer Chris Guillebeau talks about his quest to visit every country on the planet. Chris shares about lessons learned in all his travels, and he also has a lot to teach us about thinking outside the box -- entrepreneurially!
  5. Author and speaker Sarah Lanier is a long-time friend and former colleague who has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in the area of cross-cultural dynamics and communication. In this interview we discuss her book, Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures. Don't let the title intimidate you -- this is a short but powerful read, where Sarah leads us into a greater understanding of the basic cultural differences between people groups and the importance of this understanding. A must read -- in fact, it's required reading for our Global Studies students!
  6. If you haven't already, you'll fall in love with Eleni Melirrytou, of Athens, Greece. Nowhere is there a bigger heart to serve the displaced people of this world; they have come by the hundreds through the doors of her downtown Athens church, been fed by her, loved by her, changed by her. Her testimonial will stretch the corners of your heart and challenge your thinking about the worldwide refugee crisis -- and perhaps the refugees in your own city.
  7. Number seven comes from our series on American subcultures. Bill Moser was a successful architect living in an upscale suburb of Detroit when he met some people who changed the course of his life. Bill and his wife became Amish. The radical change in his belief system and, consequently, lifestyle is nothing short of fascinating, as told through his childhood friend, Jeff Smith, in the book Becoming Amish.

We could go on and talk about the next seven, and the next...but we'll let you discover those for yourself.

Thank you to those of you who have been faithful listeners over this exciting first year! We realize what a privilege it is to be "in your ears" every week!

The Many Benefits of Study Abroad

World to the Wise Podcast

Study abroad is not a new concept, but it's possible that it has never been more important than now. In an age of polarization, stereotypes, and circle-the-wagons mentality, there would be very few college students I would NOT advise to spend at least a semester studying abroad. In this week's podcast episode, we speak with two exchange students to get perspective from both sides of the Atlantic: first, an American student currently studying in Paris. Hannah Kersey tells us what she loves about studying and living in the City of Lights, as well as all the other perks of living in Europe, such as weekend travel.

Then we speak with French law student Lena Touchard, who spent an entire school year studying at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She now studies law at the University of Leicester in the UK. I think you'll enjoy her reflections on her time in the States, as well as on the things she has learned about herself as a result of her study abroad experience.

If you're a student -- or know a student -- who might be interested in finding out the countless benefits of study abroad, just leave your email address below and we'll send you a list of resources to get you started.

Confessions of a Humanitarian Worker

World to the Wise Podcast

From Nashville to Los Angeles to the Amazon to Brussels to South Sudan. Such is the journey — thus far — of humanitarian worker Corrie Cron, who sat down with me to talk about her experiences in each of these places.

As Corrie herself says, she’s a straight shooter, and she gets very honest about the challenges as well as the joys of her chosen path. Because of the sensitive nature of her work in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country currently embroiled in civil war, she wasn’t able to go into much detail about the work itself; but she speaks candidly about being thrown in the deep end and the challenges of daily life in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. You’ll also hear her talk about how travel has changed her life, and finally, some advice to young people considering a career in humanitarian work.

I hope you enjoy the interview…

Interested in continued stories of crossing cultural bridges? Why not consider becoming a Patron of the World to the Wise podcast? Find out how below.

Do You Have "Ubuntu"?


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of Africa’s great leaders and known as the “conscience of South Africa,” said the following about ubuntu:

World to the Wise Podcast

“Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say [...] 'Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.' Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.' We belong in a bundle of life. We say, 'A person is a person through other persons.'" Kind of flies in the face of individualistic American culture, that’s for sure. After hearing today's guest, I think you'll better understand why that open-source computer operating system was given that name.

Today we talk ubuntu and other things African with Dr. Lloyd Mulenga, who, along with his wife, Priscilla, practices medicine in the Zambian capital of Lusaka. Dr. Mulenga talks about the challenges facing 21st century medicine in southern Africa, as well as a couple of his observations of American culture as a frequent visitor. I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoyed speaking with him.

A Mexican, a Gringa and Six Children

Imagine you’re a single, white, American woman with a big heart to serve.

