Aug 31, 2015

Joe Ritchie ~ I have a Testimony!

Ed's Note:

  • Joe Ritchie was born November 22nd 1974 of the flesh and born again of the Spirit October 1996. 
  • From the "wrong side of the tracks" to "riding the train bound for glory", Joe has experienced much of life's ups and downs. A motor vehicle accident on May 27th 1990 left him physically paralyzed for life, but not to be undone he has found his place and purpose in Christ. Through his journey he has been blessed with miraculous healing and a call to ministry. Married in 2000 to his beautiful wife Michelle and blessed with their three wonderful children Braeden, Olivia and Amelia, the Ritchie family serves in the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. Joe has been a pastor in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada since 2001 and continues forward in his call, sharing his story, preaching the word and leading worship.

Here is Joe's story:

25 years ago, I died! 

It was in the early morning hours of May 27th 1990 that it happened and I was 15 years old. A friend and I, who always took turns stealing our parent’s cars, took another wrong turn in life. It was his opportunity this time to take his mom’s car. We didn’t make it home. On Charron Line in Belle River, Ontario he lost control in the gravel shoulder at about 120 km/h. It was possible the car clipped a guard wire for a telephone pole as 

...the car flipped front to rear 3 or 4 times, bounced out of a ditch and landed on all four tires in a farmer’s field.  

The car was totaled and so was I. 

My friend was able to run to a house and call for help. I laid lifeless between the front bucket seats with broken ribs on each side, a punctured lung while the other lung filled with blood and a broken neck at C5,6,7 vertebrae. 

The Rochester fire department were the first on the scene.

They began to use the Jaws of Life to extract me from the rear window area. 

Once the paramedics arrived they said it was taking too long and they were losing me. At that point a firefighter jumped up on the roof and began to peel the roof back like a tin can. The others stood for a moment in awe like they were watching an act of God. The paramedics were able to then secure me to a body board and pull me out, but as they did I died.   
I was dead as they put me in the ambulance and drove away... doing everything they could to bring me back. They said it took approximately 7 minutes. However once I arrived at Metropolitan Hospital in Windsor and was received into the ER, I died again. This time it was clocked for 6 minutes.  Revived once more and in critical condition, the phone call was made to mom and dad. Terrible news and I cannot imagine the pain they felt. 

After a few days of traction, where they put screws in my scull that were tied to weights to keep my head and neck straight, the decision was made for surgery. A fusion was done on my vertebrae and the wait began for me to come back to a conscious state. It took 2 weeks. I remember that day as I opened my eyes I had no idea what happened. Where was I? Why was more than half my body unable to move? On life support, unable to feel from chest down, unable to move my arms, hands and fingers and unable to speak from a tracheotomy I was told what happened and tears rushed in like rain. 

Then it happened again, I was moved from my bed in ICU to a lazy boy recliner; why I don’t know, but I died again. This time I was able to experience it. Three minutes of no heart beat and clinically dead. Everything was black, but I could hear all that was happening. I had no idea in that moment that my heart stopped for three minutes and I was clinically dead. Not until it was all over and they told me what happened. 

After a couple more days they filled me in on what my life expectancy should be. A low functioning quadriplegic who will never walk again and will always need medical care and nursing aid. 

I get it. They gave me the worst case scenario. Thoughts of a life being treated like that were horrible. The pain in my heart was unbearable. Oh it took a long time to adjust with 6 years of depression and many wrong choices. 

The incredible suffering I endured physically was no match for the pain I felt in my heart, mind and soul. I turned to alcohol, drugs and promiscuity attempting anything to create joy in my life to mask the pain. Nothing worked. 

The truth is I had to die one last time.

I had to die to myself ! 

In October 1996 something happened that I never could have imagined or made up.  One night after another party of drugs and alcohol when all were gone except my best friend, my kid brother and my drug dealer, I met Jesus Christ. My personal drug dealer pretended to be Jesus Christ dead on a cross as a joke.

However, Jesus Christ showed Himself to me in that moment and in that moment I believed for the first time. 

I had no belief up until this point in God other than a Catholic upbringing that I never followed. I can’t explain it anymore than Jesus showed up in my kitchen and revealed Himself to me just for a moment; just enough for me to believe. 

I died to myself that day and began to live for Him. I have never looked back. 

Love, hope, joy, peace, forgiveness flooded and filled my life. I had never known this was possible before that day. I had no idea in the past that such a life existed. 

Many miracles have happened since then, but the greatest of them all is my changed heart!

I am so incredibly thankful. 

Further to the miracle of a changed heart God gave me more. It was August of 1998 at a Christian festival called Kingdom Bound” in Darien Lake New York 6 flags amusement park.“Kingdom Bound” in Darien Lake New York 6 flags amusement park.  It was the providence of God that I was there. You see by 1998 it had been 8 years after my accident. Eight years of being physically disabled in many ways. That included my limbs, my hands, my fingers, and my body from chest down. It also included things like the function of my bladder and bowels. I needed medical devices and medication in order to make them work. My bladder in particular was sadly a painful experience as I needed to insert a catheter every time I needed to empty it. Every time! That was about 6 times a day every day for 8 years! If you can imagine a plastic tube slightly lubricated and the word “friction” maybe you’ll understand it didn’t always work right. It would get stuck and bleed and get infected. I was even hospitalized because of it a couple years before. So there I was in my tent at Darien Lake New York needing to empty a full bladder and the catheter got stuck and I began to bleed. All I could think of was that I needed to go to the hospital again. I became very afraid of how that would have worked in another country not my own. So, instead of dwelling in that fear I decided to turn to God. In tears I asked the Lord to heal my bladder and enable me to “pee” without the use of a catheter. I got up out of my tent and went to the washroom and I peed for the first time in 8 years without one! It was not exactly normal but I could do it and I have been “peeing” on my own ever since! I have never used a catheter again! Hallelujah God gave me a physical miracle! When I got back home I immediately went to my family Doctor and told him the news. All he could say was, “that’s great Joe.”

If you have read this far I thank you so much for taking interest. My life now is more than I could have ever dreamed and it’s all because of God. My wife, my children, my family & friends, there are so many blessings too many to count. 

If you do not known Jesus yet please soften your heart to His voice. Cultivate a relationship with God in Christ and you’ll never be sorry you did, only sorry you didn’t. 

It was 25 years ago for me on May 27th 2015 that I died, but it was only physical death. Spiritual death would have been much worse. I am so thankful that I lived that day in order that I would die again. 
I would die to myself and live for Jesus Christ; a death worth dying and a life worth living!

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