Cover image for Joel
Sonnenberg, Joel.
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Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan, [2004]

Physical Description:
214 pages ; 24 cm
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RD96.4 .S553 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RD96.4 .S553 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Joel Sonnenberg has influenced more people in his short life than many do in an entire lifetime. This is Joel's own extraordinary account that many have been waiting for. It is the story of how a two-year-old boy has grown up to be a young man after a horrific tragedy changed his life forever. It reveals the faith, courage, and determination needed to make life one of wholeness and purpose. Despite overwhelming odds, Joel survived an explosive collision with an 18-wheeler. Escaping the flames before they claimed his life, Joel's body was transformed. He was burned on over 85 percent of his body and lost his eyelids, fingers, toes, and hair. Despite all that was taken from him, this book chronicles the astounding life and thoughts of a young man whose faith restores him into someone who has much to give. Joel considers his disability to be a special gift from God. When reading his story, you will be inspired by his love for God and his can-do attitude.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The victim of a horrendous car accident, the now 26-year-old Joel Sonnenberg always wanted to be a musician, but without hands, or even lips, what could he possibly play? Sonnenberg eventually realized his instrument was his voice. On September 15, 1979, en route to Maine, the Sonnenbergs' family car was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler. When a rescuer pulled the 22-month-old Sonnenberg from the wreckage, burns covered 85% of his smoldering body. With little hope, emergency workers transported Sonnenberg to the Shriners Burn Institute in Boston where he quickly lost his fingers, toes, lips, ears and nose. However tragic his story, Sonnenberg's recounting of his young life resounds in hope as he takes every opportunity to speak about how God has given him the courage to succeed. He is an enthusiastic storyteller, wanting to communicate not only his sorrows, but also his achievements, which are considerable. Sonnenberg credits his own optimism and his family's strong support with helping him earn his Eagle Scout award, serve as his high school's student body president, get elected Citizen of the Year for western South Carolina and carry the Olympic torch. A graduate of Taylor University, Sonnenberg continues to use his voice, and his experiences, to speak regularly across the country of his remarkable life and unshakable faith. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Joel Copyright © 2004 by Joel Sonnenberg Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sonnenberg, Joel. Joel / Joel Sonnenberg, with Gregg Lewis. p. cm. ISBN 0-310-24693-8 1. Sonnenberg, Joel. 2. Burns and scalds--Patients--United States--Biography. 3. People with disabilities--United States--Biography. I. Lewis, Gregg, 1951- II. Title. RD96.4.S553 2004 362.197'11'092--dc22 2004003206 This edition printed on acid-free paper. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means--electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other--except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Published in association with Yates & Yates, LLP, Attorneys and Counselors, Suite 1000, Literary Agent, Orange, CA. Interior design by Beth Shagene Printed in the United States of America 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 /.DC/ 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 C h a p t e r 1 What happened to you? That's the first thought that pops into our minds when we see a person with a cast. If we don't ask it, we at least think it. I feel like I've lived my whole life wearing a huge, permanent cast with a lot of names written all over it. Everyone who meets me, everyone who sees me, wonders, What happened to you? Rarely a day goes by that I don't hear this question. Some days many times. Those people who don't come right out and ask still wonder. I can see the question in their eyes and in their reactions--their awkwardness, their silence, their double takes, and their stares. If people don't wonder about me and my story when they meet me, I worry about them. While I try not to take offense if they look at me strange, I definitely look at them strange if they don't. I can never hide the fact that I'm different. So my response to their What happened? question is very often my introduction to people. I've learned that this can be good, or it can be bad--depending on how the story is told. Which is why I began speaking to groups. Some people act surprised that I'm not too nervous to get up in front of large crowds. In part it's because I know that when I walk into any public situation-- whether it's a roomful of twenty partygoers, an auditorium with five thousand people, or a prime-time television show that has millions of viewers--everyone is going to be looking at me anyway. It's only when I'm given the chance to step in front of a microphone or stand up on a stage and share my experience that I have any control over how people look at me or what they think about me. So I actually feel more comfortable in a public-speaking setting where I'm given an opportunity to present myself. It's usually my best chance--sometimes my only chance--to ease the awkwardness, to help people see past the surface so they can understand, or at least accept, me for who I am. I was not gifted with an incredible athletic talent like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. I'm not a musical prodigy who mastered an instrument by the age of six. Nor am I an intellectual genius who learned calculus by kindergarten or graduated from medical school by the age of sixteen. I certainly don't have the imagination or creativity of people like Bill Gates or George Lucas. There is nothing superhuman about me. I'm just an ordinary person--with an unusual story that in one way or another seems to have an impact on every interaction in my life. Depending on how I choose to respond, this impact can be either positive or negative. Some mornings I'd much rather sleep in than get up and face the battle of another day. Sometimes I tire of watching and envying people around me who are going through their comfortable daily routine, because what happened to me has determined that my daily life is anything but routine. I have been forced to cope by expecting the unexpected for so long that dealing with surprise has become commonplace for me. I live every day of my life outside the box, consciously trying to change the paradigm, in every interaction with others, to prove that things are not always what they seem. Others' preconceived ideas and false expectations are my constant battleground. There are occasions when what happened to me becomes a barrier that separates me from other people. But there are also occasions when it has a positive impact on my relationships. Because many people initially react to me with uncertainty and awkwardness, I'm often forced to tell enough of my story to answer unspoken questions and put people at ease. I've also learned to take the initiative in friendship and to be the first one to speak whenever I meet someone new. In this way I am forced to become more outgoing with others. Knowing what happened often gives other people an unusual sense of intimacy with me. It makes me seem more transparent and therefore more approachable in many people's minds. I'm constantly humbled by how open and trusting, even vulnerable, many people are when they talk to me. So many hurting people seem to identify with me because of what happened. We all know that our words, our attitudes, and our actions influence others. But I'm regularly reminded of this when someone comes up to me and says some- thing like, "Joel, I've never forgotten what you told me that time we were having lunch together at McDonald's. It made such an impact on me." And I'll have no recollection of what they're talking about. For them it was some life-impacting conversation; I was just eating a hamburger. Stuff like that happens to me all the time. When it does, I'm reminded that what happened to me years ago makes me an example to others. Not only am I forced to tell my story every day, but any person who has a relationship with me may be forced to tell it as well. Why? Because other people ask them, "What happened to Joel?" As a result, in some peculiar way, my story becomes the story of those around me. Which means it's been told a lot. At least in part. I've watched portions of my life reenacted on television. I've read other parts in newspapers and magazines. I've shared bits and pieces of my personal history with many acquaintances over the years. I've sat in front of TV cameras and stood on stage before live audiences to talk about my experience. But this book marks the first time I've ever told, from my perspective, the whole story of what happened. And I'm excited about the opportunity because I expect new friends, strangers, and people I've known for years, and even my family, will gain new insights--not just into my story but also into me. And into life. Excerpted from Joel by Joel Sonnenberg, Sonnenberg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.