World to the Wise Podcast

Imagine you’re a single Mexican man with an equally big heart, and you’ve been designated to meet said American woman at the airport in Mexico as the two of you are destined to work together serving the poor.

This is the story of Martin and Karen Arroyo, who now, 26 years later, are the parents of six children, and have spent their lives serving the poorest of the poor — first in the metropolis of Mexico City, and more recently in the city of Juxtlahuaca, in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. We’ll hear them share from their hearts about the challenges of being a bi-cultural couple, about raising their family in some tough conditions in Mexico, and how racism is not just an American problem. And yet through it all they continue to serve, love, and inspire wherever they are. I hope you enjoy their story…

You'll hear Karen mention a book: Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, which you'll find here:

Diary of a Syrian Refugee

World to the Wise Podcast

When my wife Becky and I were in Europe last summer, we followed the story of a number of the refugees we met in Greece, to Germany, where many of them had loved ones waiting for them. One of these was a young Syrian woman, who is engaged to a young man we befriended in Athens. We set out to visit her and arrived at the refugee center, a simple but clean apartment complex in the Berlin suburbs, and a pleasant looking man in his thirties came to greet us in the lobby. He turned out to be the young lady’s uncle, and was the only member of the family who spoke English.

We spent the next two hours visiting with both of them, and were joined about halfway through by her parents. Their hospitable and kind spirit was exactly what we had experienced in Greece in the camps. And when we left, I felt a strong connection especially with our interpreter, whom we’ll call Ali in this podcast, and had the impression that if I ever decided to get serious about learning Arabic, he would be a great teacher or mentor.

Well, it finally happened. Ali and I are now having weekly Skype conversations where he is answering all my questions that come up in my self-study. But I also asked Ali if he would be willing to let me interview him for this podcast. I had never heard his story of escape from Syria, where he would face almost certain death if he were to return now. I’d like to share with you here the unedited testimony of one Syrian who represents the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homeland in one of the greatest mass migrations of our time....

In our last Skype conversation, Ali told me he had just passed a round of German exams and is on to the next level. He hopes to eventually get a full time job, but is grateful for his part time job at the concert hall for now, as he carves out his new life in Germany.

The Happiest Nation on Earth

World to the Wise Podcast

The country of Denmark has topped the World Happiness Report every year except one since 2012. While we could debate about what kinds of definitions and metrics are used to measure something as intangible as happiness, it is nonetheless a noteworthy distinction. So what makes Danes so happy? This is one of several questions we put to this week's guest, Jens DuPont, an independent business consultant who takes great joy in helping companies learn to think more creatively. It turns out that creativity is apparently in his genes; as you'll hear, Denmark has gone to great lengths to encourage and foster creativity in just about every sphere of life.

We also talked about an important word in the Danish vocabulary: hygge (pron. hu-geh). You'll have to listen to find out what it means and why it is so important in Danish culture.

You'll hear a book mentioned: The Year of Living Danishly, which you can check out here:

I hope you enjoy meeting Jens!

The New Kurdistan: One Family's Role

World to the Wise Podcast

What would make a successful Iraqi geologist and his physicist wife pull up roots from the city they’ve grown up in, learn a new language, and become humanitarians and educators in a foreign culture — within their own country?

Today we’re speaking with Youssif Matti, an Aramaic Iraqi, who has been living and working in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq for over 25 years. He has seen the region transform into a relatively peaceful and prosperous corner of the Middle East, and the part he has played in that transformation is significant. I hope you enjoy listening to his story.

We apologize for the technical issues toward the end of the interview. Yousif was saying he believes Muslim imams, or clerics, need to do a better job of explaining to the world the difference between their orthodox beliefs and the tenets of radical Islam.

That’s just one of the many challenges Yousif and his family and team members navigate on a regular basis as they serve the Kurdish people.

You can read more about the Classical School of the Medes here. And if you'd like to find out about how you can support their important work, go here.

