Joni Eareckson Tada and the Joni and Friends Board of Directors announced today that Judy Butler, Joni’s longtime executive assistant, is to retire after 35 years of service at Joni and Friends. “Judy has been with me since day one, always ready and willing to serve in whatever capacity she was needed,” Joni said. “I am going to miss having her right outside my office, but I am confident in what we both believe and trust is God’s perfect timing.”
Born in England in 1940, trained as an R.N. and midwife, Judy came to know the Lord in 1963. Looking to understand more about her new life in Christ, she began working for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in London in 1965 and accepted their invitation to come to the U.S. in 1967. While serving in different capacities in many crusades under team member Charlie Riggs, she met Joni in Michigan in 1976, while responsible for hosting speakers at Mr. Graham’s Detroit Crusade. In 1977, the BGEA film-making entity, World Wide Pictures, began plans to produce the movie “Joni,” requiring Joni to be in Burbank for six months. Her family was unable to leave their home responsibilities, so with Joni’s approval, Judy was asked to assist. It was thought she would be the perfect fit with both administrative and healthcare training. “I ‘just happened’ to be available to serve in that capacity, at that time,” Judy said.
Joni’s artwork, her bestselling autobiography, Joni, published in 1976, and the media coverage of her testimony had generated so much correspondence that both her art representation company and her publisher found themselves overwhelmed. In addition, many individuals, families, churches and ministries were seeking to better understand and practice the theology of suffering Joni’s testimony made visible – especially recognizing the needs of those affected by disability. She realized the future release of the movie in 1978 would generate even more interest and response. “It seemed God was to use Joni in a much broader and deeper capacity than she could have envisioned,” Judy said. “But as she and I agreed at the time, it became a question of not deciding to start a ministry, but being afraid not to!” In 1979, the decision was prayerfully made to begin the ministry Joni and Friends, and Judy’s experience setting up local crusade offices for the Billy Graham team served her well in helping this new ministry dedicated to helping other families with disabilities. Judy has since been much more than an executive assistant to Tada, providing personal assistance, as well as accompanying her on ministry trips throughout the U.S. and to more than 46 countries.
Judy says, “It’s been an amazing 35 years serving alongside Joni and after 50 years in ministry I’m looking forward to seeing and enjoying what God has next in mind!”
Please leave Judy your well-wishes!