Donna Cronk / New Castle Courier-Times photo // Karen and Eric Haler are interviewed by CBN 700 Club Producer Shannon Woodland in their New Castle home Tuesday. The 700 Club is doing extensive interviews for an upcoming segment on the Halers' son, Joel, and what is credited as nothing less than a miracle that he is walking.
Note: I wrote the following article on deadline for the New Castle Courier-Times Tuesday. It appears in today's newspaper.
The C-T has previously written about Joel's sudden healing. This time, I was invited into the home of his parents, Eric and Karen Haler, to watch the taping by the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club program which airs internationally.
It was a treat to sit a few feet away from the taping and take notes on what unfolded in the interview. It's a much simpler process than one might imagine.
From CBN were the producer / interviewer Shannon Woodland and two technical professionals who handled lighting and sound. A few large lights were placed in the room as what you might find in a professional photography studio. Sound equipment was put in place, including small microphones on the Halers. The technical twosome stood in the back of the room with cameras.
Shannon, wearing casual jeans, boots and sweater, and holding a coffee cup throughout the segment, sat in front of the Halers, who were seated on chairs from their home in the middle of the living room.
The producer had no problem with me covering the session, I just couldn't take photos during the interview. I took them during equipment checks moments before the taping.
CBN had been in Indy Monday as the producer vetted the story, and had been to interview Joel, who now lives in California. Today Shannon is interviewing the young boy mentioned in the story.
Meanwhile, I had an email out to Joel with a list of questions for the story, and got some photos from his folks to use right before deadline. You never know when you put together a story if there will be space for one, two or several photos so you have to be ready, complete with captions.
The CBN staff and the Halers were all great to work with and I am grateful for the experience with "big-platform" faith-based media. Shannon wanted to read my story when it was printed and I had an email from her first thing this morning that she thought it was well done.
As a small-town reporter / editor, you never know what stories might fall into your lap. It's one reason I have always loved what I do.
Halers recall 'day of great joy'
By DONNA CRONK
As a college athlete, 2012 New Castle High School graduate Joel Haler was in great physical shape. Yet he suddenly found his legs totally paralyzed one October day in 2013.
Doctors and rounds of testing yielded no apparent medical reason for the paralysis. True, he has degenerative disc disease, diagnosed at age 14, and heard a pop in his back before the paralysis. But those things did not explain to medical professionals why he suddenly could not move or feel his legs.
Yet three months later, on Jan. 23, he woke up, felt excruciating pain run through his legs, and then, he could walk again.
Joel’s story has been told in The Courier-Times as well as in big-media platforms such as Inside Edition and Guideposts magazine. On Tuesday, the internationally-viewed Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) arrived in New Castle to unpack the story with Joel’s parents, Karen and Eric Haler, and his brother, Abraham. A sister, Rebekah, was unable to be there.
CBN 700 Club Producer Shannon Woodland interviewed Joel separately as he is pursuing a master’s degree in divinity at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California.
Joel offered an update on how he's doing. These days, he’s feeling “perfectly normal and thriving.” When asked how his sudden ability to walk again changed him, Joel said, “It has shaped my worldview into the reality that Jesus is the center of it all. He wants to heal people today and he’s looking for ordinary people to take a risk for him. It has catapulted me into full-time ministry to see his kingdom here.”
Tuesday morning, the CBN producer and two technical professionals set up a remote-location studio in the Halers’ New Castle living room and taped the family’s story. The Halers were asked to speak about Joel’s life before the ordeal. They detailed how their son was never “the best” basketball player, but he had a strong work ethic and drive to always get better. In fact, he holds the state’s third-place all-time record for best 3-point percentage.
At 14, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and often had back pain but worked through it. A scholarship took him to Hope College in Michigan and things were going well until the family got a call that October day of his sophomore year.
Joel told his father that he had heard a loud pop while exercising . Then came tingling toes and leg pain. An MRI found nothing wrong. But the next morning, his legs were completely paralyzed.
