Pastor learns gold-medal lesson
January 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Pastor learns gold-medal lesson | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Pastor learns gold-medal lesson

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

MEBANE - Terry Farmer's wake-up call came as he was waking up at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill. It was March of 2001, and an attack of atrial fibrillation had sent Farmer's heart rate to more than 200 beats per minute. As medical personnel administered intravenous solutions, an unexpectedly high blood sugar level sent the pastor of Mebane's First Baptist Church into a near-diabetic coma.

Farmer's doctors quickly diagnosed adult onset, or Type II diabetes. They predicted nothing but bad news if he did not adopt a healthier lifestyle. Farmer, who has weighed as much as 270 pounds, and who lost his left kidney to cancer five years ago, saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall, and cooperated.

He signed up for an educational program at the local hospital, and learned to be a discriminating reader of food product labels.

He began eating up to six small meals per day, rather than three big ones.

And, he began exercising, gradually building up to 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day. "I run until my knees hurt," Farmer says, "then I walk."

Over a period of nine months, Farmer trimmed 90 pounds from his frame, and has kept it off for another nine months.

He also brought his diabetes under control so well that he no longer needs medication.

As a result, he feels stronger and more energetic than ever.

More importantly, perhaps, he feels better about himself.

Farmer believes his new level of fitness has made him a better pastor. "At least, it's made me a more relaxed pastor," he said. "It has allowed me to handle stress better, and without such dire consequences to my health."

Farmer admits that job stress and a lack of feeling in control used to trigger overeating. Well-meaning church members sometimes encouraged him to eat more, saying the food they offered, "had no calories," but they "actually acted as many enablers to my eating addiction," he said.

At other times, Farmer said, overeating was sparked by feelings of depression or by avoiding "the awesome responsibility to love myself as God loved me."

Now exercise offers a positive outlet for stress and frustration, and the healthier lifestyle leads to a more positive outlook on life, which translates into a more upbeat approach to ministry.

Modeling a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude is an important aspect of ministry, Farmer says. "If you are taking care of yourself, you're sending a message to the congregation that they need to do the same thing."

Living out a positive approach to life also leads to more positive preaching and less negativity in the pulpit, Farmer says, contributing to the overall health of the church.

Determined to maintain his health and fitness, Farmer finds additional motivation through organized athletic competition. Penny Butler, a local woman known for her athleticism, encouraged Farmer to participate in the Senior Games, which are open to ages 55 and up.

Farmer competed in sectional qualifiers in Burlington and Greensboro, winning several gold and silver medals in his age group.

Last fall, he competed at the state level in Raleigh, bringing home two gold and three silver medals. Farmer won gold for the 1,500-meter race walk and teamed with Butler to take the mixed doubles table tennis title. He won silver medals for the 800 meter and 5,000 meter races, and the 5,000-meter race walk.

He's now training for regional events and for the national Senior Games, slated for June in Hampton Roads, Va.

An added bonus is that his newfound activity has opened the doors for many witnessing opportunities, Farmer said. His church recently held an educational and screening clinic for diabetes. As a result, two people were diagnosed with the disease. One of them has since lost 40 pounds, he said.

Farmer believes his demonstration of personal discipline has also empowered him in the area of leadership. "I don't have to talk about being a leader when others can see that I'm willing to pay the price," he says.

Instead of resenting the time he devotes to fitness (now down to a maintenance level of 60 minutes per day), church members have encouraged him to stick with it. "I feel very blessed that our people have responded so positively," Farmer said.

Health and fitness are not the only issues ministers face, however, and Farmer encourages all ministers to be more open with their congregations about the trouble spots in their lives. "The more open I am, the more accepting the church has become," he said. "Whatever the issue is, the pastor and the church will both become stronger as they work together."

Which sounds like a recipe for a gold medal team.

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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