By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
HILLSBORO — When Pastor Steve Ruetschle talks about the difference the prayers of God’s people can make, he’s not just giving lip service. He really, really be-lieves it — and anyone who knows his story would understand why.
Certainly the roughly 200 people who attended the 20th anniversary Hillsboro Prayer Breakfast Oct. 23 understand, as they heard Ruetschle testify how prayers for him by thousands worldwide led to his own miraculous healing from quadriplegia.
“Thank God I have friends who have faith in Jesus Christ,” Ruetschle, the pastor of teaching and worship at Sunset Presbyterian Church in northwest Portland, told the breakfast crowd at the Tuality Health Education Center.
Originally from Ohio, Ruetschle, his wife Michelle and their three sons came to the Portland church from the Philippines, where he had pastored the Union Church of Manila. But it was in North Carolina in 2019 that Ruetschle was in a catastrophic motorcycle accident. He broke his neck and suffered a nearly complete spinal cord injury.
He became a quadriplegic — paralyzed from the shoulders down. He was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he underwent multiple surgeries over two months.. But the doctors eventually gave him less than a 1 percent chance of ever walking again, and less than a 10 percent chance of any movement below his shoulders.
Ruetschle said he tried over and over to create some movement in his body, but soon grew weary and was losing hope: “After a while you just stop trying,” he recalled. “It was just too emotionally painful.”
But that’s where the faith of who he describes as his “incredible” wife kicked in. Wondering what God’s will was in the crisis, she asked the Lord how she and others specifically should pray for her husband, and even though Ruetschle now says it “defied all sense, all logic,” his wife felt led to believe for a divine healing.
Friends around the world were called to pray; through a website and Facebook page, 400,000 people in 150-plus nations learned about the need. And then one day, Michelle asked her completely immobilized husband to try just one thing — to see if he could at all wiggle a big toe.
Thus began a slow but steady effort of recovery, as documented in a brief video shown to the breakfast crowd that featured Ruetschle doing rehabilitation exercises to the theme from the movie Rocky.
The Ruetschles know without a doubt what sparked the healing. “Jesus saw not my faith, but the faith of my faithful friends,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Ruetschle says the account in Mark 2 of Jesus healing a paralytic man “has become my story.” He points out that it was because of the faith of the paralyzed man’s friends — that they stopped at nothing to bring him to Jesus — that the Lord then acted. “What does it mean? That our faith — your faith — in Jesus, can bring healing to someone,” Ruetschle said.
That goes well beyond the affliction he experienced, Ruetschle explained. Whether by fear, brokenness, physical ailments, or whatever, “we are all paralyzed in some way,” he said. “We all need healing in our lives. I have found that healing in Jesus.”
While saying that the healing has indeed been a miracle and that God’s purposes in his life are being fulfilled, Ruetschle acknowledges that there are still challenges. His walking ability is limited, and he deals with what he described as “unrelenting” neuropathic pain. But the Ruetschles remain deeply grateful to God for what He has done, and also for caring Christian friends.
“A faith community can carry you to Jesus, and bring healing in the time of need,” he said.