At Chapel today the Chaplain asked the audience "how many people know the name Joni Eareckson?" Three of us raised our hands. I suppose there were 80 or 90 soldiers and only three raised their hands. If you don't know the name here are the first two lines of her Wikipedia entry:
A diving accident in 1967 left Tada hospitalized and paralyzed (as a quadriplegic; unable to use her hands or legs.) After two years of rehabilitation and in a wheelchair, Tada began working to help others in similar situations.
Tada wrote of her experiences in her international best-selling autobiography, Joni, which has been distributed in many languages, and which was made into a feature film of the same name.
when I became a believer in 1973, it seemed Joni was everywhere in Christian media and even secular media.
Two years ago, Joni returned to my life in a way. She and I had very similar injuries. She smashed the fifth vertebra in her neck, I smashed the seventh. In 1967 MEDEVAC was rare. More importantly, medical science was only beginning to bring the discovery of DNA into practical treatments. In 1967 Joni's first responders may not have put her on a backboard. She was not MEDEVACed from the scene. And her hospital did not have a neurosurgeon who just returned from Baghdad and was very skilled in replacing smashed vertebra with bones from cadavers. All of which I had.
Joni has touched millions of lives with her ministry as a paraplegic. I may have had a ministry as a paraplegic, but I consider it a very awesome blessing that I do not have her ministry.
The advances in medical science since Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA (They knew from Mendel and Darwin what they were looking for) are something I am VERY thankful for on this Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend. Younger Christians here often talk excitedly about how Christian rock stars cross over and get played on secular stations. The new icons of Evangelical Culture play metal and alternative and get picked up on secular stations. They make movies, or at least animated vegetables. More sadly, they put saddles on dinosaurs in an indoor theme park labeled a science museum.
It's strange to think of Joni as passing to the margins of Christian culture.