After returning home from rehab at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, GA, in June 1991, Earl’s dad gave me a movie titled “Joni.” He told me she had broken her neck and severed her spinal cord in a diving accident when 17. A quadriplegic, she had shattered myths about living with a disability and excelled in Christian ministry.
As soon as we got away I said, “Earl, I don’t care about Joni. I’m not her!” Earl placed the video on a shelf in his office. He’d mention it to me occasionally. Each time, my thoughts went to Joni’s success. How could I compare to her? He told me many times, “Berta, you’re no more Joni Eareckson Tada than I am Billy Graham.”
Fast forward to June 1994, Earl and I attended a conference for evangelism where both Billy Graham and Joni would be speaking. When we registered for the conference, I didn’t sign up for Joni’s workshops.
As we waited for Dr. Graham to speak in the auditorium the first evening, someone touched my shoulder. Surprised, I looked over to see Joni. I smiled and we focused on Dr. Graham. As he closed, I turned to talk to Joni—she had left. Disappointed, I asked myself, “What’s the big deal? You didn’t want to meet her anyway.”
Well, I did attend Joni’s workshops, and she invited Earl to take a picture of the two of us. Throughout the week, as I wheeled through the displays, several people asked, “Are you Joni?” With joy in my heart I responded, “No, but she’s here.”
One table held a Bible near enough for me to open. It was a spiral-bound, NIV, hardcover with large print, which made the text easy to read. The Bibles’ spiral binding allowed it to lie flat on the table and made it easy to handle. It contained the New Testament and Psalms, and Joni had written an introduction to each book. How perfect for me!
I tried to purchase the Bible but learned it was for display only.
The last afternoon, I went outside to warm up in the sun. A shadow fell across my face and I sat up. “Excuse me, mam. I’d like to give you this Bible.” Yes. God is good. I received that special gift with delight from a friend I did not want.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV).
In Christian Love,
Check out my new site http://afaithfulfather.com to follow Earl and I on our journey.