A physical therapist friend expressed real concern for Joel. Eric decided to go get his boy. When Joel’s friends placed his wheelchair in the truck for the ride back to New Castle, Eric recalled with tears, “His legs were dangling. That’s when it hit hard for me.”
Joel spent 11 days in the hospital where doctors had no explanation for why he couldn’t walk. But Eric recalls his son’s faith that he would walk again. He left college and moved back in with his folks, dependent on a wheelchair. His mother could see he was not himself.
“I could just tell it was eating at him,” she said.
The producer said Joel told her in an interview, '“He just gave it to God. Jesus came in and really did a major work.”'
“His faith was going to a whole new level,” Eric added.
Karen said she always believed her son would walk again, but didn’t want his expectations to be shattered. “We’ve seen prayers answered the way we would not want them to be answered,” she said.
Then some mysterious things happened. Joel had a dream that involved a calendar with J23 on it. A little boy at New Covenant Church where Eric is pastor, told Joel on a Sunday morning he would walk on a Thursday. Eric dreamed that he was on the phone getting Joel admitted to a rehab center when in the dream, Joel walked out of his bedroom.
Then, in the early morning of Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, Joel woke up to severe pain in his legs. Moments later, he was able to walk. Just like that. He got up, made coffee and went to stand in the doorway of his parents’ bedroom. His mother thought it was his brother Abraham, but got a surprise when she heard, “It’s me, Joel.”
The family members burst out of their beds and started hugging, celebrating and crying in awe.
“That was a day of great joy,” Eric said.
Joel has walked ever since.
“There are many people that have reached out to me explaining to me that my story has brought them hope, filled them with joy and allowed them to be touched by the love of Jesus,” Joel said.
He was able to return to college and graduated in 2017 with a major in communications and minor in leadership.
Eric said the healing has demonstrated God’s goodness, adding, "God is still alive and he does great things.”
The 700 Club piece, which will air at an undetermined time within weeks, is the latest in the media attention and speaking opportunities Joel’s experience has generated. He said it has been thrilling to see God move through his story and see people healed, find hope, “and experience a joy that only comes from him.”
Every now and then, I throw out a question on Facebook. Then I sit back and see what my friends have to say. What I enjoy about the viewpoints is how varied they are, how reasonable their assessments, and how they make points I hadn’t thought of. Sometimes, I may flat out disagree, but I can still respect their right to their views.
Recently my question concerned how to handle Facebook friends who have passed away. Should we block them? Unfriend? Leave them there? Consider their pages places for tributes or places to reflect on our relationships?
So many different answers and views! I can’t say that I find anything “wrong” with what any of those who responded had to say. Sometimes, there is no black or white answer, only shades of gray.
I had mentioned that I find it a bit creepy to see my late friends' faces pop up when they are no longer alive. One person said it’s not in the least creepy to her but rather a pleasant reminder of people she loves. Another said – and I sure hadn’t thought of this – that she had a close friend die several years ago. When the friend’s husband posts photos of their children or updates, he tags his deceased wife. My Facebook friend said this way, she gets to see her late friend’s children as they grow up.
I was surprised how few delete, in some fashion, their late friends. I think it’s true that Facebook has become the modern equivalent of a tombstone for loved ones who have passed on, and you can go to the page and leave verbal bouquets and tributes.
I think it would be great if we could all show the same tolerance and respect for opinions of others when it comes to politics. There is so much divisiveness. Perhaps we select our news stations to match our personal world views. A conservative prefers FOX. A liberal, CNN or MSNBC.
I flip around and watch a variety of these networks and the way things are or are not reported, or presented often makes me think I live in two countries.
I encourage us all to listen to the views of others, understand where they are coming from, and consider that maybe no matter what we think, if we’re saturated in our own echo chambers, there’s little space for considering that just because someone disagrees with us, that person is not an idiot or crazy. And just maybe, there's room for compromise.
