50th Anniversary Reflections

  • By: Joni Eareckson Tada
  • July 9, 2017
  • Joni's Posts

During July, Joni is reflecting on the past 5 decades of God's faithfulness following her 1967 diving accident.

Decade 2: 1978-1987

JAF beginsFifty years has a way of accruing countless memories, but two stand out – the first, starting Joni and Friends in 1979. I was barely 30 years old when I left our farm in Maryland and moved to Southern California to begin this ministry (it wasn’t too scary since I had completed my rehab in California). It all started in a one-room office at Worldwide Pictures in Burbank (BGEA’s film company that produced the JONI movie). I had no skill in leading a Christian nonprofit organization, but I had a great board of directors and a great many more friends who supported me in prayer. It was my desire through Joni and Friends to simply pass on to other disabled people the blessings with which God had encouraged me.

Joni MovieStill, running a fledgling ministry was filled with challenges. But whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would take a deep breath and claim Hebrews 13:21, “May the God of peace… equip you with all you need for doing his will.” I was super-confident that when God calls us, He also enables us for the task. So, I leaned hard on Him, studied non-profit management, and kept Jesus always before me, and people with disabilities as my focus.

Now, almost 40 years later, hardly a day goes by that I don’t wheel through the doors of our headquarters at Joni and Friends and shake my head in amazement – countless special-needs families are being reached this summer for Christ through 50 Family Retreats in the US and overseas, plus thousands more through Wheels for the World. And it all began sitting around our kitchen table in our Maryland farmhouse as I answered letters from people who who read the Joni book!

WeddingThere is another memory that stands out from those early days – marrying my husband, Ken Tada. We ‘dated’ for about a year or so, and when Ken asked me to marry, I was stunned. I didn’t know how marriage with quadriplegia would work. Some people advised us to “go away for a weekend to see if you can manage it.” Ken and I disagreed: God’s commands about keeping yourself pure for marriage should not be modified just because you have a disability. It meant that on our wedding day, we still had lots of questions (so our honeymoon was a little like Handicap Awareness Week)! I was so happy that warm July morning in 1982 when, in my wedding dress, I wheeled down the aisle of Grace Community Church. It was quite a celebration! John MacArthur, who married us, later shared, “Joni, you were a beautiful bride and, coming down the aisle, you looked a little like a float in the Rose Parade!” He was right :-).


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May the Lord continue to bless you and encourage your heart as you seek to serve Him each day! Thank you Joni for all that you have taught my family and I about what truly matters in life. I first met you in person when I was 13 and living in NJ. I am looking forward to seeing you again and my 13 year old daughter meeting you (Lord willing) when you come to speak at a church next month in Indiana. :)
  • July 30, 2017
  • 3:54 a.m.
  • Pam H.
I saw you in person and heard you speak. I was overcome with the same sensation that I get only when I am alone with my Lord and worshiping Him. I went into the bathroom and talked with Him about it. I thought it was wrong, putting a human in the same place that only He had ever been. I believe it was Him that comforted me with the thought, the words "It's Me that you are reacting to, Me in Joni." What an amazing thing!!! What a hard package you have lived with for years. Truly, the Lord has used this to conform you into His image. My beloved grandson fell off a cliff two months ago. He is now paralyzed from the waist down. I just finished reading your book "The Place of Healing". So much and you keep on keeping on - what a testimony of the power of God!! 2 Cor. 4:8-11 I thank you, Joni, I thank you for being you and sharing yourself with others. You are a light that shines on Jesus!! Thank you!
  • July 17, 2017
  • 4:22 p.m.
  • Alice DeHart
Still beautiful, inside and out. Handsome kind husband as well. Love from N.Ireland, always encouraged reading your books as a young Christian, now 73 .PTL.xx
  • July 11, 2017
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • Caroline Read
Well done Joni. Your story has always inspired me, and yOur ministry must be such a blessing especially people who are challenged in any way.
  • July 10, 2017
  • 10:27 p.m.
  • Jacqueline Conlon
Joni, thank you so much for sharing your story & your faith with us for all these years. Life can be so hard, & you have been a wonderful example of how we are to encourage & comfort others in how we have been we have been comforted. Thank you for letting your light shine for Jesus. Thank you for sharing your Hope in Him. You are such a blessing from God to so many! Thank you! I received your 1st book from my parents as a Christmas present in 1978 when I was just 12 years old. I still have that very copy, & in honor of you & your 50 year anniversary I am about to read it again. Thank you again, Joni, for all you do for others in His name & for His glory. Thank you, Sister!!
  • July 10, 2017
  • 10:18 a.m.
  • Linda
So thankful our Lord has kept you and Ken for each other and for Him!! Blessings on you both!!
  • July 9, 2017
  • 9:09 p.m.
  • Bel McCoy
Joni, I have followed your journey all these years...you are a wonderful example to each of us.
  • July 9, 2017
  • 8:50 p.m.
  • Sharel
You continue to be a great blessing and encouragement to everyone you touch. Thank you for your ministry and faithfulness to Christ.
  • July 9, 2017
  • 7:53 p.m.
  • Will Berkley
Wheels!! I've Got Wheels! Have loved and followed your ministry forever ! I always enjoy your uplifting posts, which always bring a tear and a smile. Blessing abound because of you and our Lord and Savior JESUS Christ !!
  • July 9, 2017
  • 4:32 p.m.
  • Lori Sedlak
God bless you and your husband, Ken. And God continue blessing your ministry. You are such a ministry to my life. I am disabled, and living daily with Christ. I see your ministry; and your strength images Christ's life.
  • July 9, 2017
  • 2:10 p.m.
  • Glenda Jansson
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