Success Stories Helen Baratta
Recently God has prompted me to locate my child hood friend Debbie Mintz. I’ve looked on Facebook, Google, even MySpace. I have even sent messages to one person on Facebook. As I have learned to reflect on my past to help me on my journey, her friendship to me was the beginning of my spiritual journey. You see Debbie was my neighbor when I moved in kindergarten. Her mom Janice invited my mom to church over and over. They eventually invited me to sleepover on Saturday nights having me bring a nice dress to wear to church with them on Sundays. I am thankful that my friend Debbie did not give up. I gave my life to Christ when I was a teen at youth camp. A youth camp I attend with my church and my friend Debbie. My story today is one of friendship and obedience.
Looking back at my teen bible, I am amazed at the notes in the margins written by a then spiritually maturing 13 year old.
At age 14, the circumstances of life took hold, my parents divorced, we moved, and I was no longer attending church. Through a whirlwind, I had graduated high school, college. God was not part of these life transitions. As I prepared for my wedding day, I attained lifetime Weight Watcher status losing 40 pounds at age 24.
Two years later, I tipped the scales at 180 during my first pregnancy. I paid a doctor crazy money for diet pills for 90 or so days to get that weight off. During my second pregnancy, I headed over 200 pounds. I tried Weight Watchers again, but not with lasting success. Then I did Fen-Phen, Weight Watchers, Protein Power, Atkins and Weight Watchers yet again. Each time I had some positive result I was looking for, but not the lasting effect I needed. I was forever re-gaining the weight plus some. I was convinced that this was it. I was to be the hopeless Big Woman I hid from in the mirror.
In early 2000, again a best friend invited me, invited me, invited me, invited me and continued to invite me to church (Thank you Jane for your persistence in inviting). Our gracious Lord welcomed me back and I began a new life in Christ.
Some time in 2004/2005 my sister Cyndi, started a First Place group in her home. She shared how Christ was changing her through the program. I remember saying to her, “Not me, I am fine just as I am. I have already done so many things; doing nothing at all seems to be working.” Slowly over the next year or so, God was gently nudging me. However, I was not listening. I entered a winter season for my spiritual life. For over a year, I was serving in my church, leading a small group, and searching for what God might be calling me to do. However, I still was not listening! I knew there was something, but I just couldn’t hear.
In the spring of 2006, while doing a bible study, a question asked, "What is God calling you today that you are not willing to take action on"? Bam! I realized that I needed to be leading First Place at my church. Finally, I was willing to hear God, loud and clear. I immediately sent an email to my Pastor about First Place asking what I needed to do to get approval to start First Place at our church. The more I shared, the more my church was interested in First Place. The more I talked about it the more they agreed it fit within our church’s vision and mission. I called my sister, she encouraged me then and she continues to encourage me today. She told me to order the First Place Group Starter kit. Once I got the kit, I was on my way.
In September 2006, I held my first orientation at our North Fayette campus. I prayed that God would send at least three people. He sent 24. I heard repeatedly how thankful people were for the program. They shared how they had been praying for months to have a Christ Centered health program. I was humbled. I stood before the first group at orientation and honestly shared. I am starting this group because I need it because I weigh 269 pounds. I told them I was learning right along with them. The personal weight-loss testimony that I shared was of my sister who lived 4 hours away. I am pleased that she is part of my testimony.
One of my strengths is positivity. Outwardly, I am glowing with the joy that only Christ can provide. Being honest, losing 105 pounds over 4 years has been hard work. Four of the 13 sessions, I lost less than 5 pounds. In session 9, I actually ended 2 pounds greater than I started. In my quiet time with God, I have spent time grumbling and groaning. I would find myself apologizing to God for not being more positive. I am thankful that I have an awesome God that lets me grumble. I know he loves me and expects me to keep on going. I continually recall, Deuteronomy 30:11 “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult or beyond your reach”.
There is much evidence on the outside that I have changed. The incredible truth is that I have changed more on the inside. It is hard to explain. I prayed that God would change my heart about exercise. He helped me by insisting that the exercise happen early each day. I rise between 6 and 6:30 AM, I am out running, biking, or in winter I dust off my Nordic Track. Next on the agenda is time with my awesome Lord over breakfast. Then dressed and out the door for a busy day at work.
My outward transformation offers many opportunities to share my story. I beam when I am complimented, excited for another opportunity to share what Christ has done in my life. I am taking care of my body for God. My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in me. I have slowly changed. I no longer take care of my body for me. WOW!
One area that stands out is my memorization. God put it on my heart to memorize. I was first lead to memorize Psalm 139. I was forever reciting to friends in the church lobby, in email, over the phone. Suddenly along the way, I realized I needed to be reciting the verses to my awesome Lord. Once I learned the 24 verses of Psalm 139, it seemed easy to memorize. Now, I spend much of my driving time to work reciting aloud in the car. I now have over 100 FP4H bible verses memorized. I work to keep them in my head. It is much easier to memorize if you plan to keep them forever. I love that I can call on God whenever I recite his Word.
My journey continues. It is almost 5 years since my first orientation. I have lost 116 pounds. I realize that I too have to continue to change. When I accepted the Network Leader position for First Place 4 Health for PA, I realized I needed to develop more leaders. My prayer request each week at First Place was for God to send me leaders. Guess what, I now have five women from my First Place groups leading as well as a men’s only group. As I prayed on how to be a better Network Leader, God called me to give my ministry away at my church. What could this possibly be true? Yes, in obedience I put out my prayer request that I was called to step down from the leadership role as the First Place lead here at Crossroads so that my time could be used on the First Place Network. Again God almost instantly answered that prayer. As soon as I shared the request, one of our leaders shared that God had been calling her to take on greater responsibility in her ministry. Over past 6 months she gradually took over the full responsibility of First Place here at our church, I am now her coach.
I am very thankful for all the friends God sent to me. For their obedience to reaching out to me. I do my best to be obedient when he calls. My challenge to you today is to answer God’s call. To be the friend. To be obedient. When we get out of the way and DO just what he calls us to do, AMAZING things happen!
Helen has recently moved from being a Networking Leader for the state of Pennsylvania to a Regional Team Leader for the middle eastern portion of the U.S.