The Swing

  • July 14, 2014
  • #8401

At Family Retreats everyone has fun, including Joni! Listen to her tell about the time she was tempted to ride the giant swing.

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada, the original dare-devil at Family Retreats!

No, I'm not really, or am I? Well, if Ken Tada were here at the microphone with me, he’d say an unequivocal ‘yes, my wife is the original dare devil!’ And he’s probably right. All my life I’ve been the athletic, no holds barred, take a risk and just ‘do it’ kind of girl. In fact it was that gutsy bravado that made me take that risky dive in shallow water the day I broke my neck. When, in the hospital, when I was first injured, when my mother asked me exactly what I was doing on that raft, I told her sheepishly that I did an inward pike dive, thinking I could pull out of it fast enough. My mother, who was an expert in platform diving, couldn’t believe me. She said, “Joni, why in the world would you take such a risk in such shallow water?” I knew she was right, and I really had no good answer. I was 17 years old and thought I could do everything — even do an inward pike dive and come out of it clean. “Wrong!”

Many decades later, you would think I have learned my lesson. Not to do risky, athletic kinds of things — I mean, after all, I am a quadriplegic! But I must say that last summer at our Family Retreat down at Camp Allen, Texas, I was definitely enticed by the giant swing — especially when I saw other people with disabilities get harnessed up. The harness had two wires near the shoulder which were part of a giant swing. Then, they hooked the back of your harness up to a long rope with a pulley at the top of a real tall pole and then a bunch of volunteers, on the count of three, ran and pulled on the rope which, in turn, took the person way, way up near the top of that pole. Then with a lynch pin, they released the rope and that camper would become a giant swing, complete with screams and laughter.

Well, this intrigued me as I stood there on the ground and watched one disabled person after the next go on the giant swing. I assessed everybody’s disabilities of some of the campers who were taking part in this endeavor, and I reasoned that, well, since the harness was pretty safe, I could do it. I said to Ken and Doug Mazza, the president of Joni and Friends who was standing next to me, I said, “I can do this; really, I can.” They both gave each other a “What is she, crazy?” kind of look. After all, it’s not so much about my quadriplegia, I am an old quadriplegic with thin, brittle bones. But remember, I’m the one that takes risks, right? And before you knew it, I was getting harnessed up. So the question is: did I or did I not actually go up on the giant swing? Well, you are going to have to see for yourself because we made a video of that momentous occasion. It is short and it is fun, and I’ve posted it today on my radio page today at

And I have posted it for a reason. This week, a whole new group of Joni and Friends’ Family Retreats are starting up — including one over in China. And at each Family Retreat, we will be doing the Proverbs chapter 17, verse 22 kind of ministry because we believe that a merry heart is good medicine. And one of the best ways to get disabled people out of their shells is with, well, with a zip-line or a waterslide or even with a giant swing. So please, join me in praying that the hearts of these special needs families attending our Family Retreats this week will be open to the good news of Jesus. And don’t forget to watch this amazing video of me in the giant swing on my radio page today at 

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