Xulon Press Successful Author Spotlight: Joe Bradford

Filed in Successful Author Spotlight by on December 17, 2012 0 Comments

Our Christmas Edition of the Xulon Press Successful Author Spotlight celebrates the inspiring story of Joe Bradford, affectionately called “Papa Joe”, whose book “A Walk Of Love” was the basis for the movie “Unconditional” which has been in wide release this past autumn in theaters across America. My wife and I went to see the movie, and we found it inspirational and heartfelt. After interviewing Papa Joe, I could see why the movie had such a following. He, like his movie, was a force to be reckoned with, through his testimony, his life and his words, all soft spoken and clearly thought out. Papa Joe touched my heart and inspired me to look above my circumstances and rise to the need set before me. He has proven that such a simple thought of helping those right in your neighborhood could blossom into his nonprofit organization Elijah’s Heart, www.elijahsheart.com,  and lead to meeting with Coach Tony Dungy (something he was doing when I interviewed him) to work on a neighborhood project applying Papa Joe’s experiences in inner city Nashville to other inner cities across America – all because Papa Joe refused to let his circumstances determine his outcome!

Xulon Press Author Papa Joe Bradford

When I asked Papa what single experience changed his life, he responded “The day I met Denise, my wife. I said it best in my book. Because of the love of Christ in her heart, she received me. She saw something that I had hidden in my heart and had forgotten. We were just friends, and she wrote a letter to me, predicting how we would be together someday, married. I was a counselor to her and her boyfriend at the time. She believed in me and protected me from those who were criticizing me because of my past. She never lost hope in me, through it all. She is the greatest gift that God gave to me. We are friends – that’s the key thing in our marriage.”

Discussing his method of writing, Papa explained “I’ve been Proverbs 29:18 – I have to have a vision of what the Lord wants me to write about. I use bullet points, which become my table of contents. My life had so much crazy stuff. I looked at the seasons of my life. It’s an autobiography. What is the vision? Show how one season led to another. I then jotted down the transitions to the next season; how did one season get to another season?  I write plays also. You have to have a good opening and you have to have a good ending. It’s a formula. Four things: Season, transition, the opening. Distinct changes you can see in my book. The 4th thing is the passion. I had to put my passion into the book. It’s a big challenge. How did you feel about that? I don’t want to tell you; that’s personal. I esteemed the person more than myself, so I shared the passion of how I felt. It shows your depth.”

I had to ask the question everyone wonders – how did he become “Papa” Joe? He tells the story of a choir rehearsal. “We were worship leaders, Denise plays keyboard and I play saxophone, working with choirs, we made beautiful music together. We were asked to do a youth choir for National Day of Prayer at Ryman auditorium in Nashville, with about 60-70 kids. One of our girls came to rehearsal, beaten by her mother. I went and checked on it and took care of the situation. Her younger sister came over and said “would you be my daddy?” Her friend heard her and came over and said “would you be my daddy, too?” Then a boy came over and said “would you be my daddy?” A large percentage of the choir was surrounding me, asking “would you be my daddy?” They didn’t know: if I had any qualifications to be a daddy, about my jail time, about not being a dad. After praying, I felt like the Lord changed my name. The next week, I went back and told the kids that they can all call me “Papa Joe!” At a Fort Smith, Arkansas meeting over 80 kids came to the Lord after hearing the story about my name change. I just asked “who wanted Papa’s Prayer?” The whole stadium came down to say the prayer.”

Consequently, when I asked him what was the single most important life event he ever had, Papa thought for a moment, and then responded in his quiet, soft spoken voice, “Probably… the day I became  Papa Joe. Surrogate parenthood. There are so many fatherless children. Be a surrogate parent.”

The message Papa wants shared by the story is his life is simple. He stated, “To live the character and actions of love. I john 3:18 In deed and In practice. All of it – Through the love of Christ!”

I asked him “What would you tell others about your relationship with Christ that would inspire them?”

Papa said, “Jesus took a broken man, shattered by life’s wrong decisions and forgave me. He used the transformation from those various transgressions and turned me into a warrior of love.”

When I asked Papa “What will they write on your gravestone that will sum up your life?”

He was quiet, took a few moments and then said, “Papa Joe loved and taught others to love.”

I asked Papa what inspires him? He responded, “My favorite past time is actually the Word itself. It’s not a religious thing. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 talks about faith and love. I am motivated by the love the Holy Spirit has put in my heart for these children.  I am driven by the love of God that He put in my heart for the fatherless children– to be a surrogate parent to all of them.”

I then asked, “What was your vision for telling this story…what did you hope would come of this?”

Papa explained. “My Program called The Walk of Love – inner city community, nonprofit doing a good job for some, but we need more resources to reach the others. For example, there’s no toilet paper but kids have to use yellow pages instead. That should not be. When I started telling the movie director about my past, they received it because it would motivate others to help the kids and move them to show transformation of what God can use. I am able to go places, give them a format that they can use. I am now connected to Wal-Mart working on a program throughout the nation where homeless children in our nation can be united with people through a walk of love to help these children. A fire is united to motivate us to help. Inner city missions tour is the term we use when we plan and organize a city.”

Since Papa shared that the Word was his inspiration, I asked “What is your theme scripture and why?”

“I’m known as Bible Man- and my favorite is John 13:34-35: Making known to the world the love of Christ! That’s my life’s mission”

For a man who had just met with Tony Dungy, I had to ask, “What’s next for Papa Joe?”

Papa was like a little kid as he shared his excitement. “I want to be a Ronald McDonald for the poor- Shouting off the rooftop the message of love in action. We have joined with churches and nonprofits to carry provisions for those in need. We are sharing our love and introducing people to Jesus. It’s a discipleship mission.  Luke 21:11 talks about famines in various places. For example, in Brentwood, TN, the county is the 9th richest in the nation but in the inner city of Nashville, there is famine. Take the provisions to those in need. I’m currently working with Coach Tony Dungy (retired Coach of Super Bowl champs Indianapolis Colts) in Orlando at a conference for 500 leaders to bring our formula “A Walk of Love” to inner cities. It’s just preaching the message of love in action– doing it on a practical level!”

I have to admit, Papa reminded me that we are all “His Hands Extended Here On Earth” and whether it’s a Walk of Love or a Hallelujah handshake, we can all take Papa’s message of love to the streets, inner city, rural, metropolis or quaint little town – so many children need to know – they are loved and wanted!

Thank You Papa Joe for reminding us that we too can be a “father to the fatherless!”

It’s as simple as taking … a walk of love!

Find Joe Bradford’s book “A Walk Of Love” in the Xulon Press Bookstore.


About the Author ()

Alan P. Scaglione is a writer who reflects on the simple contradictions and complexities to living this ”gift from God” called life. He believes that Life is a journey that, with compassion, a little levity and perspective, we help each other get through. His greatest compliment was being told “you draw pictures with your words!” He has devoted his life to “drawing”...in his poetry, his songs, his weekly “Reflections of Life” blog entries, his monthly SAS articles, his short stories and now, his novels! Alan is an everyday guy who refuses to let circumstances dictate his view to life; he lives an attitude of gratitude and spreads his positive outlook everywhere he goes. His BEST day is a day shared making a memory that will last a lifetime! Please check out Alan's books "One Unexpected Event - How Would Your Life Change?" and its sequel “One Unexpected Event - Aftermath!” in the Xulon Press bookstore.

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