Joni and Friends Blog
Blog Contest Winner – Stephanie
To celebrate 35 years of Joni and Friends ministry, we recently held our first blog contest. We invited you to share on your personal blog how Joni and Friends has impacted your life! This week, we’re featuring the winning entries. Today’s post was written by Stephanie E. who has a rare, disabling illness called Juvenile Dermatomyositis. As a winner, she’s receiving a copy of Joni’s soon to be released book, Beside Bethesda, and the Joni feature film. Please take a moment to read Stephanie’s post and leave her a comment of congratulations!
Happy 35 Years to Joni and Friends!
I cannot remember a time that I did not look up to and admire Joni Eareckson Tada. Growing up with a disabling illness, I found it hard to find role models in the public eye who really encouraged me. When healthy normal people talked about pain and suffering, the words just seemed to be empty; but when Joni spoke of pain and suffering, the words mattered. Our situations may be drastically different in many ways, but I know she is accustomed to pain and suffering, and that has made a huge difference in my life.
As I grew older, I became more and more aware of Joni’s spiritual depth. Her daily dependence on the Lord is evident in everything she does and I know firsthand that God uses her words to encourage and inspire. I cannot even count how many times I’ve needed to hear just what was written in the daily Joni and Friends devotion, or how many times her books have spoken truth into my life at a time when it was desperately needed.
I’ve always admired and believed in Joni and her ministry, but a few years ago God used circumstances in my life to make the magnitude of her Wheels to the World ministry more real to me. When my disease took a turn for the worse, I had less and less abilities and started to have to rely on accessibility devices more and more. I fought it at first, but eventually I realized they had to be used to make life easier for me. I have to admit, at first I didn’t handle it too well; I mean, what 26 year old really wants to have a toilet riser and still have to have help up when they are finished? It was pretty discouraging to say the least. Every time I saw my toilet riser, ramp, shower handrails, wheelchair, etc., I felt a little pang of bitterness. They were ever present reminders that I was really sick and really weak. I felt like they were screaming at me, telling me all the things I couldn’t do.
Then one day I was watching a Joni and Friends video on the Wheels of the World ministry and it hit me– what if all those accessibility devices I needed weren’t there? What if my family couldn’t afford them or if I lived in a country where they were not readily available? How much more difficult would my life be? It was a humbling experience to say the least. I suddenly looked at all of those things a lot differently. I no longer took them for granted and started to try to think of them as a really strange blessing. Don’t get me wrong, if the day comes when I do not need them, I will be overjoyed; but in the meantime I am thankful they help me and thankful to have them as I slowly gain my strength back. That day God also placed on my heart to donate to the Wheels of the World ministry on a monthly basis. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough that one person will receive a wheelchair each year. It amazes me how God can take a small gift on my part and literally change someone’s life. Giving someone with a disability a wheelchair is so much more than just giving them a chair; it’s giving them freedom to go out of their house again. This may mean the opportunity to go to church or school or to just see the outside world. It means they have opportunities that they never had before; and with Joni and Friends, they are also given a Bible and hear the gospel, which means they then have the best opportunity of all – to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and secure an eternal destination.
I’m so thankful for Joni and friends and the many aspects of the ministry. It changes lives!