Bikers of a Different Stripe

World to the Wise Podcast

In the fall of last year we began an occasional series on American subcultures. We all know that it is unwise to paint American culture with too broad a brush. And that was proven over and over again as we talked to people from just about as diverse backgrounds as you can get. From the Amish culture to the Nashville songwriters culture, to a Native American tribe to the Indian American subculture. And we’re not done! Today I’d like you to meet three fascinating and passionate people: Lurch, Giggles, and Hoss. No, they're not action figures or cartoon characters. They're bikers who add an interesting — and maybe even lifesaving — twist to the biker culture. I hope you enjoy listening to them.

You can find more information on BACA at bacaworld.org. We’d also like to invite you to consider becoming a sustaining patron of this podcast. You can find out how at patreon.com/worldtothewise. And we’d love for you to help us out by writing a brief review on iTunes if you find this podcast beneficial.

Friends from Faraway Places

World to the Wise Podcast

Welcome to the first episode of Season 2 of the World to the Wise podcast. I hope you’ve had a chance to catch up on Season 1 during our break, because we have a whole set of new and fascinating people and stories for you in Season 2.

We’re also excited to tell you about our partnership with Patreon, who makes it possible for you to become a sustaining patron of this podcast. The truth is, we believe passionately in what we’re doing here at World to the Wise, and it takes quite a number of hours to put each episode together. When you choose to partner with us, even if it’s just $10 a month, you are helping to ensure our being able to provide great content that continues to challenge, inspire, and inform. You can find us at patreon.com/worldtothewise. We won’t wear you out with pitches like this, but we do want to ask you to seriously consider becoming part of the patrons’ circle. You can read more about what that looks like on the website, which again is patreon.com/worldtothewise. Thanks so much.


And now — imagine that you were born and raised in America’s heartland. You’re a white male, and your world is pretty much white Americans. Then your world is rocked when you start meeting and developing friendships with people from all over the world — without even leaving the shores of your own country. Meet Stuart Stokes, a film maker and vlogger, originally from the Missouri Ozarks, now living in Nashville. I hope you enjoy listening to his stories and find yourself challenged like I was.

You can find Stuart on Twitter at Skip Stokes, and on YouTube under the same name. If you’re interested in his documentary on the life of Ken Rideout, you can follow the film’s progress on Facebook at Rideout: One Last Summit or at rideoutfilm.com.

Season 1 Wrap-up

World to the Wise Podcast

This week we wrap up what for me has been a great ride, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. It’s been roughly 6 months and exactly 25 episodes since we launched in April, and we’ve been to a lot of parts of the world in that short time. The great thing about podcasts is you can go back and listen to ANY episode you may have missed along the way — or RElisten to something that’s been triggered by something you’ve heard or experienced lately.

In the inaugural episode I laid out the vision and purpose of this podcast: “to stretch the borders of your thinking, broaden your perspective, and equip you to engage your world.” I hope we’ve done that — from interviews with fascinating people like Dr. Ming Wang, a renowned eye surgeon and philanthropist who grew up under the oppression of the Cultural Revolution in Mao Tse Dong’s China. — to Chris Guillebeau, who recently completed a personal quest to visit every country on the planet.

I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Mike and Patricia Majett, who were very honest in describing what it’s like to live as a biracial couple in today’s American South.

We got to know a medical couple, Drs. Eric and Rachel McLaughlin, in the impoverished nation of Burundi, and were inspired by the way they have poured out their lives on behalf of the poorest of the poor, not only by treating the sick but also by training indigenous doctors to carry the torch.

We visited New Zealand, vicariously, through the eyes of Neil and Jill White, who are still waiting for you to pay them a visit in one of the most beautiful and interesting places Becky and I have ever been.

We visited Turkey, which had just been shaken up by an attempted coup and nerves were still on edge. We also heard from two moms who are raising their children to be bilingual — one is a native English speaker teaching her children Spanish, and the other Italian facing the uphill challenge of teaching her children her mother tongue in an ocean of English speakers.

