By Tom Siebert
World-known illusionist Jim Munroe wowed a Judson University crowd with sleight of hand Monday night but asserted that it was the hand of God that healed him from a fatal form of leukemia.
“Modern medicine was a huge part of helping me be well,” said the Christian magician, keynoting the World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series at the college in Elgin, Illinois. “But, for me, it’s more than the medicine. I am overwhelmingly convinced of who this Jesus is now.”
Mr. Munroe was a standout pitcher for the University of Texas but his prospects for a career in major league baseball were derailed by an injury, prompting him to pursue a living as an illusionist.
The world of magic, with its “trapped doors” and “smoke and mirrors,” made him skeptical about the Christian faith in which he had been brought up.
“I was a self-proclaimed agnostic, borderline atheist,” he told the audience of several hundred at Judson’s Herrick Chapel.
But just as Jim was increasingly questioning the existence of God, he was faced with his own existential crisis, a deadly diagnosis of blood cancer in 2009 when he was only 29.
Mr. Munroe had good health insurance so he was fortunate to become a patient at the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. However, his doctor told him: “We do not have a medical cure for you in this hospital.”
The one-time top athlete was ravaged with pain as his red blood cells were literally blowing up and damaging his bones. The only treatment was radical chemotherapy that would destroy Jim’s existing red cells and replace them with bone marrow that could produce healthy blood.
His oncologist said that he needed “the perfect blood of a perfect match” that would make him “a new creation.” That kind of talk reminded Mr. Munroe of his church upbringing, specifically, “the perfect blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ” that was written about in the New Testament of the Bible.
“It was like a Christian episode of The Twilight Zone,” he told the hushed crowd.
There was only one problem. He desperately needed a bone marrow donor. A check of an international donor database turned up just one person out of 9 million whose bone marrow matched his.
That person was Jennell Jenney, then 20, of Milwaukee.
The audience erupted into cheers and applause as Ms. Jenney, now 29, walked onto the stage, displaying a tattoo of a jigsaw puzzle on her inner right arm––the exact spot where a needle was injected to draw her bone marrow so that Jim could live.
“I was the missing piece in his life,” she explained, encouraging everyone there to consider enrolling in the Be The Match National Marrow Donor Program.
Mr. Munroe, who is now 38, added: “I stand here today one hundred percent completely cancer free because of that perfect blood of a perfect match.”
The World Leaders Forum offers Judson students and the Chicagoland community an opportunity to be inspired by significant thought leaders. In previous years, the Christian university has hosted former President George W. Bush, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Mexican President Felipé Calderon, ex-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Queen Noor of Jordan, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton, and Life Without Limbs founder, author, and motivational speaker Nick Vujicic.
All proceeds from the event fund Judson leadership scholarships and innovative entrepreneurial activities as well as supporting the ongoing operational purposes of the World Leaders Forum.
In addition to financial aid, Judson leadership scholars have access to unique opportunities for cultivating their skills through the forum and via monthly meetings with university president Gene Crume.
Student scholars receive leadership training and financial aid based on their academic merit and financial need. To be eligible, a student must demonstrate entrepreneurship, creativity, leadership, faith, and sense of mission.
“It’s an honor to collaborate with an organization that is important to this community and our keynote speaker,” Mr. Crume said of the Monday night event. “We hope Be The Match’s presence on campus will help students and visitors learn more about the organization and ways they can help.”
Jim Munroe is author of the The Charlatan: The Skeptical, Mysterious, Supernatural True Story of a Christian Magician. He has taken his show, called the MAZE, throughout the world, recruiting more than 14,000 donors to the national registry. He lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with his wife and two children.
Prior to telling his testimony, Mr. Munroe warmed up the crowd by performing clever tricks of his trade. One of those included divining the last name of Abby Jungels, a Judson senior majoring in marketing and business management.
He then beckoned Ms. Jungels up to the stage, where he had her randomly pick out ten playing cards from a cut deck. When he turned over the cards that she had selected, they just happened to match her cellphone number.
Asked later how the magician was able to pull off such a feat, she responded: “He’s talented. It’s a God-given talent.”