Originally released in 1979 by Billy Graham's Worldwide Pictures, Joni tells the story of a young Joni Eareckson Tada, injured in a diving accident at age 17, and her journey of faith as she came to understand how her quadriplegia could be used by God to draw others to Him. Subsequently translated into 15 languages and shown in countries around the world, Joni is about to receive new life as it is digitized and premiered at a red carpet event at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California, on Aug. 6, 2017— just over 50 years since her accident.
The premier is part of a celebration of God's faithfulness to Tada through 50 years in her wheelchair. Joni and Friends International Disability Center is partnering with the church to host the event, which will include representatives from the southern California film industry as well as leaders from area churches who will be honored for reaching out to individuals with disabilities and drawing them into the church—a key mission of Joni and Friends. Along with Tada, others involved in the making of the film will be in attendance, and Tada will share her reflections of starring in the movie in conversation with host and emcee, Senior Pastor Shawn Thornton.
"Doing the movie wasn't the smooth, easy process I thought it would be, but I learned a lot, including that the closer I got to Jesus, the more I found out who I was supposed to be," Tada said. "It had always been my prayer that as people witnessed the struggle of a young girl coming to terms with her hardships and gaining trust in God, hundreds of thousands would embrace Jesus Christ for the first time. I pray this digitized version of the film will have the same impact on a new generation."
The evening will begin with an invitation-only reception before the film premiere itself, which will begin around 6 p.m. All attendees will have the opportunity to walk the red carpet as they enter the church. Following the screening, Tada will greet those in attendance and discuss the film as well as the ongoing ministry of Joni and Friends and churches like Calvary Community, which have done so much to share the gospel with individuals with disabilities.
"We are so excited and humbled to be a part of this special screening, and the occasion to honor all that the Lord has done through Joni and the ministry of Joni and Friends, far and above the original film's release," said Calvary Community Church Senior Pastor Shawn Thornton. "We are grateful to be one of many churches involved in disability ministry, working alongside Joni and Friends to ensure that individuals with disabilities in our communities are sought out, welcomed and valued in our congregations."
Joni and Friends President and COO Doug Mazza clarified the reason for the festivities surrounding the digitized film's Premiere: "While most people wouldn't celebrate their 50th anniversary in a wheelchair, we see this event as a true celebration of Joni's life, and all that God has accomplished through her ministry because of her 50 years as a quadriplegic. So we thought this timing for the 'Joni' digitization and red carpet premiere couldn't be better, and we wanted to mark the occasion with fanfare as well as recognition for others who have been used by God in disability ministry, including our great friend Pastor Shawn Thornton."
Joni and Friends contracted with Fotokem to complete the digitization, and has exclusive rights to show the film for one year, before Worldwide Pictures assumes distribution rights.
"We appreciate our friends at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for their cooperation on this project, and look forward to seeing how Joni's story will be further used to reach people for Christ," Mazza added. "I have seen some clips of the digitized film and it is beautiful; I pray even more people will be able to view the movie and be impacted by this new, enhanced version."
For more than 38 years, Joni and Friends has worked to accelerate ministry to the disability community around the world, offering a wide array of life-affirming ministries, including the Christian Institute on Disability; Wheels for the World; international radio and television programs filled with inspirational stories; and Family Retreats, where families affected by disability learn they are not alone. For more information, please visit http://www.joniandfriends.org/.
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