And I hope you enjoyed my interview with Lee Camp, where we discussed his book, Who Is My Enemy?, as well as Servant Group international Executive Director Dave Dillard. I found these especially thought-provoking, and great preparation for my summer discovery trip to Europe. You’ll remember that my wife Becky and I spent several weeks observing and learning about the refugee crisis there that reached a boiling point in the last year to two years. I recorded podcasts from each of the countries we visited: Switzerland, Greece, Germany, and France. As much as we’ve traveled in Europe, this was probably more of an eye-opener than any other trip we’ve made, as many of the refugees took on names and faces, and true stories of suffering, bravery, desperation and heartache…and survival. As I said at the end of the trip, Becky and I didn’t come back with solutions to this complex dilemma…but we did come back impacted by the plight of these fellow human beings, many of which became our friends in a very short time.

It IS a complex situation. While I am generally in favor of any Western country taking in refugees who have lost everything to the atrocities of war (something that frankly remains the stuff of books and movies for most of us), I also recognize that there are inherent risks. I have questions about the methods of determining where to place refugees, and to what degree we should expect them to integrate into mainstream culture. I’m also aware that these decisions are largely made by people whose lives will likely never be directly impacted by the situation.

In the meantime, I believe in the adage “Think globally and act locally,” so we are becoming more familiar with the efforts in our own city to assimilate the thousands of refugees right here at home.

In August we turned a corner and began a series on subcultures within the United States. The truth is that the notion of a typical American is pretty much a myth, and we have much to learn — whether Americans or not — about the many subcultures that make up the American patchwork. Although we barely scratched the surface — so far — we met some interesting people. From the Navajo Nation and Santa Fe in the West, to the gentle Southern culture of the South Carolina Low Country, from the Amish community to the Nashville songwriters’ culture to the Indian American community, we tasted a lot of different flavors — all of them American.

You can of course find any and all of these episodes under the podcast tab on this website.

So now we’re taking a brief break, when we’ll be ramping up for more discoveries, stimulating conversations, aha moments, and places to explore on this planet.

In the meantime, I do hope you’ll still be following my blog. Becky and I are leading a group of American artists on a fall break trip to Europe, where we’ll not only see some of the finest art ever made, but meet localcreatives for some cultural exchange and sharing of perspectives , and I’ll be doing some posting from there.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t already done so, you’re invited to like the World to the Wise page on Facebook, and you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at iDavidDurham.

Be well, travel safely, stay curious and we’ll see you soon for Season 2!

Gullah Culture and the South Carolina Low Country

World to the Wise Podcast

My wife and I had the pleasure of spending Labor Day weekend in the Charleston, SC area. Besides some great time with family and enjoying Folly Beach, we also did a tour of Charleston led by a guide named Alphonso Brown. Mr. Brown is Gullah. Know what that means? He is part of the Gullah culture, also known as Geechee, who are descendants of West African slaves who speak a sort of Creole English, or Pidgin — and have done so for generations. There is a lot of unknown about the origins of the Gullah people, but most scholars agree they can trace many of their roots to the country of Sierra Leone. The Gullah were concentrated for many years along the islands of the coastal Carolinas, Georgia, and extending into northern Florida. Since most of the islands have now been connected to the mainland by bridges and causeways, the Gullah have blended a little more into broader African American culture. The cities of Charleston and Beaufort, SC probably have the highest concentrations of Gullah speakers today. After an interesting tour of Charleston through the eyes of a descendant of slaves, I sat down for a few minutes with Alphonso Brown. You can find his book, A Gullah Guide to Charleston, below.

At the same time we were in South Carolina, I was reading a book called The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. In it Whitehead chronicles the odyssey of a fictional but real character (if you know what I mean) named Cora, and her harrowing journey from a pre-Civil War Georgia plantation toward an elusive freedom.

If you tend to romanticize life on a southern plantation, or simply realize you need to know more about what African slaves were put through, I recommend this book.

ALSO while I was in South Carolina (talk about convergence!), I heard on NPR of the passing of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, a onetime frequent contributor on NPR on things culinary and cultural. It turns out Vertamae was Gullah herself (she called herself Geechee, which up to that time was considered a pejorative term), and helped raise awareness of the Carolina Low Country.

