Explorers

This youth pastor was born with no arms, but that doesn’t stop him from ministry

Daniel Ritchie, 31, is a youth pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church, a husband and a father of two kids. He does Crossfit training daily. And he was born without arms.
Daniel Ritchie, 31, is a youth pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church, a husband and a father of two kids. He does Crossfit training daily. And he was born without arms. Photo courtesy of Heather Ritchie

Daniel Ritchie, 31, is an inspiration.

He’s a youth pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church, a husband and a father of two kids. He does Crossfit training daily.

But one of the most inspiring things about him: Daniel was born without arms. And he doesn’t let that stop him.

As a kid, it was hard for Ritchie to fit in and find a group. He was angry at the world and struggled to find his place.

“I was not always positive,” he said. “All I wanted was to be like everyone else.”

It wasn’t until Ritchie was 16 that he discovered his passion for sharing God’s word through Christian ministry. A man named Clayton King spoke on how the gospel is worth surrendering your life. So Ritchie did.

And for the last 10 years, he’s motivated students every day—and says he hopes to continue for years to come.

Ritchie does Crossfit training in order to strengthen his core and increase his flexibility. This is to help him do everyday activities with his children and students.

He doesn’t want to just watch them; he wants to participate. And he does. He shoots a bow and arrow with his feet. He’ll drive a bus full of students by putting one foot on the wheel and the other on the gas pedal. His attitude inspires many of his students, showing them they don’t have to be crippled by the challenges they face.

Daniel is very open to questions regarding how he does certain things. And his testimony has encouraged many people over the years through his testimony.

Luke Zirkle is an active member in the Lake Norman Baptist Church youth group who has seen what God has done through Ritchie firsthand.

“Daniel has influenced me by showing me what it looks like to truly love the Lord,” Zirkle says.

“His love for the Lord allows him to love everyone better—his wife, his kids, his peers, his students, even strangers. He has shown me what it’s like to be a disciple who makes disciples, and I couldn’t be more blessed to have him in my life.”

Ritchie has not only influenced youth, but the staff at Lake Norman Baptist Church and congregation. Matt Hearn, the associate pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church as well as a parent of a child in Ritchie’s youth group, has witnessed Ritchie’s work with his daughter and congregation. He’s also worked with him personally.

“He is an incredible man of faith,” says Hearn, “who has challenged our young people to have a better outlook on life by seeing that all things are possible with Christ.”

This story was written as a part of the Charlotte Observer’s high school journalism Explorer Post. Questions? Email Corey Inscoe at cinscoe@charlotteobserver.com.

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