Famed illusionist tells Christian college audience that it was not magic but a miracle that cured his cancer

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.”

World Leaders Forum.jpg

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Homeless group facing critical shortage of volunteers

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois

Unless Kendall County PADS can recruit about 100 more volunteers in less than a month, the nonprofit group will be unable to start its eighth season of providing nutritious meals and overnight housing to the area’s homeless community.

“We depend entirely on volunteers to provide a shelter program for men, women, and children experiencing homelessness,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “Without a full staff of volunteers every night of the week, that site would not be able to open.”

Anyone interested in learning how PADS has been helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new volunteer training session from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, at the Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, on the northwest corner of Illinois Routes 34 and 47.

The two-hour training session will include an overview of PADS––how it operates each night and the integral role of volunteers. Attendees will learn general operational procedures, how to address health issues, and the importance of kindness to guests.

New recruits will also receive a volunteer manual and be assigned to an experienced shelter coordinator who will serve as a mentor to them. The hope is that each person attending will be informed and would feel comfortable with their role in Kendall County PADS, should they be inspired to serve. The session is free, refreshments will be served, and there is no commitment obligation.

During the colder months of the year, nearly 600 volunteers provide safe shelter, nourishing meals, and caring hospitality to PADS guests. Most volunteers serve one or two times each month for four and a half hours. Some of the site coordinators serve every week.

One of those is Sandy Lindblom, head site coordinator at Yorkville Congregational, who has volunteered at PADS for the past seven shelter seasons.

“What I find most rewarding is how much it means to those who have received our hospitality, and how much it means to them when they are able to find jobs and housing,” Ms. Lindblom said. She added that it is particularly heartening when guests “come back as volunteers.”

Ms. Engelhardt said serving at a PADS location is “like being part of a track rally team. Shift one with four volunteers needs to pass the baton to shift two with four volunteers and then pass the baton to shift three volunteers. If any one shift is missing volunteers, that night is incomplete and cannot host.”

Speakers at the training session will also discuss the services provided by food teams, laundry exchange drivers, shift volunteers, and site coordinators. There will also be a representative from the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps guests with employment, permanent housing, and personal issues.

RaeAnn VanGundy, operations manager for the Kendall County Health Department, will talk about how that agency assists PADS guests by assigning a counselor to a shelter site once per week.

“Homeless people are under a lot of stress. We try to lift their burdens in any way that we can,” Ms. VanGundy said. “If we can provide a link or a referral, that can be life changing.”

Safety issues will be addressed by representatives from local police departments and the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office.

Each of the seven Kendall County PADS shelters are scheduled to be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 15 and ending on April 14, 2018. The nights and sites are as follows:

· Sundays: Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville

· Mondays: Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville

· Tuesdays: Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego

· Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville

· Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville

· Fridays: Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego

· Saturdays: St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

Overnight guests at PADS receive a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packaged lunch to go. They also receive help with employment, social services, and housing referrals.

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at http://www.kendallcountypads.org

“We are very grateful for the generous monetary donations that help to support the program needs,” stated Ms. Engelhardt. “But without volunteers, the shelter program cannot operate, cannot exist.”

She describes PADS volunteers as “amazing” and said that for many, service is its own reward. “Giving another human being the most basic things––a warm place to sleep and meals––is a privilege and an opportunity to learn more about others and about yourself.

“Volunteers and guests often eat together and share in conversation. Beginning to understand the life of a person experiencing homelessness can be both eye opening and personally transformative.”



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Christian school set to open its doors and hearts to the homeless in the suburbs west of Chicago

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois

Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville, a rustic suburb west of Chicago, will be joining six area churches this fall in providing nutritious meals and overnight housing to the homeless as Kendall County PADS starts its eighth shelter season.

“We’re excited,” said Parkview Superintendent Deborah Benson, explaining that she has been receiving favorable feedback from parents about the school’s new mission. “The responses have ranged from very positive to ‘that’s awesome.’”

