Yesterday I read Joni Eareckson Tada's "From the Heart" letter in her April issue of "Joni and Friends Newsletter." She describes how she needs help (helping hands) because her hands don't move. She's been a quadriplegic for over forty years. She needs the hands of others to dress, to reach things, to eat, to hold books and on and on. She has a team of friends who serve her daily by coming and getting her up and dressed and ready for the day.
Joni dove into the Chesapeake Bay at age 17 and broke her neck. She wouldn't have survived the accident except that a crab bit her sister's toe causing her sister to turn around and call to Joni. Then she saw Joni floating face-down in the water.
Joni describes in her writings (her books) the emotional and spiritual and physical sturggles she encountered and endured in the aftermath of her accident. There were many times she wanted her life to be over as living seemed just too hard.
One of her stories is about a friend who snuck into her dark hospital room, lay on the floor facing up so Joni could see her face (as Joni was lying upside down in a Stryker frame) and sang hymns to and with Joni.
Once a friend - my sister - did something similar for me. She came into my hospital room and slept on the tile floor to be with me. It was a dark time! Her presence was a gift of love that still wraps my heart in warmth.
God was faithful to Joni. He brought her through the pain to be a shining testimony of God's grace. Joni is a living example of being kept in the grip of God's grace! In the painful process of learning to live with a body that doesn't move, Joni received a heart transformed by God's grace and love. Today she heads the fabulous ministry - Joni and Friends International.
After my husband, a young teenage friend and I went to one of Joni and Friends Family Retreats last summer just to observe, our young friend came home and told her mother, "O, Mommy, you could just feel the love of Jesus there everywhere!" This coming summer nine people from A Restoration Church will be spending an entire week at a Joni Family Retreat being hands, feet and a loving heart for a person or family with "a special way of being."