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Hang on for the Ride!

One Sunday morning Ron Spory’s young life changed forever. 

He was sitting in Carpenter Park Mennonite Church near Johnstown, Pa., when Pastor Marvin Kauffman paused during his sermon and said, “God is calling someone here to be a pastor.” 

“I felt like a Holy Spirit arrow had pierced my heart!” Ron said.  After the service he told Pastor Marvin about that “arrow” and before long was scheduled to preach several times a year. 

As long as Ron can remember, church has been an important part of his life. As a child he’d joined his parents and grandparents in holding neighborhood Bible schools and worship services in primitive little mountain chapels packed with children and their parents. But this was a new step.

Ron attended RBC during the fall of ’81 then returned home to join his family’s locksmith business. The calls to preach in his home church and in neighboring congregations kept coming, prompting Ron to enroll in RBC’s Institute in Pastoral Studies (a precursor of Training in Ministry) from 1997-99.

Ron loved action – in the pulpit and on the playing field.  He played ball – all kinds — in spite of frequent tumbles – plagued by an undiagnosed neurological issue. Even walking became difficult. 

Then in 2013, he discovered sled hockey (an adaptation of ice hockey) and was hooked. 

 “I’d found a sport I enjoyed without needing to use my legs,” Ron said. Currently he’s in his seventh season with the Johnstown Sitting Bulls and is the oldest on the team. “I could almost be everyone’s father or grandfather,” he joked. 

Already by the second season Ron was the full-time goalie for the Sitting Bulls, and also played with the Pittsburgh Penguins Sled Hockey Team. With both teams he’s played in many Eastern U.S. cities and in Ontario, Canada. 

Ron lives with constant pain and disability, but it doesn’t stop him. He stepped up to pastor New Life Mennonite Church near Somerset from 2000-2016. He helped found Sonrise Ministries to address the need for parenting classes and marriage counseling in the community. 

In 2017 Ron’s disability was finally diagnosed as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) and he qualified for a custom manual stand-up wheelchair from Occupational Vocational Rehabilitation.  This became a springboard for him to help start a wheelchair support group and found the Spinal Chapter of South-Central Pennsylvania.

On August 10, 2019, Ron participated in a wheelchair 5k on Rails to Trails and several weeks later, another wheelchair 5K in the city streets of Johnstown.

This summer Ron has two sports goals —  to ride his wheelchair 13 miles (a half-marathon distance) in under 4 ½ hours and to ride his recently acquired hand-cycle bike 26 miles (a marathon distance) in under 5 ½ hours. 

“There’s nothing like a fast and furious wheelchair ride to clear my mind and de-stress,” he said. 

In the early days of the pandemic he’d been forced to lay off four full-time employees to keep his locksmith business afloat and suffered a 45% decrease in sales from the previous year. By the time he was able to bring his employees back in mid-May Ron says he was near burn out – but his periodic three-to-four-mile wheelchair “sprints” saved the day.

Ron and his wife Denise have two sons, and this year their family business celebrates 52 years, or as the jingle goes, “Holding the Keys to Johnstown, Pa. since 1969!”

“Hang on for the ride God takes you on,” Ron says. “Life’s not about sitting on the sidelines feeling sorry for yourself. Every step of the way God is teaching and transforming us for the next season. I look forward to what God has in store for me in the future. I’d love to live to be at least 100 – continuing to love and serve others.”

(Ron was a student at RBC ‘82,’97-’99,’12)

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