Joni Eareckson Tada: The God I Love

By Marti Paradee and David Sisson
The 700 Club

Once an active adventurer, Joni suddenly found herself in an inactive lifestyle as a young teen. But being wheelchair bound for 35 years hasn't stopped this bright, articulate Christian from fulfilling her heavenly mission. On the contrary, she is more on the move than ever. - In 1967 Joni Eareckson went for a swim. She climbed onto a raft from which she dove back into the water. The water was too shallow. Joni was paralyzed, unable to use her hands and legs. She's been in a wheelchair ever since.
LISA RYAN: After your accident, could you have at all foreseen how God would use you and your life and your testimony?

JONI EARECKSON TADA: No way! I mean, I was the least likely candidate to enjoy life in a wheelchair. I was an athletic, risk-taker sort of person and never could sit still. And now, for the past 35 years, I've been doing that very well, sitting still for a long time.

LISA: I know in those early days and weeks and years after your accident, you went through the typical stages of denial and anger and grief and depression. How has your perspective changed over the years?

JONI: I think my perspective has changed mainly with one phrase from God's word, 'Be still and know that I am Christ.' It was a little plaque that somebody had put on my bedside table, and when I turned and saw it and read 'Be still and know that I am God,' initially I thought it was a cruel joke. But then the longer that I was physically still, the easier it became for me to be spiritually still, emotionally still, quiet. I began to understand what the Prophet Isaiah meant when he said, 'In quietness and rest is your salvation.'

LISA (reporting): Joni's name is recognized around the world due to her best-selling books, her paintings, and World Wide Pictures' full-length feature film in which Joni recreated her own life. She also has a daily radio program and has visited 35 countries where people come not only to hear her talk, but to hear her sing. Joni's voice is being heard in the controversial area of stem cell research.

JONI: Well, many of us have probably seen Christopher Reeve talk about the need to clone human embryos or to use human embryos that perhaps are discarded from in vitro fertilization for use in stem cell research. I am against cloning human embryos, or, for that matter, using discarded embryos for stem cell research. And there's a good reason for that. Every condition, whether it's spinal cord injury, diabetes, heart disease, every condition for which cloned human embryos, stem cells, may one day address is already being addressed today by research using adult stem cells. Each of us in our own body, whether it's hidden in our bone marrow or in our fat tissues, we have stem cells from our own adult bodies, so there's no risk of tissue rejection, there's no risk of genetic mutations, there are no prohibitive costs. Research using adult stem cells from our own bodies is much safer. It's much more effective. It's much more economical. People with disabilities like me want the quickest and best and safest route between our wheelchairs and walkers and a cure. And I am convinced that that cure can be most quickly found and most economically found and most ethically found by using stem cells derived from our own bodies; adult stem cells, rather than using embryos.

LISA (reporting): Joni founded Joni and Friends in 1979 to help disabled people and their families. One major emphasis is called Wheels for the World.

JONI: When I was lifted out of my bed and into my first wheelchair at the age of 18, for me it became a symbol of mobility and freedom and independence. I could get away from my bed. It was wonderful. That one incident for me was so life changing. I am not confined to my wheelchair. I can move around in my wheelchair. This is great! That's the same joy we see on the faces of children and adults with disabilities in these developing nations.

LISA: Many people are familiar with the pictures of you painting and illustrating with a pencil or paintbrush in your mouth and have appreciated your artwork. You've also written well over 30 books, and you have a new book out called The God I Love. Tell me about that.

JONI: Well, The God I Love is a summation of my 53 years that I've lived life on earth. In fact, a friend of mine wrote a song, and I just love the chorus:

The God I love forever will be faithful.

The God I love forever will never let me go.

The God I love forever stand beside me, guide me home,

for You alone are the God I love.

Boy, for me, that pretty much sums it up. He's leading me home. I can't wait for the day when He will close the curtain on sin and suffering and disability and disease; when He will spread the curtains and the whole universe will be in plain sight for us all, and my body will burn with that brilliant newness of being glorified and I will have no more sorrow, no more sighing, no more death or crying, no more night or tears. All those whom I've had the opportunity to share the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, God willing, people with disabilities, many of them around the world, will stand with me and we'll be home. We'll be home, and I can't wait.

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