March 16, 1998
Six days out of the week a dusty blue station wagon winds its way up the driveway to the Oral Roberts University campus and another college day begins for Michael and Lisa Porter. As they make their way to class, Lisa smiles a greeting from behind Michael’s wheelchair as they join other students in the rush to morning classes.
Like many commuters, the Porters enjoy getting to know other students and participating in university events. But Michael and Lisa are a step beyond the average commuter. Their many contrasts set them apart.
Michael is 32. Lisa is 21. He is confined to a wheelchair; she takes an aerobic class at a gym. Since their relationship began in 1997, it has been these striking differences which have drawn Michael and Lisa together.
As a toddler Michael was diagnosed with a rare and usually fatal nerve disorder, and for eleven years the Werdnig-Hoffman disorder ravaged his body. Miraculously, in 1978 the disease disappeared, but extensive nerve damage remained.
Soon after the disease left, Michael fell into Satanism and drug addiction which lasted through his teen years. The affects of the drugs combined with several bouts of pneumonia took a heavy toll on Michael’s already limited mobility and confined him to a wheelchair for life.
“My father was an alcoholic and my mother denied the fact that he was. By thirteen I was pretty much on my own.” Michael said. Despite his family problems and disability, he relied on himself and the help of friends to survive the struggles of living with a body that doesn’t cooperate.
In December of 1987 Michael was in a hospital for physical therapy when he faced yet another family disappointment. His parents either failed or forgot to come take him home for Christmas. During those days of depression, Michael noticed a nurse who was somehow different from the others.
When he asked her what was so different about her, she told him about the love of Christ and the personal relationship she had with him. For someone who had been involved in Satanism, a loving Christ was a foreign idea, but a few weeks and many conversations later Michael accepted Christ into his life. This was the first step in what has become eleven years of gradually finding God’s plan for his life.
In January, ten years after meeting Christ, Michael met Lisa. Since the affects of his disease and drug abuse had ravished his body, he needed assistance to accomplish the most basic tasks of life. Lisa answered an advertisement he had placed and soon took the job of feeding and caring for the man who would later become her husband.
On a spring day in 1997 Michael rededicated his life to Christ and Lisa accepted Jesus as her Savior. Soon after, the pair felt God wanted them to spend their lives together. So, that May, Michael and Lisa joined their hearts and dreams as husband and wife.
Together, they have learned and grown in their relationships with each other and those around them. Michael said that since he met Lisa, he has started thinking about the needs of other people instead of only his own. Both agree their communication skills with each other are still developing, but Lisa feels she has come a long way.
“When I first became a Christian I was almost scared to be seen with Michael [because of his disability,] but now people have told me they are encouraged in their faith by just seeing us together.” Lisa said.
With help from Lisa, Michael began studying psychology by correspondence through ORU and took interest in her own education. After careful consideration the new couple felt God wanted them to move to Tulsa so they could complete their education together.
In August, the Porters packed up their belongings and their cat, Midnight, and made the 1200-mile move from New Jersey to a roomy apartment beside the Arkansas River only a few minutes drive from the ORU campus. They spent the fall semester settling in to their new home and preparing for the life of college students.
While the blustery winds of an Oklahoma winter whipped across campus Michael and Lisa enrolled at ORU for the spring semester of 1998. Michael is studying psychology and theology while Lisa’s interest is in education.
As a faithful wife and friend, Lisa stands by Michael’s side to help him prepare for the dream God gave him of founding a Christ-based rehabilitation community. She said he sometimes gets frustrated about his disability and the daily difficulties he faces, but together they are working to accomplish the dream they both share.
Michael’s mobility is very limited but with the computer technology of today and the slight movement he still has in his arm, he can type and even play chess by using a track ball to point out each letter. Soon the Porters are hoping to receive a voice-activated computer to speed up his typing skills.
Michael and Lisa plan to spend about six years getting their education so they can found and administer a recovery community for young Christians who need a boost in their faith. Their desire is to follow the plan God gave them of a full-scale community for people with backgrounds similar to Michael. The Porters described the rehabilitation community as a mock city with a school and many of the facilities a town would have but based on spiritual development in Jesus Christ and physical development.
As the Porters finish another day and make their way back across campus, the smile on Lisa’s face and quick step as she pushes Michael’s wheelchair show the joy she finds in pushing Michael and walking herself toward fulfilling the dream God gave them both.