September 2002

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Dear Carole:

We started First Place at our Church in Oregon, Ohio in March of this year. To date, the group has lost 176 pounds! But more importantly than the weight loss has been the number of spiritual victories that have occurred. I have found a whole new relationship with Christ. The Bible Studies are just awesome. Each of the ladies involved have experienced spiritual growth. We have donated clothes to our local women’s shelter and we have donated food to our church’s food pantry. Our group is praising God for First Place.

Diane Thorn
Oregon Church of the Nazarene
Oregon, Ohio

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Dear Nancy,

I have had the privilege for the past 12 weeks of being the leader of a small First Place group at Christ Community Church, in Cumming, Georgia. My husband and I had been a part of another First Place group in South Carolina several years ago, but had regained some of our lost weight, and knew we needed to “get back with the program” to get back in shape.

Shortly after we had found a church home near our new home in Alpharetta, Georgia, a lady in the church announced plans for the start of a First Place group. We were delighted to become a part of that group. As we came to the conclusion of that session, some of the group wanted to continue into a second session, but Elizabeth, the lady that founded the group, was going to be out of town for much of a proposed second session. She wanted to be a part of what sessions she could attend, but felt she could not lead it. My husband and I stepped in and took over the leadership.

When I went to choose our Bible study materials, I felt “Life Under Control” was the study I needed most. I knew I was basing my decision on selfish needs, but after praying over it, still decided on that study. I didn’t know God had other plans.

Halfway into the session, Elizabeth’s husband of 50 years was suddenly taken to be with our Savior. Elizabeth has had a tremendous struggle facing life without her mate. About two weeks after his death, we came to week eight and nine of our study, “Spiritual Disciplines Help” and “Friends Can Help.” At our next meeting, Elizabeth shared with the group how these two weeks helped her tremendously. The church had planned a July 4th picnic after church on July 2nd. Elizabeth had decided to attend church, but not the picnic. But as she read the memory verse for that week, Hebrews 10: 24-25, she testifies God spoke to her how she needed the companionship of fellow Christians. I thought I had chosen this particular study for my own benefit, but God knew it would be needed to help someone else.

Lesson seven, Reflections, talks about evaluating our success toward reaching the goals we had set forth at the beginning of the session. It asks, “How do you measure the success you have had in the program? Do you measure strictly by pounds lost, or do you look at the overall picture and evaluate your spiritual growth?” Our group may not have been very successful in losing weight this session, but we have all testified how the Bible study has had impact in our lives in different ways.

We are now planning our third session. After much prayer, Elizabeth has decided she needs to “get back in the game” and will be leading the Bible study portion of our meetings, although she still doesn’t feel up to the task. I know God will bless her efforts. I will be co-leading with her, encouraging the group through the diet and exercise program.

Our group sends its appreciation for all who worked on putting these Bible studies together. It is great to have an eating/ exercise guide to help all of us who wish to do something about our health, but the Bible studies are the REAL blessing in this program.

Catherine Holliday
Christ Community Church
Cumming, Georgia

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Dear Carole,

I just finished reading your opening letter of the July First Place E-Newsletter. That letter touched my heart. I started on the First Place program myself back in January and have lost 50 pounds, but most importantly, God has opened up a whole new world for me. In spite of me not feeling confident enough to start a First Place group in my own church, God made it happen anyway. I had women coming up to me in the spring and asking to join the group of one (me). I had no intention of exploring leadership until September. But, here I am preparing to start another group in September. I’m still working on losing weight and it is coming off, but I still have a way to go.

I have been asked to speak about First Place at a local Bible Bookstore in August and I would like permission to use the thoughts in the last part of Carole’s letter. I have also been asked to hold a workshop at a women’s ministry conference in my city. So, I may use a few of your thoughts, as well. I would like to thank you in advance for your consideration. Blessings!

Sheila Schlueter
Trinity Evangelical Missionary Church
Waterloo, Ontario Canada

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We finished our first 13-week session of First Place at the end of June. Our group of 18 ladies lost a total of 176 pounds. We have gone on to the next Bible study and are preparing to start another 13-week session in September. We have opened the session to the public in our area. I’m so proud of these ladies and the progress they have made in their spiritual lives. Everyone has a story to tell and pounds that they have lost. But most importantly each one has become closer to Christ. None of us realized how out of control we were until we started to let God show us areas of our lives that we needed to let go. Thank you Lord for First Place.

Charlet Bachuss
First Place Leader
Prayer of Faith World Outreach
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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I have lost 40 pounds on First Place. It is a wonderful program and I would recommend it to anyone. I am now on maintenance and so far so good! The Low-Fat Hash Brown Casserole is a super good recipe to serve with any meal. I love the hash brown casserole at Cracker Barrel; so, I came up with my version that is low fat and yummy.

Donna Fox
Pinckneyville Baptist Church
Salem, Kentucky