So what if you’re a white South Carolinian grappling with the past, present, and future of the home state you love? I also sat down with long-time friend Liz Gilland, who, after a number of years living outside the sate, moved back to her native Conway, SC. She has since held public office on the regional level and is very invested in the welfare of the Low Country.  I asked Liz to do some musing on her beloved Low Country.

No matter where you’re from, there are things to celebrate about your culture and your history, and things you’re…well, not very proud of. That’s the human experience. But we can ensure a brighter future only by learning from the past.

An Amish Odyssey

World to the Wise Podcast

I hope you have already listened to last week's episode, where I interviewed journalist and author Jeff Smith about his experience reconnecting with childhood friends Bill and Tricia Moser. At Tricia’s invitation to visit them on their new farm in rural Michigan, Jeff had a rather large surprise waiting for him. The Mosers had left the affluent middle class, suburban, Evangelical lifestyle…and become Amish. Becoming Amish is the title of Jeff’s book, where he recounts his journey of discovery into a world he knew very little about. It turns out I didn't know that much, either.

This week we get to hear from Bill Moser himself, who has been friends with Jeff ever since they were four years old and living a few houses down from each other in the Detroit area. I hope you enjoy listening to this thoughtful, soft-spoken man reflect on the last 17 or so years. And just a heads up: because he is so soft-spoken, you may need to turn your volume up a little higher than you’re used to!

Becoming Amish

World to the Wise Podcast

Are you still in touch with the people you grew up with? Like the next door neighbor near your age or kids you went to elementary school with? Me? Not in the least. The fact that we moved around a lot didn’t help that much, but it’s rare these days even for people who were neighbors or classmates to remain in contact years after they’ve left home and started a family and a career.

My guest this week was taken by surprise when a couple he’d known since childhood — he’s actually known the husband since he was four — called him up and invited him for a visit to the Michigan farm they had recently moved to. The surprise was not so much that they called, or not even necessarily that they had bought a farm — but rather what was awaiting him when he arrived. When Jeff Smith pulled up to the house, there was not a car in sight; but there was a horse and buggy. This was just the beginning of an unexpected journey of discovery into the world of the Amish. It had such an impact on Jeff that he wrote a book entitled Becoming Amish — and Jeff joins us today to talk about his experiences….

After listening to Jeff, I hope your curiosity is piqued, because next week we’ll be hearing from Bill Moser himself, who, along with his wife, Tricia, and their six children, made the leap from mainstream American Evangelical culture to become Amish.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith

Inside the Nashville Songwriters' Culture

World to the Wise Podcast

As a part of our series on subcultures in the United States, we take an interesting turn this week and visit a unique breed of human: the Nashville songwriter. You might argue that songwriters the world over are a different breed — and I wouldn’t argue with you. But Nashville is almost without question home to the highest concentration of songwriters per capita of any city in the world. As you’ll hear in our conversation, it’s to the point where you can generally assume that the person who served you your food or drink is an aspiring songwriter — or certainly a creative of some stripe.

Fred Wilhelm
Fred Wilhelm
reuben bidez
reuben bidez

I sat down with three gifted songwriters to hear their perspective on being a songwriter in Nashville, and our conversation also led to different aspects of the creative process that I think you’ll find both interesting and encouraging — especially if you’re a creator yourself. I’d like you to meet Matthew Perryman Jones, Fred Wilhelm, and Reuben Bidez.

For you songwriters and creatives in general, Matthew mentioned a couple of resources (one on air and one off air) that might be of interest to you:

No Place Like Santa Fe

WTTW 22.png

In our series on subcultures in the United States, we pay a visit this week to the unique city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The oldest state capital in the US, this jewel at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains was established 400 years ago by the Spanish -- its full name being La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de Francisco de Asís -- the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Francis of Assisi.

My guests are Karen Lafferty, veteran singer/songwriter (if you grew up in the church, chances are you used to sing her song "Seek Ye First") and JD Vasquez, both residents of Santa Fe, share their favorite things about this special blend of Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American culture.

Karen and JD's love for their home town makes me want to go back for another visit. Maybe I'll see you there!

Karen Lafferty
Karen Lafferty