Joni Eareckson Tada Reflects on 50 Years of Quadriplegia

Dock on a lakeIt was on July 30, 1967, that Joni Eareckson Tada – then 17 years old – became a quadriplegic after taking a dive into shallow water and shattering her spinal cord.

Now, 50 years later, Tada says she “can still taste the anguish.” But despite the suffering she’s experienced, Tada says she thanks God every day for her wheelchair – because of what God has done in her and through her since the accident.

“It sounds incredible, but I really would rather be in this wheelchair knowing Jesus as I do than be on my feet without him,” she wrote in a reflective piece that appeared on the website of The Gospel Coalition.

During the month of July, Tada shared her reflections on the past five decades, through interviews and written articles, including a five-part series on her blog that looked at each decade since the accident.

“Fifty years has a way of accruing countless memories,” she wrote in her reflection of Decade 2.

Among those memories are starting her ministry, Joni and Friends, in 1979 when she was barely 30.

“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,” she recalled. “It was my desire through Joni and Friends to simply pass on to other disabled people the blessings with which God had encouraged me.”

Tada also recalled sharing her story at 12 Billy Graham evangelistic crusades, including one in Budapest, Hungary, where hundreds of people with disabilities lined the track of the 100,000-seat sports stadium.

“That night virtually all of them opened their hearts to Christ,” she noted.

Tada also recalled serving on the National Council on Disability when the American Disabilities Act was first drafted, working with President George W. Bush and his administration in promoting ethical stem-cell research using adult tissues, and discovering that she had stage 3 breast cancer in 2010.

“The year-long ordeal gave Ken and me many chances to talk about Christ with chemo patients, nurses, doctors, secretaries, and technicians,” she recalled, referring to her husband of 35 years, Ken Tada.

And, in looking back, Tada said she is amazed at all of the ministry that God has accomplished through her life.

This summer, Joni and Friends will hold 27 Family Retreats in the United States and 23 in less resourced nations, reaching thousands of special-needs families for Christ. Hundreds of the ministry’s Cause4Life interns will work in orphanages overseas. Christian physical therapists will serve on the ministry’s Wheels for the World teams in more than 40 countries, delivering Bibles, giving the salvation message, and hand-fitting wheelchairs to needy people with disabilities. In 2014, Joni and Friends delivered its 100,000th wheelchair through Wheels for the World.

“As I look back over 50 years, I just see God at work,” Tada told Christianity Today in an interview observing the anniversary of her accident. “That’s pretty exciting.”

Tada is encouraging others to pray for, support, and join her as she and her team engage in more ministry in the years to come.

“Help me celebrate by volunteering at a Joni and Friends’ Family Retreat, or on a Wheels for the World team. Serve as a Cause 4 Life intern, or join our prayer team. Let’s take this party to the streets and alleys, to the highways and byways to bring in more people with disabilities,” she concluded on her blog.

By NRB Staff

Published: August 3, 2017

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