Joni Eareckson Tada serves as CEO of Joni and Friends, a Christian organization which provides programs and services for thousands of special-needs families around the world. She began Joni and Friends after a 1967 diving accident left her a quadriplegic. Tada is a respected global leader in disability advocacy. President Reagan appointed her to the National Council on Disability and she was reappointed by President George H.W. Bush. She served as advisor to Condoleezza Rice on the Disability Advisory Committee to the U.S. State Department and served as senior associate for disability concerns for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. She shares her inspirational message in books, through artwork, radio and other forms of media.
Joni Eareckson Tada’s diving accident at age 17 left her with quadriplegia and in deep depression. Through the prayers and practical support of her Christian friends, she found purpose and joy again. As she described, “It’s hard to be mad at God when his people love so fiercely.”
In Today’s Conversation with NAE President Walter Kim, Joni challenges Christians and churches to go outside their comfort zones and fulfill Jesus’ calling to bring those with disabilities to the table so that his Father’s house will be full.
Joni also shares:
- Examples of churches that have thriving disabilities ministries;
- How to avoid being paternalistic when developing while serving and loving the marginalized;
- The limits of culture to change perceptions of those with disabilities; and
- What she hopes the next decade will look like for those impacted by disability and the Church.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Walter: What brought you out of that darkness, out of that depression?
Joni: People often ask me that and I look back, Walter, and I’m honestly convinced that primarily it was the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ. There were people who diligently prayed for me, and honestly, I believe I am still experiencing the repercussion of those prayers. They’re still resonating in my life in so many ways.
The way I see it, we don’t wrestle against the flesh and blood of quadriplegia or depression or paralysis discouragement. We wrestle against powers and principalities that would love nothing more than to keep us steeped in discouragement by our life situation.
So, I think God uses prayers to dismantle those spiritual strongholds, to open up pathways of hope in our heart, to knead our spirits, to soften our souls, because I was very hardened against God at first. Prayers opened the way for God to work in our lives. So, even to this day when people ask, “How can I best serve my neighbor who just learned she has multiple sclerosis?” I always advise them to pray and pray specifically, committedly and on a regular basis. God can do great things through prayer.
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- Check out Joni & Friends Ministry.
- Read the recently released 45th anniversary edition of “Joni: An Unforgettable Story.”
Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Wheaton College Graduate School.