This weekend was incredible!!!
Joni Eareckson Tada, a disabled Christian, artist, author, and speaker came to Central Assembly of God in Springfield Missouri. In the summer of 1967, when she was only 17, a diving accident left her a quadriplegic. Despite her early depression and continuing struggles because of her disability Joni has continued to put her trust in the Lord. She is very open about her faith and urges people to lean on Jesus Christ when they are weak. In everything she says and does Joni is open and honest. She has been one of my heroines for many years because she does not pretend that everything is easy, and yet Joni continues to say with full conviction that Jesus is Lord in both good and difficult times. I quoted her in my book Ordinary.
The weekend started off on Friday evening March 27th with a fundraiser banquet for Joni & Friends where Joni and some of her volunteers shared what her ministries were doing, including, Wheels for the World, which distributes manual wheelchairs worldwide where disabled people have minimal or no access at ALL to them!!! They have given 100,000 wheelchairs to many people in Ghana, China, and Mexico- Just to name a few!!! My sister, Rebecca, came with me to this event and I could hardly believe we were sitting in a room with this woman whom I had only known through a memoir which she wrote: The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus, and her movie, Joni.
On Saturday, Mom and my friend Emily had a wonderful time attending a luncheon for disabled people and their caregivers. Joni and her husband, Ken, shared how they make their marriage work in the midst of her disability. She understands that it is not easy for the caregivers to have to help someone who is physically disabled on a daily basis. Ken told us that there were moments when he felt trapped or just plain exhausted by having to help Joni with EVERYTHING! Joni told us that it was difficult to hear his frustrations in the beginning, but she eventually realized that Ken could not keep doing this all by himself!! Now she has more people involved in assisting her, especially now that she is suffering with a lot more physical pain. What has made their marriage last for over 30 years is that they have made Christ the center! He is the foundation of their relationship. They urged us to keep the Lord the focus of our relationship with whoever is assisting us. Their testimony is inspiring and encouraging for everyone!!!
We got to spend time with her afterwards and I was able to tell her how much her story encouraged me through the years. I gave her and Ken a copy of my book and a letter I’d written just 1 day prior to the events. I think she enjoyed meeting Mom and Emily too, and I know that this was wonderful for them.
On Sunday I went back to Central Assembly with Emily to listen to Joni speak in the morning and then that evening attended the concert with Mom, and my 2 nieces which was held in Joni’s honor. It was beautiful and the music was chosen especially for Joni. She shared one of her most beloved hymns that a friend sang to her while she was in the hospital so many years ago. It is called “Man of Sorrows”.
Meeting Joni was everything I’d hoped and prayed that it would be. Actually it was even better. Joni glowed with the love of Jesus. She knows what it is like “to be in need, and to know what it is to have plenty.” Joni has learned “the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. “
For me to be able to meet her was a true gift from the Lord that I will cherish forever.