For Carole Lewis, the decision to attend the inaugural First Place meeting in 1981 was made as a last resort. Her years of fad dieting now seemed like an endless ride on the weight-loss yo-yo, and she still carried the same extra twenty pounds. The sun was setting on her thirty-ninth year, and the idea of being “fat and forty” made her shudder. The Bible-based weight-loss program had been envisioned by members of her church, First Baptist Church of Houston, TX. She never dreamed that the program would transform not only her body, but the course of her life.
Lewis had been involved in church for most of her life. She had even been on the administrative staff at FBC Houston since 1977, but, secretly fearing that he would send her to Africa or China, she had never made the conscious decision to seek and submit to God’s purpose for her life. In 1984, God began to break Lewis’ stubborn will. Her husband’s fork-lift company was in financial trouble, and the Texas oil boom had just gone bust. Personal bankruptcy was imminent, and she was not ready to trust the Lord and his plans for the future. When the pastor preached a sermon encouraging Christians to be “willing to be made willing,” Lewis knew that it was finally time to surrender the reins of her life and give the Lord total control. Soon God began to show her his purpose for her life --- to help people deal with their problems.
In the mid-1980’s, Dottie Brewer, the first director of First Place, began to experience some health problems, so Lewis (who was, in Dottie’s words, “the last person I would have chosen to take over this ministry”) stepped in to help lead the program. God began to grow and equip her for the work, and in 1987 she became the new national director. Soon she began communicating the program’s principles through the books and materials that have come to define it. “Beth Moore is a member of our church, and she has told us that she always knew she would write. Well, I always knew that I didn’t want to write,” Lewis laughs. “But, in 1996 I began to think that Dottie, who had passed away years before, would be so mad at me for not capturing the history of the program.” The first book, CHOOSING TO CHANGE, came to her at 3:00 a.m. while she was on a First Place trip. Since that time, she has become a prolific and successful author.
On Thanksgiving night in 2001, Lewis’ daughter Shari was killed by a drunk driver, leaving a husband and three teenage girls. During this time, Scriptures memorized through the First Place program became her lifeline. Lewis has penned eight books since that day including A THANKFUL HEART and THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER LEGACY, written with Shari’s oldest daughter, Cara. Other titles include FIRST PLACE, BACK ON TRACK, THE DIVINE DIET, two devotional books --- TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY (written six weeks after Shari’s death) and LIVING WELL --- and the newest version of the First Place materials, FIRST PLACE 4 HEALTH. A warm, transparent and humorous communicator, Lewis is a popular speaker at conferences, fitness weeks and workshops, where she finds great joy in fulfilling God’s purpose in her life --- to teach the principle of life balance taught in Mark 12:30: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.
Ten years ago Lewis’ husband Johnny was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer and given a year and a half to live. But God had a different prognosis. Carole and Johnny will celebrate forty-nine years of marriage in June and fully expect to spend their fiftieth anniversary together as well. The couple lives in the Galveston Bay area where their favorite pastimes include watching the sunset, spending time with their kids Lisa and John and daughter-in-law Lisa and spoiling their eight grandchildren and one great-grandson. The ministry of First Place 4 Health has become a family endeavor, with John and both Lisas serving as cooks on the program’s spa weekends.
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