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National Dir., First Place, a weight-loss ministry of Houston’s First Baptist Church
Program has been in 12,000 churches
Conference and seminar speaker
'The Divine Diet'
CBN.com Really Losing It
Carole was an active woman in 1981. After trying many weight loss plans, she still battled to lose that same 20 pounds over and over again.
She was turning 40, and the idea for her and her friends of “Fat & Forty” just didn’t cut it. Her most recent diet was Atkins. She had only five grams of carbs a day, no fruit, no bread, etc. Carole says if the weight keeps coming back, you haven’t really lost it.
As a last resort she decided to attend a new Bible-centered weight-loss program sponsored by her church. She never dreamed how that class would change her weight and her life.
In 1980, 12 men and women of First Baptist were intrigued with the question: since God has saved us from our sins and given us abundant life, why can’t we Christians use that same power to get balance in all four areas of our lives -- mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual?
Realizing they had never called on God’s help before, this initial group banded together in prayer to seek God for an answer. And First Place is the result, giving Christ first place in all things in our lives.
Their efforts led them to develop a series of classes to look at weight-loss in a whole new way. Carole was a member of that first class in 1981.
What began as one church’s program to help its members, soon spread to thousands of other churches as they heard about the program and asked for it. Over 12,000 churches have used the program.
In the early stages, First Baptist could just make xerox copies to share with others, but soon demand required that they actually go into the publishing side to meet the need. The initial 12 signed over their copyright to the church, thereby making First Place a ministry of the church.
There are Nine Commitments to the plan: Attendance, Prayer, Scripture Reading, Memory Verse, Bible Study, “Live-it” Plan, Fact Sheet, Phone Call, and Exercise.
Though Carole had been in the church most of her life, she says she didn’t really make Christ Lord until 1984. She’d been at First Baptist Houston since 1977 and worked in the church.
Carole had always been a very strong-willed person. But in 1984 she came to the end of herself. Her husband owned a fork-lift company during that time; it was also during the time when the oil boom went bust in Texas. Financially they were strapped, and things went from bad to worse. They were near broke.
One Sunday in January 1985 the pastor preached a message on “The Will,” about believers being “willing to be made willing,” and Carole knew God was talking to her. But when the pastor asked people to come forward, Carole didn’t. She was on the staff of the church, and this would have been awkward, she says. Though she’d feared giving her whole life to Christ because He might send her to Africa or China, Carole did submit totally to Him that day.
“I was in a mess financially and spiritually,” she says, “and I knew it would be awful to submit. But He gave so much back.”
The Lord worked in her life in the area of relationships, how to deal with people and their problems. She didn’t want it at first, but that was God’s will for her.
Carole came into leadership in the mid-80s when the first director’s, Dottie Brewer, health suffered. She says the program really exploded in 1987, with her writing several successful books and materials to define it. Three of her Bible studies are sold in Walmart.
Carole says through all the personal and ministerial changes and growth, the Lord has been so very good to them. Life hasn’t always been easy, but He has always been there. Even when her husband had stage 4 prostate cancer; even when three years ago her daughter Sherry was killed by an 18-year-old drunk driver, “God walked with me every step of the way.” “I don’t know where I’d be if God hadn’t gotten control of my life,” she says. “It’s all God.”
Of the nine commitments, Carole says four are spiritual: scripture reading and memory verse, prayer, and Bible study. Attendance brings encouragement for all attendees.
Scripture memory is key for Carole; some are set to music. When Sherry died, Carole sang many of these verses. The Holy Spirit would bring these scripture songs to mind in the middle of the night.
Many others say the Bible study changes everything. Many pastors and church leaders go through the program, and 60 to 70 percent of them keep the weight off, Carole says.
Her book, The Divine Diet, is full of testimonies of people who have lost weight and have kept it off for at least five years. Since the beginning in 1981, they have taught members about serving sizes. Correct serving sizes are the key to losing weight and keeping it off.
Carole says the success of First Placeis is in the process, not in the program. God knows where He needs to work first and it may not be in the physical area. He might need to bring some emotional or spiritual healing before weight loss occurs. Because First Place is a lifestyle program of balance, weight loss is not the only goal. Balance in all four areas of life is the goal.
The program can be an amazing outreach tool for bringing men and women into the church who would never attend otherwise. Many have developed a personal relationship with Christ through their involvement with First Place.
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.