Nicole Johnson Interview

  • Sept. 3, 2015
  • #8699

Nicole’s mother is in a wheelchair, and faces accessibility limitations. Nicole encourages churches to not only accommodate people with disabilities, but to welcome with the love of Jesus.

JONI: Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a friend I really want you to meet.

I first met Nicole Johnson when we were appearing together on several Women of Faith conferences. Believe me, her “Fresh Brewed Life” message gives women “Hope for the Daily Grind,” as she puts it. A bestselling author, performer, and speaker, Nicole is one of the most sought-after creative communicators in America today. She has this amazing ability to blend humor with compassion as she captures the inner-most feelings that most women struggle with every single day. Now, what you may not know about Nicole is that she understands special needs and disability from a very personal point of view. Just listen in to our recent conversation.

Nicole, I am so glad you are here with us. And disability is probably something that you had never thought would touch your life, right?

NICOLE: When my mom got ill – she had a stroke and then through some complications lost her leg, her only means of transportation then became the wheelchair. And honestly, as much as I’ve tried in the past, my perspective through that just dropped about to chair rail height; my perspective dropped about 2-1/2 feet instantly. Being with her in that wheelchair and seeing where she could go and where she couldn’t go, all of a sudden I found myself thinking that most people don’t see life from this height, from the height where you sit most of the time; you know we hang things at eye level thinking about people that stand.

JONI: There are tens of thousands of elderly parents like yours. What would you tell the church?

NICOLE: First, I would say to the church: Make sure that you are a welcoming church. But then I would say to those people who are living with this, just go and try because I feel like my parents are educating their church. There wasn’t a bathroom that my mom could use at the church, but they remodeled it and changed it for them. This was their home church and they loved the church and people loved them. But I can certainly see why those with disabilities would stay away, because how would they know even in going whether it was a very welcoming church, whether it was even possible for them to get in the doors.

JONI: And it’s not just a matter of handicapped parking places, or an accessible bathroom, or a couple of pews in the sanctuary which are gradated so that wheelchairs can fit with everyone else. A welcoming church is a church that extends the love of Jesus. We welcome you here. We love you. We want to be your friend. We want to reach out to you.

NICOLE: Right! I often will find there are a couple of different perspectives. One is Christians, I should say, that view other people with disabilities as “those people” and then those of us that realize we all have disabilities. Some are on the inside and some are on the outside, and that we gather in Jesus and there is just no disability in that anymore because we are the same. You can’t just think about those that can walk in the doors. You realize that even if people can walk in the doors they need what they have come for on the inside, because of all that we have to manage: our own disabilities, our own shortcomings and frailties, the relationships that are broken. I mean, there are relationships that need a “wheel chair” in my life because they are broken, almost maybe beyond repair, but we have hope when we wheel into church that maybe we will hear that good news of the gospel that something can be restored and we can feel a sense of wholeness. So you are right, it’s not just making space for the physicality of it, it is the whole spirit that is open to say: ‘This is the body of Christ and you are welcome here.’

JONI: If you’d like to learn more about Nicole, or watch her performances, we’ve provided a link to her website on our radio page today at joniandfriends.org. Or you can always catch her at Women of Faith. Thanks for joining us today on Joni and Friends.

© Joni and Friends

 

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