Some people would give up, but Papa Joe chose to stand and inspire the world. His is a touching story that can be summed up in four words: a walk of love. He is the founder and director of Elijah’s Heart. In his journey, he has come across people facing extreme poverty and has led him to want to do his part to change this. He is the father of love and is in a journey to ensure people can take the necessary steps to walk their own journey of love.
Papa Joe’s real name is Joe Bradford. He comes from a humble background. Born in Nashville but growing up in a small country town west of Nashville, his only family consisted of his grandmother, mother and sister. Through the years, his life took a tumultuous course: poverty was his everyday life and he spent time behind bars for computer hacking. The worst would still be ahead: he went through a tough time, fighting kidney disease. All this time, he did not know the circumstances of his present life was preparing for something greater than his wildest dreams.
While he fought the life-threatening kidney disease, financial constraints forced him and his wife, Denise to relocate into one of Nashville’s project communities. He gives the story of how his life began to turn around at a time when his life and that of his family seemed to have hit the rock bottom. One morning, at their front door window they saw their neighbor, a young girl staring. Denise out of compassion gave the little girl some candy and to their surprise, the girl returned with her siblings. Denise in the same spirit gave them candy and in just one week about fifty children were at their front door. The children did not only want candy, they also faced various other challenges. With the meager resources Joe and Denise had, they began helping these children including supplying their basic and emotional needs.
Joe and Denise have a background in music so they formed a choir comprising of the children in that neighborhood and other neighborhoods. He had no idea that what would happen during one of their practice sessions would change Joe’s life forever. He says one day during meal time, one young girl who had a swollen eye came up to Joe. Apparently, the swelling was as a result of being hit by her angry, drug-addicted mother. Joe seeing the fright in the girl comforted and prayed for her and then the little girl seeing this connection and compassion approached Joe and said “Will you be my daddy?” And even before he could respond, another little girl came up and asked the same question. The rest of the children in the room followed suit. Joe was overwhelmed. The day’s practice would stop there as Joe unsuccessfully fought back his tears.
The children wanted to know what he had decided the next time they met. He chose to accept the challenge of being those children’s surrogate father. He told them they could call him Papa Joe. The name stuck. From then, Add Papa Joe and his wife dedicated their lives to helping children in need. In 2005, they founded Elijah’s Heart, a non-profit organization. The main mission was to show love and bring aid to underprivileged children and their families. Today, Elijah’s Heart is a national non-profit whose works of love have touched and transformed thousands of lives. Currently, Elijah’s Heart is joining forces with others throughout the United States to raise awareness about desperate situations people in certain parts of the country are facing. They hope to inspire a love movement that will ensure children and others in deprived situations get a helping hand.
Elijah’s Heart has a literacy program that is connecting with colleges to tutor kids. In this program, kids are provided with books and encouraged to read widely. (Add “Papa”) Joe says to be a good learner one has to be a good reader and to do so one needs easy access to books they can read. This literacy program is making available to children thousands of books.
Papa Joe tells of his meeting with the CEO of Walmart a few years ago, which led to using the Walmart wish-list to obtain food for the Elijah’s Heart Walk of Love program that feeds hundreds of families.
Papa Joe’s story has also been made into a Hollywood film. The movie, ‘Unconditional’ has gained immense popularity in churches, schools, and even prisons. In this film, Papa Joe who was serving as a co-producer was involved in the elaborate process of adapting his inspirational life story for the big screen. Currently, he is traversing the nation as an ambassador for the film and its purpose of love.
Papa Joe sums it all by saying he wants to make love popular. He wants more people to come on board and help the children suffering in poverty. He says that most people have a helping heart; they just don’t know yet. He loves connecting mentors with the kids by setting up meetings for them to meet. A child aspiring to be a doctor would be connected to a practicing doctor for inspiration.
He has come up with an acronym for Papa, the name many children have come to know his by. It stands for Purpose, Attitude, Plan and Action. Papa Joe Bradford hopes his story continues to inspire many more. His passion drives him in everything he does.
To contribute or partner with Papa Joe to aid children with practical necessities and literacy or to obtain a copy of Papa Joe’s autobiography called “A Walk of Love”, go to www.elijahsheart.com.” He has a page at Premiere Speakers Bureau: www.Premierespeakers.com/christian/joe_bradford. You can use this page to contact him for speaking engagements. You can also write him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.