By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
As Joplin residents continue to overcome the devastation wrought by the 2011 tornado, David Ring continues his journey of hope, just as he has for the past 40 years.
Ring is a nationally known author, speaker and a shining example of what he preaches. He will bring his encouraging words to Joplin, as he has a dozen times before, when he takes the pulpit at 6 p.m. Sunday at Eastvue Baptist Church, 2802 New Hampshire Ave.
It would be hard to find a better role model in life than this Jonesboro, Ark., native, who has overcome adversities all his life and, at one point, was receiving 30 invitations a day to give his motivational talk.
After being born with cerebral palsy, Ring was cast about from family to family after being orphaned at age 14. He faced physical pain, public ridicule and endless discouragement.
Now 59, he continues going strong, encouraging people to never give up. Using the Joplin tornado as an example, he said "everybody has a tornado in their own lives to overcome."
In a phone interview this week from Nashville, Tenn., where Ring and his wife, Karen, and four children live, Ring said he started speaking publicly on weekends while going to college. He did it despite reservations about his cerebral palsy-induced speech impediment.
He said he never thought about continuing public speaking on a regular basis until something happened in 1973, about 30 miles from Joplin at First Baptist Church of Mount Vernon.
"A bunch of guys there took me under their wings and gave me an opportunity to tell my story during a revival," he said. "That took me about 10 minutes, and now my talks take up to 50 minutes because I am continually updating my life story."
Ring said his speaking engagements were tough in the beginning, but he soon learned the importance of presenting his message in a comfortable fashion. He worked at making his audience -- and himself -- feel at ease.
"When I stand and speak, I know it will take about five minutes for everyone to catch on," he said. "Some say, 'I cannot understand this guy,' and they get uptight."
Ring refuses to be stifled by his physical limitations. One of the trademarks of his talks comes when he issues a challenge to everyone: "I have cerebral palsy. What's your problem?"
Ring, who graduated with a double major in religion and sociology from William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., gives credit to Jesus for helping him become victorious in life. Considering his almost insurmountable obstacles, it would have been easy for him to feel like a victim.
He said being a follower of Christ has taught him self-respect and acceptance of his physical challenges.
He presents his message of overcoming life's obstacles to more than 100,000 people each year at churches, conventions, schools and corporate events.
Dave Ramsey, author and radio talk show host, calls Ring one of the most motivating speakers in America today. The late Jerry Falwell, founder and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., used to refer to him as one of America's most powerful evangelists.
After inviting Ring to speak at his Lynchburg church in 1989, Falwell liked him so much that he put him on his nationwide television programs.
"That gave me a big platform where I was seen and heard all over the world," said Ring, who added that it was right after that when he began receiving 30 speaking invitations a day.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@ cableone.net.
Ring's book, "Just As I Am" (Moody Press, Chicago, Ill.), tells of his heartaches and victories while addressing a triumph-over-odds theme.