Arriving at the "Joni and Friends" International Disability Center (IDC) was strangely like going home without ever having been there before. This is no ordinary corporate headquarters--this place is a handicapped girl's idea of Heaven! The IDC overflows with the love of God, personifying that radical ideology of the "upside kingdom"--the last shall be first.
not sure we've ever been to a place where handicapped parking spaces
proudly flank the main entrance, almost obscuring the view of the grand
front door. Nor have we ever entered the lobby of a professional
structure to be confronted head-on by the cross, cut out of the chapel
that is also directly centered in the entry, wrapped like a present
with one of the larger, longer wheelchair ramps we've ever seen. This
place communicates its purpose plainly--it shows the love of God to
those who are weak, so that in their weakness God might be glorified.
kind and lovely docent toured us through the facility, detailing the
birth and growth of this international missions factory, all from the
tragedy of one young woman on the opposite side of the country, over 45
Photographs and stories
of life-giving hope brought us to tears. The two largest ministry
focuses at the IDC are the "Family Retreats" and the
"Wheelchairs for the World", in uniquely ways, both of these ministries
strongly communicate the message of hope to individuals and families
struggling to live life with their disabilities. Beyond meeting those
physical and social needs, these ministries connect these people, all
over the world, to the source of true hope and healing--Jesus Christ.
Just hearing about the work that Joni and friends does for this hurting world moved me so much. To see a woman and couple choosing to glorify the Lord through their pain and weakness, then to encourage so many in the process--what an inspiration to us! I couldn't slow down my racing pulse--and we hadn't even seen Joni and Ken yet! WOOHOO!!!
They graciously hosted us for lunch, and they are so delightful. Because of our own story, I have a tremendous heart for other couples where a spouse cares for another spouse. They make it look effortless, though they are quick to share their struggles, as well as their hope. Jay and Ken would hold open the doors as their blonde, fast & fabulous :) (and very chatty) wives would roll right through them on wheels.
We shared a meal and rich conversation and some great laughs. Above all we shared about how our infirmities give us a deeper desperation for God. We chatted about our marriages and details about our little budding ministry. We wanted to talk about Joni & Friends' ministry the entire time, but the Tadas were so gracious and wanted to hear every detail about ours.
They told us more of their story and they even gave us a copy of their new book, Joni and Ken (which we can't wait to read!)
After lunch, we were invited back to Joni's office where we were shown a number of unforgettable things. I have so many vivid snapshots of memories in my mind's eye.
Joni signed her new book on marriage for us WITH HER MOUTH. Now, I grew up as a child knowing about this phenomenal woman who writes and paints with her mouth. To see it done up close was amazing! She quickly told us how she painted before her accident and how she still painted (until pain halted it very recently) -- "painting is from the heart, not the hand".
I have had that same thought so many times. Not about painting, but about mothering or encouraging others or helping at the school or FILL IN THE BLANK. Joni is a testament to the glory of God that is within us that needs to come out. There is an overflow that happens (Romans 15:13). Our cups runneth over.
We ended our time together in prayer. How grateful were we???? How could we begin to tell God what this means to the Wolfs? Our hearts were so filled. As we drove off, I felt like I'd just been at Buckingham Palace and seen the Queen!
Recently, Jay and I have begun to write a FOR REAL (this time) book. (I've been writing them in my head and even some on paper for years), but this time it is with the law school grad who actually finishes his tasks.
As we have thought through our story and all the events in our lives as a result of my terrible stroke, we both know something deep. I imagine both Ken and Joni know it too.
God's plan can never be thwarted. period.
ALL THINGS. YES, IN ALL THINGS there is good because God is good.
I knew from a young age that I would spend my life telling others of God's power and His love. Joni may have known that too.
....and we are.
(and we are beyond blessed to have two remarkable men called to leverage their lives for something greater than anything that could ever be possible if they had merely "normal" wives!)