In 1967, at the age of 17, Joni Eareckson Tada suffered a diving accident that resulted in a broken neck. She was hospitalized and paralyzed as a quadriplegic. During two years of rehabilitation, she struggled with anger, depression and thoughts of suicide, unable to understand why God had let this happen to her. Rehab taught her how to live with her disabilities.
While in rehab she immersed herself in God’s Word and emerged from it with renewed spiritual strength and the desire to help others in similar situations. She even learned how to paint with a brush held between her teeth. She became so proficient, that she was able to sell her artwork. Today she is not only an internationally known mouth artist, but is also a talented vocalist, host of radio shows, and an author of seventeen books! She is a strong, devoted and full-time advocate for disabled persons around the world.
Her many books include her autobiography, Joni, which became an international best-seller and has been distributed in many languages. She starred in a feature film made in 1979 based on the book. It told of her accident, struggles and life after rehab.
Her story is truly an inspiration for others, as she has devoted her life to a ministry of serving other people with disabilities. In 1979 she founded Joni and Friends (JAF), a Christian ministry for the disabled throughout the world. The growth of the organization made possible the establishment of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center (IDC) in 2006. Her work expresses her strong belief and trust in the Lord, expressed by the Bible verse, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Joni and her husband, Ken Tada, married in 1982. Ken was a teacher for thirty-two years. He joined Joni at the foundation in 2004. They both serve as permanent members of the International Board of Directors of Joni and Friends.
The Joni and Friends International Disability Center has created several flagship programs. They include a daily five-minute radio program that is broadcast all over the United States and internationally. In 2002 it was awarded the “Radio Program of the Year” award by the National Religious Broadcasters. The Center also offers family retreats and supports a program called Wheels for the World. Wheelchairs are collected and refurbished by prison inmates and then donated to disabled children or adults in developing nations, along with a presentation of the Gospel. Physical therapists make sure each chair fits the disabled person it is given to.
Joni was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U. S. State Department in 2005. She travels extensively as a conference speaker and has written many articles for Christian publications, like Christianity Today and Today’s Christian Woman.
In November 2009 Joni signed the Manhattan Declaration. It is an ecumenical statement that calls on evangelicals, Catholics and orthodox Christians not to comply with rules and laws that permit abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against one’s own religious conscience.
In June 2010 Joni announced that she had been diagnosed with malignant breast cancer (Stage 3). She met this challenge with the same unfaltering faith she has had all the years she has been disabled. During an appearance on the Larry King Show she said, “We don't need to hold quadriplegia, pain, cancer or any other suffering in contempt--it just may be the open door to joy and peace for those who are paralyzed by unbelief (in Jesus) and blind to deeper, more satisfying truths (of God).” She underwent surgery and chemo for the cancer. The cancer went into remission and Joni returned to her work and travels with renewed strength and joy.
Named as the 2011 Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, Joni was quoted as saying, “I’m so grateful to God He has given me the health and stamina to call the people of our nation into faithful and specific prayer for our country. I look forward to fulfilling my responsibilities in this important role and I trust the Lord will use me to inspire and encourage others to cultivate a lifetime habit of prayer!” Further information on her work and organization may be found at: www.joniandfriends.org/.
Quote by Joni Eareckson: “Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”