God was there – a grateful reflection on the beginnings of Body & Soul
Do you believe in coincidence? I don’t. But I do believe in God and the fact that He has a hand in our lives. So out of a heart full of thanksgiving I want to post this story to document for everyone the unmistakable hand of our Lord in the founding of Body & Soul. It gives me joy in the retelling, and hopefully you will find yourself on your knees as I was when I wrote this down for the 35th anniversary celebration in August 2016.
September 22, 1980.
My dad died. God was there to take him home and to plant a message or a seed of an idea. You see, as the hospital staff was passing by giving their condolences to me, some of the hospital staff, in separate conversations from each other, mentioned to me that they might have been able to do more if he had been in better shape. Why would they say that?? My dad rarely exercised because of a heart problem at birth. That was in his record, why would they comment on it after his passing?
But the comment about him stuck with me. So some time later Jeannie and I discussed it and, motivated by that thought, we put the boys in soccer and I returned to the jogging and lifting I’d done since college.
Then one day after my jog I was leaving for work, and God was there again.
I asked Jeannie, what she was going to do about exercise?
“Well, jogging is not really my thing… I’m not sure what I want to do,” she said.
I turned to go and saw a county newspaper on the kitchen table with an advertisement in bold. “Dance Aerobics” it read. “Hey honey, you like to dance, what about this?”
She loved it from her first class. God was there, too. Just a few months later she was asked to become a teacher of Dance Aerobics for the Rec department.
God was there when Nan thought of Jeannie and adding exercise to a women’s event called “Body and Soul Day” at our church.
God was there to get contemporary Christian music albums into her hands, music we did not know existed at the time.
God was there that night she choreographed for the first time in her life, and choreographed 10 songs in one night.
God was there when the event went so well that they begged for more after they returned home.
God was there at the first class in Nan’s basement and when Jeannie gave her testimony for the first time and won a soul for Christ.
God was there with Jeannie in that first class at McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, VA. where, in the biggest room they had, ladies were crammed in and overflowing to a nearby hallway.
And God was there encouraging Jeannie to train others to lead classes so that class could be split up. Jeannie, who less than a year earlier had never choreographed before was now a trainer teaching choreography. And He was there in the basement of our home encouraging the first 4 then 8 ladies to join in and learn how to lead a class.
And God was there when Jeannie and I talked about “all those classes to fill.” We looked at a puny $135 balance left of the money we had set aside for this and with little hope that we could afford it we called John Vogt at WCTN radio. “How about our Impact Plan,” the rep said. “Three ads a day for a week, only $135.”
God was there keeping Jeannie home with two sick boys so she could answer the 200 plus telephone calls that resulted from the ads. And the classes filled to overflowing.
God was there in the late Spring of 1982 when I went to lunch with a good friend and mentor, Armand Dauplaise. We talked for well over an hour with me discouraged over my job and not sure what I should do next and seeking his advice.
As he paid the check he asked, “What’s your lovely wife doing these days.” And I launched into the incredible story of Body and Soul and the growth from 4 to 8 then 17 classes, all filled to the brim. He put down the bill and we continued to talk for another hour.
“Here you are wondering what you should do and God has put it right in front of you.”
“You need to incorporate, you need some startup money, here.” Armand wrote a check to me, not to a charity, he got no tax deduction, he wrote a check for $8,000 made out to me. God was there.
God was there as Jeannie and I prayed about me going full time in the ministry but worrying about debt on the house. He was there a few weeks later when an out-of-left-field investment paid off 15x the original amount. So much for debt. We stayed in the house, turned the basement into an office and I joined the new ministry full time.
God was there as we found Christian lawyers to do the incorporation and a Christian man, Doug Stites, who owned his own mainframe computer and freely helped us get away from the 3×5 cards scattered on the basement floor.
God was there when I went to grad school in exercise physiology so I could train teachers to pass the certification test. And He blessed that effort with nearly all who took the course I offered passing the first time. And He was there also so I could meet a young grad student, engaged to a musician and lead them to Christ and see her become a Body & Soul teacher and a mom, and him lead worship in our church and later become a band member for Christian artists on tour.
God was there then, by my count over fifteen times, in a string of events that if broken may have resulted in a different path.
And He is here today.
Jeannie and I have walked with Him and watched Him at work since we were teenagers together. We raised our kids with Him at our side seeing His hand in our personal lives over and over. And we have participated with Him in this ministry for 35 years.
God will be in this ministry every day working through any one of us with a heart open enough to listen, to hear, and to reach out in His name.
So for all of us who carry on we have but three tasks, here is the mission: Praise our God. Get to work. Watch Him work.
Co-founder and head for all IT development and support
Presented August 2016 at the 35th anniversary celebration of Body & Soul Ministries