Joni and Friends Intern Alum Spotlight: Jacoby Miles on Life with Quadriplegia

By |Published On: September 1, 2023|Categories: Internships|
A portrait-style photo of Jacoby in a black dress seated in her wheelchair smiling at the camera with a red drape as the backdrop.

Meet Jacoby Miles

Jacoby came to the world of disability when a gymnastics accident left her paralyzed from the chest down at age fifteen. Now in her twenties, Jacoby views quadriplegia as the first “really hard thing” that happened in her life—and it forced her to make a decision about God and faith.

“I had to decide to trust God through it,” says Jacoby.

With the help of God and support of family and community, Jacoby overcame her initial struggle to accept the reality of her disability.

And in the midst of chronic pain, complex care routines, and other struggles related to her disability, Jacoby has found purpose and joy.

Jacoby and Joni

Like Joni, Jacoby entrusted her life to the Lord, asking him to use her life and story to encourage others. But total openness to God’s plan didn’t come immediately for either of them. In her early days living with paralysis, Joni wrestled with depression and despair. She didn’t want to hear other people’s stories about disability, let alone embrace her own.

For Jacoby, while her turn toward faith and hope came quickly after her accident, she found her heart in a battle, wondering why she and so many others live through so much pain and suffering.

During this season, multiple people gave Jacoby copies of Joni’s autobiography but she didn’t want to read it at first. When she finally did read Joni’s story, she recognized a kindred spirit and felt deeply encouraged.

Jacoby’s Joni and Friends Internship

When she started business school, Jacoby wanted to find an internship that would help her make a difference. And she thought of Joni and Friends internship program.

When she joined the Joni and Friends team, Jacoby found practical and meaningful ways to share hope with other people living with disability.

She also learned about the deep purpose and value of every human life—that our value comes from being made in God’s image, not from what we are able (or unable) to do.

As she says: “Our value isn’t in what we can produce but in who God made us to be.”

Jacoby’s internship also opened the door for her to serve as an instructor for the Joni and Friends Beyond Suffering training course.

Jacoby seated in her wheelchair in a bright blue jacket with her hair in a bun on top of her head as her physical therapist stands next her smiling at the camera.

Through taking and helping to lead the course, Jacoby has learned and shared about a wide range of disability experiences. She has also grown, finding more powerful ways to lead others to hope, no matter what hardships they face.

What do you wish people knew about disability?

We asked Jacoby this question, and here’s what she had to say:

“Everyone wants to be seen [and people with disabilities are no exception].”

“Not every person with disability is the same and they don’t act the same.”

Before she had a disability, Jacoby admits, she might not have readily walked up to a person in a wheelchair to say hello out of fear of saying the wrong thing and not knowing how to engage. But now she recognizes and appreciates when people make the effort to acknowledge and engage with her. She values the care and intentionality people put in to connecting with her—and encourages you to do the same when you meet people with disabilities.

Every Joni and Friends intern gets to make an immediate and eternal difference for people living with disability around the world.

Whether you live with disability or just have a heart for disability ministry, you can help bring the Joni and Friends vision to life: A world where every person with a disability finds hope, dignity, and their place in the body of Christ.

Become a Joni and Friends Intern!

Apply for a Joni and Friends internship or share our internship opportunities with someone who might be a great addition to the team!

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