The need for a new Wednesday night shelter arose earlier this year when the United Methodist Church of Plano announced that it was unable to continue in the PADS program after six years of service. At the same time, Parkview was in the process of purchasing the building that formerly housed the Club 47 fitness facility at 202 East Countryside Parkway to accommodate its expanding enrollment, which has grown to about 350 students.

“God had blessed us with this facility so how could we not share it with the community?” Ms. Benson asked. “We want to teach Christ to our students.”

The private academy went through “a very careful process” before bringing the PADS proposal to its board of directors for consideration, she said. That included contacting representatives of the churches that have been hosting homeless shelters in partnership with Kendall County PADS since 2010. “It was all positive,” she said.

The school’s board voted unanimously to approve the measure earlier this month, to the delight and relief of the nonprofit group, which had been reaching out to the community for a replacement shelter site.

Superintendent Benson said PADS guests will be able to walk directly into the school’s gymnasium, which houses kitchen facilities and a dining area as well as separate bathrooms and sleeping quarters for women and men.

Being able to take a mid-week shower will be an added blessing to the overnight guests of Parkview. The two churches that open shelters on the weekends have shower facilities but the ones that operate during the other four days of the week do not.

The Parkview shelter site will be completely separate from the academy’s classrooms, which are occupied during the day with middle and high school students. “We wanted to make sure that it is safe for all parties,” Ms. Benson added.

The Christian academy, founded in 1997, continues to operate its prekindergarten-through-early elementary school at 201 West Center Street. The rustic building once housed the old Yorkville School and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Each of the seven Kendall County PADS shelters will be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 15 and ending on April 14, 2018. The nights and sites are as follows:

· Sundays: Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville

· Mondays: Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville

· Tuesdays: Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego

· Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville

· Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville

· Fridays: Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego

· Saturdays: St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

Several volunteers from United Methodist plan to continue their service to the homeless at Parkview. One of those is Diane Morris, who was the PADS head site coordinator at the Plano church for four years.

“I want to thank all the volunteers who supported and worked with me to provide shelter and hot meals for the homeless,” Ms. Morris stated. “I am also thrilled to hear the new site for Wednesdays will be at Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville. They will be a wonderful shelter to provide a safe, warm place for the homeless to lay their heads on Wednesday evenings. I look forward to helping out in a new capacity with the PADS program.”

Dick Velders, who served at United Methodist for six shelter seasons, will also be volunteering at the new site at Parkview.

“I was thrilled when Parkview Christian graciously offered their new site at the former Club 47 fitness center, where I had been a member for 18 years,” said Mr. Velders. “I was permitted to view the site after the academy had begun major remodeling and reviewed the facilities, which I strongly believe will work well for the PADS guests. Now we will vigorously reach out to volunteers to help at PADS and especially the new site.”

Overnight PADS guests receive a hot meal, safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packaged lunch to go. Kendall County PADS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations from gifts, grants, organizations, businesses, and private citizens. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call 630-553-5073 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org.

The homeless community is also invited to avail themselves of the PADS Guest Assistance Program. The GAP is filled by social work students from Aurora University who help guests with employment, healthcare, personal issues, and permanent housing.

Brittani Dahlman interned at Kendall County PADS during the last shelter season and is looking forward to volunteering during this school year while she studies for her master’s degree in social work at Aurora University.

“I am very excited to be a part of the team working at our new site and am grateful to be working alongside many of our dedicated volunteers in making Parkview our new safe haven for guests on Wednesday nights,” Ms. Dahlman said. “I am very thankful for the wonderful people who have offered this space for the K.C. PADS program, as well as their generosity in supporting our PADS mission and working with us to provide our services to those in need.

“Parkview is truly a blessing.”

Parkview Christian Academy

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Jerry Lewis leaves legacy of humor and humanitarianism

By Tom Siebert

Jerry Lewis was a comic genius and visionary movie maker. If laughter is indeed the best medicine, he healed millions. Moreover, his decades of service to the Muscular Dystrophy Association helped prolong and improve the lives of countless people with physical challenges. He leaves an aching void in the world.

Jerry Lewis


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Homeless group reaches out to community as shelter season nears

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois

Volunteers from Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County will be blanketing the community over the next two months, sharing how the nonprofit group is helping their homeless neighbors and how they can help, too.

