Born in a small country town west of Nashville, Joe Bradford grew up in great poverty with his grandmother, mother and sister. He rarely heard from his father. As the years passed, Joe’s life became increasingly turbulent – experiencing the entrapment of poverty, the threat of death by snakebite, imprisonment for computer hacking and a volital kidney disease. The Lord would later use these very struggles, to develop in him a heart for the poor and oppressed.
During his fight with kidney disease, Joe and his wife, Denise experienced financial challenges and succumbed to residency in one of Nashville’s poorest communities. One morning, they discovered their neighbor, a little deaf girl, staring through the window of their front door. Denise gave her a piece of candy, and the girl left, only to return shortly with her brothers and sisters. Denise gave them each candy as well. In a week’s time, at least fifty children had come to Joe and Denise’s door. But candy was not all that the children wanted; they expressed needs for help in many important areas. With whatever Joe and Denise could obtain, they began to provide these children with basic necessities, academic tutoring, and emotional support.
Since they had a background in musical performance and orchestration, Joe and Denise began directing a choir of inner-city children much like those in their own neighborhood. It was at one of these choir rehearsals, that they came to understand their life’s purpose. While the other children were eating a pre-rehearsal meal, a young girl with a swollen eye approached Joe. The frightened girl revealed that she had been stricken in anger by her drug-addicted mother. Joe comforted and prayed for her, when the little girl’s sister noticed, then approached Joe with a life-altering question, “Will you be my daddy?” Before he could answer, another little girl walked up and echoed the question, “Will you be my daddy?” Astoundingly. this continued as child after child surrounded Joe pleading sincerely, “Will you be my daddy?” Joe was deeply moved and embraced them all. That day he became known as, “Papa Joe.”
In 2005, Papa Joe and Denise founded a non-profit organization, Elijah’s Heart whose mission is to show love and bring aid to underprivileged children and their families. Presently, they are uniting with others throughout the country to raise awareness about children and families in desperate situations in our own nation and to spark a great movement of love in action across the globe.
Papa Joe’s life is the inspiration behind the 2012 five-star feature-length film, Unconditional, that airs several years on Netflix, winning family movie of the month twice, and is now on Youtube (search under "Unconditional, Papa Joe". Serving as a co-producer, Papa Joe was involved in the intricate process of adapting his life's story for the big screen. Unconditional's DVD and television coverage has reached 121 countries. As a result, Papa Joe has the privilege of making personal appearances to inspire crowds around the nation as an ambassador for the film and its purpose of love.
Papa Joe has also released an autobiography, A Walk of Love, which takes readers on his personal journey towards finding his true purpose in life. Vividly describing the overwhelming challenges Joe has faced throughout his life, the book inspires the reader to recognize that there can be great purpose in the difficult seasons and that a warrior can be made, not from violence, but from love. A Walk of Love is already impacting lives, and its reach is rapidly expanding across the country.
In addition to his role as director of Elijah’s Heart, co-producer of Unconditional and author, Papa Joe is an inspired teacher and loves the Word of God. Reflecting the passion, wisdom, and loving heart of the Father, Papa Joe is a motivational speaker, gifted to stimulate others to fulfill their unique God-given callings, so they too can begin to take bold steps toward their own walk of love.