HOLY SPIRIT: Joni Eareckson Tada by Francis Chan

Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Joni Eareckson Tada by Francis Chan

From: Forgotten God

Recently I was asked, “Who is the most Spirit-filled person you know?”  My response: Joni Eareckson Tada.

A 1967 diving accident left then seventeen-year-old Joni a quadriplegic.  Lying in a hospital bed, she was filled with an overwhelming desire to end her life.  The thought of spending the rest of her years paralyzed from the neck down and relying on others to care for her basic needs was staggering.

But Joni did not end her life that day.  Instead, she chose to surrender it to God.  Little did she know that the Spirit of God would transform her into one of the Godliest women ever to grace this Earth.  God gave her a humility and a love that enables her to look beyond her own pain and to see others’ hurts.  She is a person who consistently “in humility counts others more significant” than herself (an embodiment of Philippians 2:3).

I don’t even know where to begin with all that she has done.  While undergoing two years of rehabilitation after the accident, she spent many hours learning to paint with a brush held between her teeth.  Her detailed paintings and prints are now highly sought after.  Her international best-selling autobiography, Joni, was later made into a full-length feature film.  She founded Joni and Friends in 1979 to increase Christian ministry to the disabled community throughout the world.  The organization led to the establishment in 2007 of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, which currently impacts thousands of families around the globe.

Over the course of each week, more than a million people listen to her daily five-minute radio program, Joni and Friends.  The organization she started serves hundreds of special-needs families through family retreats across the nation.  Through Wheels for the World, wheelchairs are collected nationwide, refurbished by inmates in several correctional facilities, and then shipped and donated to developing nations where, whenever possible, physical therapists fit each chair to a disabled child or adult who is in need.  As of 2008, Wheels for the World had cumulatively distributed 52,342 wheelchairs to 102 countries and trained hundreds of ministry and community leaders, including people with disabilities.

In 2005, Joni Eareckson Tada was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U. S. State Department.  She has worked with Dr. Condoleezza Rice on programs affecting disabled persons in the State Department and around the world.  Joni has appeared twice on Larry King Live, sharing not only her Christian testimony but a Biblical perspective on right-to-life issues that affect our nation’s disabled population.  And on top of all that, Joni has written more than thirty-five books.

Yet it is not because of these accomplishments that I consider her the most Spirit-filled person I know.  Actually, it has nothing to do with all she’s accomplished.  It has to do with the fact that you can’t spend ten minutes with Joni before she breaks out in song, quotes scripture, or shares a touching and timely word of encouragement.  I have never seen the fruit of the Spirit more obviously displayed in a person’s life as when I am with Joni.  I can’t seem to have a conversation with Joni without shedding tears.  It’s because Joni is a person whose life, at every level, gives evidence of the Spirit’s work in and through her.

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