The volunteers will be hosting informal get-togethers at coffee shops, colleges, and libraries as PADS prepares for its eighth season of providing nourishing meals, kind hospitality, and overnight housing at seven shelter sites, each open one day of the week, from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. from October 15 through April 14, 2018.

Those who attend the community outreach gatherings will hear how PADS assists its homeless guests with not only basic needs but also employment, healthcare, social services, and the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing. There will also be time for questions and answers but no one will be under any obligation, according to Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS.

She explained, “We want people to not feel like they are signing up for anything, just a time to come and find out about PADS from the people in our community who make it work.”

One of those is Caren Farrell, who has served for the past six shelter seasons at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville. “I enjoy the people,” Ms. Farrell said. “So many of them are cheerful. It’s always a positive experience. What is most inspirational to me about the guests is their sense of community and how they look out for each other.”

Gregg Wehrs was a PADS volunteer for three years at United Methodist Church of Plano. “I love doing it,” he said. “You get to make friends.” He feels a special kinship with the guests, having once become homeless himself. “I know where they are coming from. You think you have it all and then you don’t.”

The first community outreach will take place on Saturday, Aug. 26. A PADS booth will be set up at a volunteer fair co-hosted by Aurora University and the city of Aurora. The fair will be held from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Avenue.

PADS will also be represented at two upcoming student involvement fairs at Waubonsee Community College. The first will be a two-day event held from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the main campus, Waubonsee Drive and Illinois Route 47 in Sugar Grove. The second fair takes place from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Aurora campus, 309 N. River Street.

A PADS gathering will also be held from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, in the lower-level meeting room of the Plano Community Library District, 15 W. North Street. And on Tuesday, Sept. 12, a volunteer will be on hand at Starbucks, 1246 N. Bridge Street in Yorkville, from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in the back meeting room.

The Montgomery Branch of the Oswego Public Library District, 1111 Reading Drive, hosts a PADS get-together from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the meeting room on Tuesday, September 12. The Oswego Public Library District, 32 Jefferson Street, has scheduled a similar event from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in their meeting room on Wednesday, September 13.

On Thursday, September 14, the Village Grind coffee house, 19 S. Main Street in Oswego, opens its doors to PADS and interested parties from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. And on Saturday, Sept. 16, Panera Bread, 1206 N. Bridge Street in Yorkville, will reserve a PADS table in their back meeting room from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m.

More than 600 volunteers are needed to serve on food teams and as laundry drivers, site coordinators, and four-hour shift workers once per week at six area churches and a new shelter site to be named later. Most of those will be returning volunteers but PADS always needs new recruits, who will be invited to a training session from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway.

All volunteers will also be invited to a presentation entitled “What I Don’t Know and Need to Know about Homeless People.” The workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, at a location to be announced soon.

PADS also wants its elected officials to know what they are up to. So a PADS volunteer will take part in the public comments session at the Yorkville Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, and again on Tuesday, August 22. The board meets at 7 p.m. at 800 Game Farm Road.

A speaker is also planned for the Plano City Council meetings on Monday, Aug. 14, and Monday, Aug. 28. The council meets at 6 p.m. at 17 E. Main Street. And another PADS volunteer will be at the Oswego Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The board meets at 7 p.m. at 100 Parkers Mill Place.

Kendall County PADS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded by donations received through grants, gifts, private donors, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website kendallcountypads.org.


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Paul McCartney lives up to his legacy in Chicago-area lovefest


By Tom Siebert

A Paul McCartney concert cannot be reviewed without first considering the magnitude of the man. He is the most commercially successful singer/songwriter of all time, whose songs helped change the course of culture and music itself.

That stated, Sir Paul gave his all in measuring up to his mythical musical status before more than 25,000 fans spanning three generations Tuesday night at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in suburban Tinley Park, southwest of Chicago.

From the iconic opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” to the seven-song encore, the former Beatle sang, played, joked, mugged, and regaled the jubilant crowd with behind-the-music stories for three hours, during the first of two local concerts on his yearlong, One On One world tour.

