The Arden, N.C., Church recently started Life Groups, a once-a-week study group focused on certain topics relevant to their members. It’s a six-week program designed to build stronger relationships with each other. The ultimate goal is to branch out and continue the meetings with others from the community, gaining more knowledge and practical applications for their Christian walk with Jesus Christ. Jerry and Pen Sturgis joined the Health Life Group, where they began studying Ellen G. White’s Counsels on Diet and Foods. For the first time in Pen Sturgis’ life, she was reading this powerful book and asking herself, “Why haven’t I been asked to read this book before?” Even more importantly, “Why aren’t we, as Seventh-day Adventists, taking advantage of this remarkable information?”
It is safe to say the senior generation of the Adventist Church is very familiar with White’s books. Sturgis is a third-generation Adventist, and she grew up hearing Ellen White’s name mentioned many times in church, but not as much in recent years, and certainly not on Counsels on Diet and Foods. As she was reading the book thoroughly, she begin to realize that many are too afraid to share the information with fellow members, much less those in the communities. The more information shared, the more changes many may have to make in order to apply these valuable lessons in their personal lives.
The Sabbath potlucks, for example, can be a far cry from White’s instruction on Sabbath meals. “We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead of this, the food should be more simple, and less should be eaten, in order that the mind may be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. A clogged stomach means a clogged brain,” Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 46. Having been heavy for nearly two decades, Sturgis has taken this message to heart, and along with her husband began a walking exercise program designed not only to help them lose weight, but become better examples of their Christian faith. She is proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist, and loves the Church. She loves the health message, or at least what she thought she knew of the health message.
Their family goal is to become Arden’s “biggest losers.” As a family of four, they are dedicated to losing more than 100 combined pounds. If this concept works on TV, why couldn’t they apply it to their lives? Shouldn’t the church members be proud to spread this health Gospel to a dying world of overweight, diseased people?
Health meetings have been held at Arden in the past, and the Sturgises have attended them. They didn’t make any major health changes until Jerry Sturgis’ recent stroke. That was their wake-up call. He is only in his 50s. They decided this was their time to make changes, and they are doing exactly that. They are walking away pounds daily.
If there are those in your community who are exercising and losing weight, they may be the best ones to lead out in your health meetings, because they can relate to the audience — they’ve “been there,” and can understand firsthand what it’s like to be overweight and overcome stigmas. Arden Church has found it’s best to be a fisherman before teaching someone how to fish, and experience is still the best lesson and instructor; preaching about exercise doesn’t get as much results as actually exercising with someone.
The Sturgis family doesn’t mind being known as Arden’s biggest losers as long as the ultimate goal is to be God’s best winners. They strive to not only continue losing the weight, but also to tell others how and why they are doing it. The Sturgises want to become health ambassadors of Jesus Christ, spreading His love to their community by telling others His plan for their lives. “The work of health reform is the Lord’s means for lessening suffering in our world and for purifying His church,” Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 77.
The Arden members ask for prayers, and invite all to contact them at the Arden Church to keep up with their progress. Pen Sturgis’ new motto for 2019: Add Jesus to your walk and talk!
Carolina | January 2019