In March we were delighted to reinterview Joni Eareckson Tada, a world-renowned author, radio host, and disability advocate who founded Joni and Friends, a ministry dedicated to bringing the Gospel and practical resources to people impacted by disability around the globe.
To kick off the interview Joni shares her struggles with depression and doubts about God’s goodness following her accident. She emphasizes that it was the power of love through the body of Christ that helped her overcome her despair. When God spoke to Joni through Psalm 62:8, “Trust in the Lord at all times,” she chose to believe that God had a plan for her life even in the face of unthinkable tragedy. For the past 56 years, Joni has been looking to her Savior, learning how to live and love well from her wheelchair.
Joni recalls an experience overseas that marked her forever. After watching a severely disabled and impoverished woman cross a busy street in the Philippines, Joni was moved to spend her life focused on helping others less fortunate than her. Since 1979, Joni and Friends has been advancing disability ministry and changing the church and communities around the world. The Joni and Friends International Disability Center (IDC) serves as the administrative center for ministry programs and locations across the United States which provide outreach to thousands of families.
What’s new with Joni?
Joni and Friends has also set their focus on those in war-torn locations, recently opening the International Family Retreat and Warrior Getaway for Ukrainians held in Germany and Poland. The organization has helped evacuate over 600 families affected by disability, relocating them to countries like Switzerland, Germany and Netherlands, providing much support such as medical supplies and housing, as well as the hope of the gospel.
A special memory for Nick was when Life Without Limbs partnered with Wheels for the World, a key outreach of Joni and Friends. Wheels for the World has changed so many lives by bringing mobility and the hope of the Gospel to people impacted by disability around the world. The most recent project is the International Wheelchair Restoration Center in El Salvador that trains and employs people with disabilities. Joni speaks on the importance of not only handing out free wheelchairs, but actually changing culture and giving people dignity and hope.
One of the most powerful forces against hopelessness in the midst of suffering is serving others who are in need. It is how both Nick and Joni have found purpose in their pain. Joni and Friends embodies a truth that Nick has embraced for many years- “If you don’t get a miracle, you can still be a miracle for someone else.”
A special resource Nick highlights in the interview is Joni’s inspiring new book “Songs of Suffering,”. It’s filled with poignant reflections and uplifting hymns that offer comfort and encouragement to those navigating difficult times.
Nick recently had the special opportunity to sit down with The Chosen’s very own Jordan Ross. Jordan’s character, Little James, is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus who overcomes his disappointment of not being healed by trusting God to use his pain for purpose. Off screen, Jordan still has a limp. He relates to Nick on how he has learned to embrace his disability and how it has become a unique part of his story. This is another testimony of how God can turn our weakness into strength and our disappointments into God-appointments. You can watch the full podcast here.
Life Without Limbs was honored to share a powerful testimony from 17-year old Joshua Black. Joshua was paralyzed from a trampoline accident several years ago. Standing strong in his faith in Jesus Christ, he boldly declares 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
We would love for you to see the full testimony here.
One other incredible story to share is Nick’s recent interview with professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, who famously survived a shark attack in 2003. In their discussion, Hamilton shared her personal experience of overcoming adversity and how she coped with the aftermath of the attack. Hamilton emphasized the importance of communication within families and encouraged those with disabilities to express their needs more openly. She also discussed how to stay humble when one finds themselves in the spotlight. Hamilton’s positive outlook on life and her ability to turn tragedy into triumph serves as a powerful inspiration to anyone facing difficult times, and you can see the whole interview here.
Until next time
In closing, we want to leave you with a message of hope and encouragement from Nick. “When you spell out disabled D-I-S-A-B-L-E-D, and you put GO in front of that, it spells GOD IS ABLED.” Nick speaks from experience that when circumstances do not make sense, we serve a God who we can trust completely. He encourages those suffering from disabilities to know that their physical limitations do not limit the purpose and plan God has for their lives.
If you or a loved one struggles with the effects of having a disability, we invite you to visit Champions for the Disabled where you can be connected to resources and tools to further support you.