Those backstories included references to Paul’s friends and fellow music luminaries Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. He even mused topically that the reported rivalry between The Beatles and Rolling Stones was “fake news.”

We learned further from Paul’s personal discography that legendary record producer George Martin asked him at the last minute to sing the opening verses of “Love Me Do,” which became The Beatles’ first hit single. And that the song “Blackbird” was designed to give the hope of freedom to African Americans who were still suffering under Southern segregation in the 1960s.

But for those of us who grew up with McCartney’s music, it was the personal songs of love and loss that moved us most back then and even more now. Introducing his solo mega-hit “Maybe I’m Amazed,” he said simply, “This is a song I wrote for Linda,” a reference to his late wife with whom he founded the band Wings a few years after The Beatles broke up.

And he dedicated “My Valentine” to his current spouse Nancy Shevell, who was among the 11,000 fans in the reserved section of the amphitheater. Another 17,000 or so sat on blankets or beach chairs in the sprawling lawn area, aided visually by giant screens on each side of the stage that featured graphics and photos from every phase of the performer’s incandescent career.

Some songs needed no introduction, like “Yesterday,” the Beatles classic that has been covered by more than 2,200 artists, the most ever. When he got to the line “Yesterday came suddenly,” I could not help but think back to Dec. 8, 1980, when Paul’s band mate and songwriting partner John Lennon was senselessly shot to death by a deranged fan outside of his New York City apartment high-rise.

Lennon, for those who may not know, was a visionary musician, feminist, and peace activist. The world has yet to catch up with him. At the Tinley Park concert, Paul paid tribute to his friend from boyhood with the haunting “Here Today,” afterwards reminding the audience to tell their loved ones how much they mean to them while they are still alive––a sentiment that he never got to share with John.

There was also a poignant homage to the late Beatles guitar genius George Harrison, who died of lung cancer in 2001. McCartney played a ukulele given to him by George at the start of Harrison’s “Something,” which no less than Frank Sinatra once called the greatest love song ever written.

Paul’s savvy acoustic guitar set included the brilliant “Eleanor Rigby,” whose compelling lyrics were deemed worthy of study by my college poetry professor.

The official sing-a-along of the night was “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from the so-called White Album. But many of the teary-eyed fans also sang the words to such standards as “And I Love Her,” “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.”

Paul wrote “Live And Let Die” on spec for a James Bond movie, but the song became one of his biggest solo hits and was the concert’s show stopper, replete with dazzling strobe lights and bombastic fireworks that caused McCartney to plug his ears during one particularly loud blast.

In addition, Paul showed that he still has the gift of delivering catchy hooks and clever lyrics when he performed three more-recent songs: “New,” “Queenie Eye,” and, “FourFiveSeconds,” which he wrote with Kanye West and Rihanna.

McCartney’s backup band does an astonishing job of recreating his Beatles, Wings, and solo songs with note-for-note accuracy. You should know their names: guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr, and keyboardist Paul Wicken.

The other Paul played the keyboards, too, as well as the grand piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and his trademark Hofner bass. And for the record, McCartney is a 21-time Grammy winner, has written or co-written 32 No. 1 songs, and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as both a Beatle and solo artist.

But despite those stratospheric accomplishments, he appeared to be a pretty down-to-earth guy. He asked the audience members to raise their hands if they were from Chicago, from somewhere near the city, or from out of town. He surveyed the Beatles shirts and signs in the crowd, but chose to single out one sign that read “Chicago nurses are the best.” The man knows what’s important.

He also took note of the fact that The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, widely acclaimed as the most innovative and influential album of all time, was released 50 years ago. Moreover, two lines from the album’s title-track reprise were the perfect touch as the concert neared its epic climax: “We hope you have enjoyed the show…we’re sorry but it’s time to go.”

Then came the thrilling trilogy––”Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End”––from The Beatles’ last album Abbey Road, concluding with the immortal lyric: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Paul McCartney gave a lot of love to his fans Tuesday night. And the adoring audience gave it back in kind.

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit home with Wrigley Field faithful during Chicago stop of 40th anniversary tour

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