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CBN.com Why would a man want to dedicate his lifes work to womens health and fitness? Thats a question Lisa Ryan asked Gary Heavin, the founder of Curves International. The answer lies in a family tragedy that Gary endured at the age of 13. But that tragedy motivated him to build the largest fitness center franchise in the world.
LISA RYAN (reporting): He flies his personal jet, his helicopter, and his hot air balloon. His next-door neighbor is President George Bush. This ranch in Crawford, Texas, is what he calls home. Earlier in the day, I met Gary just as he was returning from a whirlwind tour to promote his best-selling book
GARY HEAVIN: It may seem like an extravagance, but when you have 5,000 locations in 50 states and nine countriesit [having your own plane] is a necessity. It gets me back in time to be with my wife and 9-year-old daughter.
LISA (reporting): Gary didnt waste any time heading straight home where he was reunited with his wife, Diane, and his daughter. I was treated to an afternoon of hospitalityTexas style. After an awesome lunch, we headed out on the deck to check out the view. Only the chirping of a bird disturbed the absolute quiet. But Gary says it gets pretty noisy when the president is in the neighborhood.
GARY: I said, 'Mr. President, I knew you were in town because I could hear the jets flying over.'
LISA (reporting): Gary has been known to make a little noise of his own, and he invited me to join him for my first helicopter ride. While we swooped over the neighborhood, I had the chance to discover what a great guy Gary is. Later I found out why.
GARY: The great lessons in life come from suffering, and when you've suffered sufficiently, then God can get your attention. As a young boy at age 13, my mother had been suffering from depression and high blood pressure. I woke up one morning to find that she had died in her sleep. She had just turned age 40, and my two younger brothers and I were the only ones at home. I had to gather them in my arms and tell them, age 9 and 7, that mother had died and gone to heaven.
LISA: You went through more than your share of hard times as a young man as well, didnt you?
GARY: As a teenager, I had the problem of a father and stepmother that didn't really want us. I left home at a really young age. Being self-sufficient and being focused on survival by the age of 26, I had six health clubs and a million-dollar financial statement.
LISA (reporting): Four years later, Gary was bankrupt.
GARY: I literally lost everything I ownedthe airplane, the nice homes, and the nice carsbut those things really have no significance. I lost the home with my children and found myself alone and destitute and without anything to comfort me or for me to find pride in. That was the lowest point.
LISA: What happened next?
GARY: I finally got on my knees and said, 'God, I lived the first half of my life by my will and it's a mess. I'm going to turn the rest of my life over to You.' I had to need Him so desperately that I was willing to put Him as the priority in my lifeand mean it. Youve got to realize I was saved at 13, but it wasnt until I was 32ish that I took my salvation and made it a commitment. Its one thing to be saved; its another thing to give yourself over to Gods plan for your life, so I had to do that.
LISA (reporting): Gradually, Gary began to rebuild his lifethis time on the foundation of Gods Word and something else.
GARY: The 700 Club was a great resource for me. One of the things The 700 Club taught me was the difference between relationship and religion. God designed us to be in relationship with Him. I began to read His Word and spend time seeking that relationship that He had for me.
LISA (reporting): Eventually, Gary met and married Diane. Diane remembers their initial struggle just to make ends meet.
DIANE HEAVIN: We had to start from probably worse than scratch, a brand-new start, and it was very tough, but God gave us the strength.
LISA (reporting): Then in 1992, Gary and Diane opened the first Curves fitness center in Texas. Today Curves International is the largest fitness center franchise in the world.
LISA: Do you do the Curves workout?
DIANE: I do. I work out about three times a week with my mother, who has a very neat Curves success story. She has lost 60 pounds and has kept it off for nearly three years.
LISA (reporting): She is just one of thousands of Curves success stories. Theres now a Curves fitness center for every two McDonalds in America, and a new Curves opens about every four hours.
GARY: One of the great resources that I drew upon in those early years was Pats book The Secret Kingdom. Even today I talk about those biblical principles that I had placed as the foundation of my business and can attribute those principles as the key to our success. One of those principles is the law of integrity. What does that mean? You tell people the truth. And the law of unity, you cant have unity without integrity, but if people can count on what you say, they can believe in you and you can work together. Today we have over 5,000 franchises. Together we are meeting the needs of over 2 million women. Thats the power of unity.
LISA (reporting): The Heavins cherish the simple pleasures of family life. Because they know where theyve been, they never take Gods abundant blessings for granted.
GARY: God has blessed my wife and I because of obedience. The truth is were all a mess, but Christ has paid a price. He has cleaned us up if weve accepted that gift so that God can use even me.
DIANE: We listen to God. We pray first, we listen, and He gives us the answersnot all the time, not when we want them necessarily. Then were obedient.
GARY: God has shown Himself faithful to me in the worst of circumstances. I trust Him. When you really realize who God is, and this is a neat thing, when you realize that God is so powerful that He literally spoke everything into existence and yet He loves us so much that He paid the price through His Son for us to have redemptionwho He is and how much He loves ushow in the world can we not live lives of significance?
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