On February 28, 2011 I woke up with a clear vision of what I was supposed to do for the next 8 1/2 months of my life.
To recap, I had just been fired from my job as a senior pastor and I was still living in a town of a thousand people where my family was constantly reminded of our ignominious ending in that community. I had been down this road once before upon being forced out of another church position and being completely unemployed for 8 months. And it was a terrifying time for my family in many ways. And here I was again.
Knowing what possibly lay ahead of me, I knew that I needed to try to do something positive....SOMETHING! And since I couldn't control when I would be hired, I decided to do something about my weight. I rolled over in bed and told Michelle of my plan to lose weight. I said, "I need to do something with this time in my life and I want to help someone else, someone I don't even know." I told her of a crazy idea I had to lose weight and ask my Facebook friends to make a pledge for each pound I lost. That way, I would be held accountable to my decision.
We thought about who we could raise money for. I knew it had to be for one person, so I could have a real name and face to travel on this journey with me. Michelle told me about an organization her friend was working through to adopt an international, special-needs child, called 'Reece's Rainbow'. What was different about this was the sense of urgency that came with these kids. If they weren't adopted by a certain age a vast majority of them would be transferred to an institution where they would die within the first year. I knew this was the horizon God wanted my eyes to be focused on.
So we randomly (providentially) chose a family to help -- The Wilson Family. They love the Lord dearly and had a heart to express their love and imitation of the Gospel by adopting a little boy from Kiev they would name Peyton. The Wilson family laid everything they had before God and said that it was all His. They sold whatever they could to glorify God by bringing this child home. And the amount it would cost to adopt this boy was very high.
I knew that whatever I could raise would only be a drop in the bucket, but a drop in the bucket is better than a dry bucket. So I posted this blog the next day and was overwhelmed by the love and support that came through my screen. Many of my family and friends came through for me and I was determined to see this through.
I weighed myself on March 1 of this year and I was 335 lbs. My goal was to lose 100 lbs by my birthday (Nov.15). Through my daily besieging of the Lord in prayer for help, He gave me the strength to make it to this day.
Before I tell you how much I weigh today, let me add this beautiful caveat: Thanks to the generosity of so many of you along with so many more the Lord used to help the Wilson family, Peyton came home and was adopted into the Wilson family where He is loved and nurtured in the admonition of the Lord. Praise be to God that He allowed me to see His mighty provision for this family! I sincerely thank each and every one of you and know that you, too, were blessed to be used in such a way.
Well, all that to say that today I weigh 254 pounds. 81 pounds lost! Not -100, but not +100 either.
My life is changed forever.
Which leads me to ANNOUNCEMENT #2
Let me just say that I have had 2 jobs since being fired back in February. One was a part-time job at Sam's Club where I worked as a cashier. The other job is the one I currently hold, a cashier at Chick Fil A. I am very grateful to God for providing these jobs.....VERY grateful!!!
But, God has shown me something about myself in this time. I am meant to preach the Gospel! It is most assuredly a fire in my bones and it burns hotter within me every day. He has given me opportunities to preach at work and out on the streets of Knoxville, but the time I have to give is very limited now.
He has also shown me how sweet it is to minister and share the Gospel alongside of my family. I want to spend more time sharing and working with them.
So, I am announcing today a goal which is not just for me, but for my entire family. After much prayer and meditation, the Richardson's have decided to pursue missionary work in Poland.
Yes, Poland! We have a goal to share the Gospel with this unreached people group as a family.
You might be asking things like, "Why Poland?", "Is this just another whim?", "How are they going to do this exactly?" or "Does Michelle even like kielbasa?"
I'll try to briefly share some of these answers with you.
- Why Poland? I have been there twice on mission trips and found that I was ministering in my sweet spot. I love working with people who have little or no knowledge of the Gospel. It is how I came to know Christ. We also have friends who are currently serving as missionaries in Poland and have a couple of contacts already there. But the main reason is that Jesus deserves their worship too!
- Is this just another whim? Back in seminary, I remember being asked by a professor, "If you had all the money you ever needed, what would you do?" Instantly, I said that I would be a missionary in Poland. Upon sharing this with Michelle, she dismissed it altogether. Throughout our marriage, I have continued to mention this to her, each time receiving the same response. But when I mentioned it this time, she not only doesn't reject the idea, but even embraces it with anticipation. It has been on my heart since first going there and now seems like the right time to go.
- How are they going to do this exactly? The short answer is, "I don't know". The biblical answer is "God will provide". He has let us see His provision for us during so many times in our lives and we are confident that He is able to do exceeding abundantly for us. All we know is that our time of walking in the desert is over because He has given us a clear vision to share the good news of Jesus Christ as a family with the Polish people. We don't have to wonder what we are to do anymore. Whether it takes a few weeks or a few years to get there, our eyes are set on Poland.
- Does Michelle even like Kielbasa? Um, NO. That one was easy!
The father of the modern missionary movement, William Carey, once said when speaking about leaving to share the Gospel with the lost, "Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope." Our family knows which side of the rope we are meant to be on. We are going down into the well where people need to hear about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. And we know we will need people who can hold the rope for us.
You already did with my weight loss journey. I'm a new man because of that. Now, I ask that you be ready to hold the rope as we go to Poland so that we can see Jesus make all things new in the lives of people we are yet to meet.
And until the day we get there, we still have work to do and lessons to learn here. But the focus He has given us is a major answer to prayer. Like Paul longed to go to Spain, I long to go to Poland for the glory of Christ alone!
Who'da thought, huh?
Soli Deo gloria,