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Joni Eareckson Tada: An Advocate for the Disabled

Joni at her office where she works to help the disabled around the world

God’s Purpose, a Disability

Can I assume that many of you know who Joni Eareckson Tada is?  But do you know her story?  It’s a story of brokenness, anger, depression and wanting to commit suicide as she struggled through her two years of rehab after her horrific accident in Chesapeake Bay.  It’s also a story of how God stepped into her life and slowly showed her His purpose for her life.  He had plans for her that she didn’t even know about.

Initially it was a flicker, then it grew stronger and finally twelve years after her paralyzing accident God directed her to open ‘Joni and Friends,’ a ministry to the disabled.  Forty years later it has grown to become an international ministry to the disabled.

Could she have envisioned what God had in mind those many years ago as she lay paralyzed from her spinal cord injury sustained from a diving accident?  Absolutely not.  She was too wound up in anger, depression and thinking how she was going to commit suicide to even think of the good God was going to bring about through her injury.

God knew there were numerous disabled people in the world and no one was ministering to them.  No one understood what they were going through.  They were the forgotten.  Forgotten until Joni came along that is, disabled like they were, one who understood their pain, and began to minister among them.

Ministry Beginnings

She had just graduated from high school when she and her sister, Kathy decided that fateful summer day to go to the beach.  Before the day was over Joni was paralyzed from the shoulders down.  Three years prior she had accepted Christ as her Savior at a summer camp.  As a senior in high school she had prayed for the Lord to use her for His purposes, but surely being paralyzed was not in His game plan was it?

After her rehab was over, she returned home.  She had been taught how to draw and paint by holding a pen in her mouth, so slowly she began to use this one skill to draw and paint pictures.

Through friends and God meeting her where she was she began to emotionally heal from the accident and learn to lean on God working through her life and giving her strength from one day to the next to be able to live as a quadriplegic.

Ten years after she finished rehab she decided that she needed to live in a warmer climate and not deal with the winter cold of Maryland, so she moved to Southern California.  It was here that she set up the ministry now known as ‘Joni and Friends.’  God directed her to write books (48 so far), do speaking engagements (too many to count), travel internationally to speak at camps for the disabled, acquire wheelchairs which needed remodeling for the disabled, and minister to those whom the world had forgotten.  One outlet of her ministry is to wounded veterans through the wounded warriors organization.

American Disability Act

She was asked to serve on the disabled committee set up by President Ronald Reagan and through these committee meetings  the American Disability Act was put together and then passed by Congress.  She has had a movie made of her life and received numerous honorary degrees.

In 1982 she married her spouse, Ken Tada who was a high school teacher.  In 2010 she found out that she had stage III breast cancer and received a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.  Now she has recently found out that it has returned and she has had more surgery followed by radiation.

Ever since her diving accident she has learned to deal with chronic pain.  You wouldn’t think that a quadriplegic would have pain seeing that her spinal cord is fractured.  But she does.

Conclusion/Application Question

Through it all she has learned to rely on, depend upon and lean into God’s grace and love.  And every day God has meet her and showed her His way for her.

God’s purpose for her life was to be disabled so she could minister to those who were disabled.  If you want to know more about Joni or the ministry please go to: www.joniandfriends.org.

What is God’s purpose for your life?  Ask Him to reveal it, He will.  After He tells you, then begin to walk in His purpose for your life.  He is waiting.

Below is a short video about Joni:

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