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
My last post flashed back 40 years. We were young, and didn't even realize how young at the time ... me still a teenager at 19, and Brian hanging onto his early 20s.
I wasn't even a full year into paying from a full-time job into Social Security and Medicare benefits. Brian was only a few years into those deductions.
In fact, those far-off benefits were so much a part of the distant future that they merited zero thought or discussion; just numbers that lessened our pay.
It may have been four decades ago, but still, it's just like that, and one of us is all signed up for both now.
After months of letters and packets from insurance companies wooing Brian with their Medicare-enhancement products, months of wondering when to get busy on this topic, months of wondering about the complexity of the process, just like that, after 20 minutes with our local Social Security office rep, he's signed up with his own ID number.
Perhaps we should celebrate. If that seems a bit odd, you're probably too young to relate to this post. After all, aren't Medicare and Social Security topics that our parents or grandparents should be talking about, you say? Old-people stuff?
But we found that a funny thing happens on the way to 65, something that begins surfacing at about age 62. You (or your better half) start to anticipate the day when these two retirement components kick in. There's no two ways about it here: the money is a release from the considerably higher cost of health insurance premiums . The Social Security payments help from delving so deeply into our retirement savings. These are the safety measures against "running out" of money.
The points I'm trying to make are these: Americans are blessed to live in a country with these programs. Some will say, "But you paid into them." But I'll say it again: it's a blessing. The same with Social Security. You don't see people lining up to leave this country. These programs are two of countless reasons why.
I didn't anticipate, I suppose, how emotional I feel to have Brian all signed up. But emotional in a good way. I feel as though congratulations are in order.
Also, if you are getting close to this age and stage, a few things we didn't know until recently: You do pay some money monthly to be on Medicare:
1. For us anyway (and I imagine for you, too), it is a huge savings over previous health premiums. Your Medicare payments can be withheld from your Social Security checks.
2. Talk to a health insurance professional about your options for a supplemental or "Advantage" plan for your Medicare. They will explain it. I won't attempt. It may or may not cost a thing. And you can change your mind or your plans. It's not one and done forever.
3. You need to decide if or how much you want for tax withholding.
4. I thought that Social Security payments came into everyone's accounts the same day each month. They do not.
5. If someone randomly calls from "Social Security" or "Medicare" asking for your Social Security number or other personal information, tell them you will call them back. Immediately then call your local Social Society office. If these entities are trying to reach you, they will send information via U.S. mail -- not through random phone calls. Fraud alert here!
6. The process isn't so bad after all. Don't let the piles of mail intimidate you.
Brian just left the house, bound for his gym. I'm going to the grocery store.
It's not a party we're having here, exactly, but more a feeling of quiet satisfaction, this day. Besides, Brian can now whip out the line, "I'm on a fixed income."
It's the new way we roll.
Forty years ago today, Brian and I were officially engaged!
In the winter of the Blizzard of ’78, this day was cold with plenty of snow on the ground. For several weeks that season, I slept nights on the living room sofa of my brother and SIL Tim and Jeannie in Liberty.
Brian and I had been talking about marriage for a while, and were privately engaged. The ring was selected after Christmas. It needed sized, and what better time to make things official than with a Valentine's Day debut!
After work that day, I arrived at the home on East Seminary Street in Liberty where Brian rented a spacious apartment in the upstairs of landlady Mary Snyder. He was visiting downstairs with Mary.
“Your ring’s upstairs,” he said when I arrived. I went up, found the box, and brought it back down for the two of them to admire.
There was no band, no knee proposal, no asking my dad for my hand. But I knew that we loved each other and all these years later, there's no one I would rather come home to.
Forty years ago it was official, and soon came the engagement photo in the newspaper, obligatory back in that era.
Come October, God willing, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. But on that February day so long ago, I couldn’t imagine the double-digit anniversary numbers that we have today. It was simply too far into the future to even imagine. I couldn’t anticipate that four decades from that day, on our mind would be Brian’s signing up for Medicare and Social Security this week and I’d be wrapping my mind around the idea of turning 60 this year.
