In the summer of 1979 while working on Grandstand at a swimming pool in Coventry, I dived in to shallow water and broke my neck, writes Crawford Telfer. Thank God my spinal chord was left intact albeit bruised – but I had to spend 6 weeks lying flat on a special bed. During that time a friendly nurse brought me some books. One of them told the story of a young girl called Joni Eareckson who also broke her neck in a similar diving accident. It had left her paralysed from the neck down. At the time it never entered my wildest imagination that I would meet her let alone be working with her in California.
Joni was the special guest in our ‘Book by Book’ series which is produced with the folks at All Souls Church in London. They covered the cost of the filming team travelling to Los Angeles to film Richard Bewes and Paul Blackham as they discussed with Joni her favourite book of the Bible – Philippians.
An American crew and location filming facilities were organised by our US producer Owen Stephens – who is a Hollywood veteran having worked on many of the blockbusters such as Superman and The Terminator. Owen is a bit of a maverick and he has designed the ‘Pampalite’ – a wonderful lamp used for filming. It gives off no heat, uses very little power, and provides a beautiful soft light. Owen used his lamps to light the setting at a country church just north of L.A. Joni especially appreciated the lack of heat as she sat patiently for most of the day while we filmed.
It may seem ironic that Joni chose to talk about the ‘letter of joy’ as Philippians is often called. How could someone in her situation have joy? Yet throughout the day it was so obvious she has an inner strength, and peace and deep joy which comes from her Saviour. It was a very humbling experience when, having been urged to share my own experience, she said ‘you are a walking miracle’. I couldn’t help but notice the tear in her eye. Thinking my story had upset her, I was assured by a close friend that, far from it – it was a tear of genuine joy.