In 1981, ministry leader Joni Eareckson Tada was in bed all summer healing pressure sores that come with being a quadriplegic since breaking her neck from a diving accident in 1967 at the age of 17.
It had only been two years since she established the Joni and Friends ministry to address the needs of families affected by disability, and she and her small but dedicated staff were still working from a two-room office in California.
It was at that time that Al Sanders and Jon Campbell of Ambassador Advertising Agency, a leading expert in the Christian radio industry, knocked on her front door, pulled up chairs by her bedside, and presented a proposal.
“Joni, we are convinced your message needs to be on the radio,” she recalled them saying. “Would you consider recording a daily five-minute feature for stations across the country?”
After staring at them blankly, Tada responded, “It’s kind of you to offer this, but I couldn’t fill even a month’s worth of programs, let alone years.”
But they insisted. So, after much prayer, Tada began gathering a treasure trove of Biblical insights on suffering, depression, contentment, and hope that became the basis for her radio programs.
Then, on May 3, 1982, Tada headed over to a nearby recording studio of Pastor John MacArthur (who had graciously offered his facilities) and parked her wheelchair in front of the microphone to record her first Joni and Friends radio program.
Tada recalled feeling the pleasure of God when she did so.
“I felt the same thing when I began receiving letters from listeners,” she shared in a recent blog post. “People were being blessed by my messages. Plus, as I shared about our outreach at Joni and Friends, listeners signed up to volunteer at Family Retreats or serve with Wheels for the World – radio became a great way to ‘talk up’ our ministry!”
Now, nearly four decades later, more than 1,200 radio outlets across the U.S. air Tada’s four-minute broadcast. And, on August 28, she will be airing her 10,000th program.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be strong enough or live long enough to reach this milestone,” she said. “And I have enjoyed every minute.”
Tada noted that it’s not easy. As a quadriplegic, she needs extra breath and strength every time she records. Moreover, radio demands a lot of time.
But she said radio has been a marvelous outreach for Joni and Friends – not just in the United States, but around the world. The ministry’s translated four-minute Joni y Amigos programs for Spanish language stations air internationally, as do programs translated into Chinese and Romanian. The ministry also has a one-minute Diamonds in the Dust radio program that has been airing since March 2007.
“I am fulfilling my life’s calling whenever I pass on the rock-solid answers to pain and affliction that I’ve found in God’s Word,” she said.
During a special half-hour Zoom meeting celebrating the upcoming 10,000th broadcast, Tada thanked the radio station managers who have aired, supported, and promoted her programs, knowing her heart to reach for Christ those who are suffering.
“I cannot begin to calculate the generous investments that you friends have made not only in the ministry of Joni and Friends, but in my life and my message,” she said.
“I know that God has permitted my disability so that I might share with your listeners Christ’s hope through hardship. But never, ever did I dream that our partnership – or, for that matter, my voice – would last this long,” she added. “And coming up on 10,000 programs, who would have dreamed it?”
To find a station that airs Joni and Friends, visit joniandfriends.org/media/radio.
To add Joni and Friends to your station lineup, contact Lee Ann Jackson at Ambassador Advertising: email@example.com.