Last night I helped friend Patti decorate Valentine cookies that she planned to put out as a surprise for her coworkers in the teachers’ lounge today. By the time I got to her house, she and her little niece had decorated most of the hearts in bright colors. I added a few to the stack. Life is full of pattern and color and the unexpected—like those cookies that are no doubt by now gone!
On Monday, my Bible Study Fellowship group leader had old-fashioned Valentines for all of us. Not only Valentines, but red suckers attached. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone gave me that combo. The little card took me back to the fun we had in elementary school on this day.
Whether your Valentine’s Day comes with candy, hearts, a diamond engagement ring, or not, may the day remind us all of special loves, past, present and sometimes, those that are one and the same.
If you haven't been to Weight Watchers ever, or particularly for a while, there are plenty of surprises.
I can't give away the program (people PAY for that) but I can tell you that it's not your mother's WW program.
The new Freestyle Smart Points gives you options in the form of FREE FOOD you don't have to count. And the cell phone app has a bunch of cool tools, including a scanner so you can use to check out the serving points on foods still on the grocery-store shelves. It also has a guide for looking up points on foods and even restaurants replacing the thick manuals from days gone by.
As someone in the honeymoon phase of this adventure, I'm approaching grocery-store trips as someone would stalk the woods or streams for game or fish. I scour the shelves, meat and produce sections.
Friday's score was finding Extreme Wellness wraps -- 1 point each -- at Walmart. Brian even liked them and since we've been around the house most of the weekend we've had them with turkey breast lunch meat and also with homemade fajitas. My friend Sandy told me about them and the only place I've found them is Walmart on the bottom row of a shelf on the bread aisle.
On Saturday morning I used one of these gems to create a fabulous burrito. I started with a couple of scrambled eggs, onions and peppers and then grabbed some leftover bean and turkey chili that needed to be eaten. Quite nice if I do say so ...
The baking aisle produced the best find I've had on this round of Weight Watching. Truvia. It's by far the best alternative to sugar I've ever tried. Not only the taste but the texture nails it for me. I've been enjoying it in no fat, plain yogurt and on very tart pink grapefruit, which I am enjoying nightly, thank you.
I also found a delicious peanut butter powder AND a chocolate-mocha one that I put in the yogurt or in unsweetened almond milk and it is not only low in calories and points but it's delicious.
Ever check out ground 99 percent fat free turkey? Make it in patties, fry in Pam and it's a killer sandwich with your favorite condiments.
If you are on safari in your local grocery store, what have you bagged lately?
It's nice if you can have something special to look forward to on a Monday.
This week, it was special, all right. My friend Sandy cooked for me in her charming rural New Castle farmhouse!
For many years, Sandy sat across from me in The Courier-Times newsroom. Although she is retired, loving it, and busier than ever, Sandy's writing career is going strong. She is author of two children's chapter books, Sadie's Search for Home and Doodle's Search for Success. She also writes a regular column for her magazine for women.
Sandy is active with the DIVE program for kids in New Castle, with her husband, Mike, and more family, including her granddaughter Carly, numerous friends and caring for the Moore home and horses.
Sandy and I have more things in common than I can count from being farm girls at heart to Bible Study Fellowship, of course writing, and also we're both Weight Watchers! Sandy has been serious about it for a while and I just got serious again after, well, let's say a lapse.
So Monday, lunch included a four-point meal and boy was it delicious. While four points won't mean much to you if you aren't a Weight Watcher, it simply means that it was a very healthy and low-cal meal. We even had appetizers of shrimp cocktail.
Then we enjoyed chicken fajitas, vegetables and low-fat dip.
Then, strawberry dessert.
The meal was amazing but of course it's the friendship that is the bigger blessing.
Thank you, Sandy! What a refreshing time! I appreciate you more than you know.