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Sister gains from brother’s loss

WARRENTON, Mo. (BP)–A woman’s dream will come true all because her brother decided to get in shape.

Randy Penberthy of Two Rivers Church in St. Charles weighed 368 pounds in 1999. By following a strict diet and exercising six days a week, he dropped 174 pounds in 2000.

For his efforts, a program called “Body for Life” awarded him $10,000.00.

Penberthy’s weight loss was extraordinary. But, what he did next was no less extraordinary. He gave the money to his sister.

Bonnie Keen always had wanted to adopt a child from abroad. But she and her husband, Robert, pastor of Warrenton Christian Church, did not have the $16,000 they would need to adopt a Romanian child.

Penberthy said giving the money to his sister was the right thing to do. “I spent time in prayer about what I should do with this money … . I need a new roof, and I thought of all the things I could buy with it. But I balanced that up against being able to truly save a little girl’s life and introducing her to Jesus Christ, and I knew what I needed to do.”

Keen, who home schools her four children, got a surprise call from her brother on his way to work one day.

“I just started crying,” Keen recalled. “I always knew God would provide, but I had no idea it would be through my brother losing weight and giving me his cash prize.

“I loved my brother before this, but this makes him pretty special around our house.”

Even with Randy’s gift, the Keens were $6,000 short of the amount needed to begin the adoption process. Then Two Rivers Church got involved. Penberthy recalled, “One Sunday, the pastor showed a local news video clip about my story and told the congregation about my sister’s desire to adopt, and he said people could give to her by placing an offering in our box at the back of the church.

“The next Sunday, he presented me with a check for $6,000.”

The Keens have completed the necessary paperwork for the adoption, and they hope to travel this year to Romania to bring home their daughter.

All these developments began with a weighty commitment.

On New Year’s Eve 1999, Penberthy wasn’t thinking about Y2K. His mind was on his struggling marriage. Despite praying that God would transform his marriage in 2000, he confessed, he didn’t really believe that God would do so.

In February 2000, Randy and his wife, Vicki, attended a marriage retreat. That’s when Penberthy made a commitment to lose weight.

“I got to thinking more and more about how God created me as a gift to my wife,” Penberthy recalled. “I got to thinking about my weight, and I knew I had never taken care of that gift.

“I committed to get myself in the best physical and spiritual shape I could and present that as a gift to her.”

From January 30 to November 26 last year, he lost 174 pounds using the Body for Life plan of nutritious eating and combining weightlifting with cardiovascular exercise. What made this plan different, Penberthy said, was the “six days on, one day off plan.”

“I read the book, ‘Body for Life,’ and decided that about 90 percent of it was the same as the core of other nutrition books,” he said. “But the part that appealed to me was eating ‘whole’ foods six days a week, and then on the seventh day, I could skip exercise and eat anything I want.

“You can make it through those six days knowing Sunday is coming.”

Vicki — who has lost 65 pounds — said her husband’s commitment to lose weight and spend time with God daily has transformed their marriage and family life.

“We have ‘date day’ once a month where we spend the whole day together, and we have ‘date night’ once a week,” she said. “I am proud of my husband, and I hope his story might inspire other people … . Once we put God first, everything else fell into place.”

The Penberthys’ day begins at 3:50 a.m. when they each rise to spend time alone with God. Then, they go to the gym to work out together before going to work. He is a technical manager for Killark Electric Manufacturing in St. Louis. She is a first grade teacher at Living Word Christian School in Harvester.

“The fact that there’s love between Vicki and I at the gym is so attractive to the world,” he said. “We high-five and hug each other.”

He said there are eight or nine families and singles they have met at the gym and shared Christ with who now attend Two Rivers Church regularly. And there are about 15 from church now working out regularly with the Penberthys at 5 a.m.

“God is allowing this transformation physically to enable me to share the gospel,” Randy said. “Not only do I keep my body in good shape now, but I also have to watch myself spiritually as well, because people are watching me. I Corinthians 9:24-27 really drives me so that I do not harm the platform God has given me.”

Penberthy said the physical and spiritual renewal he has experienced over the past year has led to other changes, too. “My confidence level has gone through the roof,” he said. “As an obese person, there was always the humiliation factor — not being able to sit in a booth at a restaurant or take off my shirt on a canoe trip. I was always trying to prove my worth because I felt so bad about how I looked.

“All that stuff is gone now. I have never in my life been able to shop in discount stores and buy a size 34 pants and 42 jacket.

“I see myself walking down the sidewalk and think, ‘No way. That’s not me.'”

Apparently, some relatives at a family reunion last year didn’t think it was him, either.

“About 80 percent of my family saw me at the reunion and had no idea who I was. I had a lot of fun that day.”

The Penberthys live in St. Peters with their three children: Amanda, a student at Hannibal-LaGrange College; Matthew, 14; and Sarah, 11.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MAKING CHANGES and VICKI AND RANDY PENBERTHY.

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  • Stacey Hamby