My young sons and I stepped into an elevator and realized we were sharing space with Joni Eareckson, whom we had just heard speak. Although I only had a minute, it was long enough to tell her what an inspiration she was to our family. She smiled and said she was happy to hear that. Then the door opened and away she rolled.
It was July 1976, and we were at a Successful Living convention in Snow Bird, Utah. Joni was a featured speaker. Her biography, Joni, had just been published. In July of 1967, at the age of 17, Joni dove into a shallow spot in Chesapeake Bay, and broke her neck. When we met her, she had been in a wheelchair for nine years. Her beautiful smile and attitude were delightful. Her smile and attitude are still delightful today.
Joni has a daily 5 minute radio program which airs early each morning, Her messages are so inspiring as she delivers them in an upbeat tone. Sometimes she sings a few lines of a sweet song with her lovely voice. Listening to her always brightens my day.
Whenever my life faces difficult challenges, thinking of the countless obstacles Joni bravely faces helps me get a better perspective. She and her very dedicated husband, Ken, were married in 1982, so recently celebrated 35 years together.
If being a quadriplegic isn’t difficult enough, Joni was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2010. It was a very difficult time, and her body limitations complicated her treatment. But she was very determined to eat right and pray even more fervently. Joni is an avid Bible scholar and has written many book discussing suffering and even Heaven.
We live in a time when we have access to many inspiring speakers and preachers. As grateful as I am for their ministries, no person on earth has inspired me more.
At the end of her first book, written only eight years after her diving accident, Joni wrote, “I will be pleased if only one person is drawn to Christ. . .” (as a result of hearing her testimony). She said it would make being in a wheelchair worth it.
July 30. 2017 marks 50 years since her life changed when she dove into Chesapeake Bay. During fifty years in a wheelchair, Joni has shared her inspiring story with people of all ages, all over the world. She directs ministries to disabled children and their families. And she is still going strong.