Disabled in Body, But Not in Spirit
by Rev. David T. Myers
The teenager had gathered that Sunday, July 30, 1967 with some friends and sisters to swim in the Chesapeake Bay waters. Diving into the bay seemed like a safe thing to do, but Joni Erickson was not aware of the shallowness of that water. As she struggled to rise to the surface, her sister had to assist her because she had no feeling in her arms. Indeed, after an emergency vehicle had taken her to the emergency room was it discovered that she had broken her neck. She was paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Understandably, she went through a horror of emotions in the first two years. The “why” answers were not being given by God or anyone else. She immersed herself in the Bible and there in that inspired book found both the strength to continue on and a purpose to continue living.
With her loving husband, Ken Tada by her side, whom she married in 1982, they began a ministry for the disabled called Joni and Friends. It is a world-wide organization which seeks to minister to those disabled to conquer life’s challenges, and especially to find the love of God through Christ.
Joni has had an autobiography in her book (“Joni”) , then in movie form, several musical albums, books galore, etchings — all to show that disabled people can have a ministry in the church and in the world. And as a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, she has had extraordinary opportunities to share her saving faith in all sorts of forums.
Even in her recent challenge of breast cancer, which she successfully endured, she is hopeful of a positive prognosis. God has not abandoned those with disabilities. All kinds of sufferings will “work together and will fit into a plan for good and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.” (Amplified, Romans 8:28)
Words to Live By: Jesus, in one of the dinners he had been invited to while on earth, gave some instructions to his host. He, in Luke 14, told him “to invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind.” (v. 13) We have a ministry to these ones who are in desperate need of acceptance by the believers of today. Let’s plan on ways we can minister in word and deed to these ones, especially the disabled in our churches and neighborhoods. What can you do to show them hospitality?