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Draper’s fitness interview brings requests for help

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Readers of Facts & Trends, Baptist Press and state Baptist newspapers have requested personal help with health issues after reading an interview with James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The article, published in the January-February 2001 issue of Facts & Trends, LifeWay’s publication sent to pastors, church staff and denominational leaders, and in Baptist Press described Draper’s personal fitness program to reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

In responding to Draper and to Tommy Yessick, LifeWay’s wellness consultant, readers referenced symptoms and concerns similar to those Draper had cited in his personal profile.

Shortness of breath, the need to lose weight, sleep apnea and lack of regular exercise were common themes in letters, e-mails and telephone calls. Several, like Draper, said they had experienced the premature loss of family members who were at mid-life.

Pastors, church staff, spouses, ministry couples and a young pastor’s fiance asked for help, mirroring the candor with which Draper described his circumstance.

One, who was typical of many responses, described himself as “in bad need of changing my physical wellness. I am overweight and terribly out of shape.” Others described themselves in terms of disproportionate height and weight or in numbers indicating high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Many stated their need for help, along with a desired outcome.

“I just want to have more energy and to feel better about myself,” one reader responded. “I want to be able to serve the Lord better and to be able to continue in the ministry, in some fashion, into my retirement years.”

Another said, “I am tired of weighing too much and feeling guilty for not being able to get a handle on this spiritually.”

More than one person referenced the impression others get from the pastor’s appearance.

“I remember sitting in an associational meeting … and seeing that many of the brethren had more than a little weight around the mid-section,” one wrote. “Not only did I consider it unhealthy, I feared it could send a ‘lazy signal’ to some people.”

Another expressed frustration that pastors “go to the same conferences, attend the same sessions on the same church-related subjects. I need something to help me personally.”

In initial correspondence with persons asking for help, Yessick told those who want to improve their level of health that “long-term change is not a quick fix. Sometimes people must have a foundation of the right ‘want-to’s’ more than just a program of quick results.”

Draper said not only has he received correspondence about fitness, but also as he travels, pastors have shared their personal concerns, along with appreciation for his openness in telling his story in print.

“Sharing my personal journey in learning to manage my level of health was not a totally comfortable thing to do,” Draper said. “But if it helps someone take the steps needed to serve God longer and in better health, I am glad I could help motivate others.”

LifeWay offers resources to assist people who want to improve their personal fitness. Through LeaderCare, a ministry of personal development resources for ministers and their families, wellness consultation and resources are available by contacting Tommy Yessick at (615) 251-3846 or by e-mail at [email protected].

For groups, LifeWay’s discipleship area offers “Fit4,” a goal-oriented educational health plan with a balanced approach to health and total well-being. For more information about Fit4, visit www.fit4.com.

For earlier stories on Draper & wellness:

Fitness can affect witness, ministry, Jimmy Draper says
FIRST-PERSON: Finish the race well and in good health

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  • Charles Willis