One Obscure Tiny Woman: Mother Teresa
She was an obscure woman in an obscure place, yet she was projected by God onto the world stage. She never married, nor bore children from her womb, but she married her calling from God and she married Christ whom she adored; and the children “born of her love are numerous. Like Elijah before King Ahab, or Moses before Pharaoh, or John Knox before bloody Queen Mary, this little woman stood before “King and Queen Clinton, and spoke fearlessly God’s Word concerning the precious value of life before the audience of the world. This little woman who rose from obscurity as she labored incessantly amidst squalor and extreme poverty in one of the most populous countries in the world, now is the name, other than Jesus, who most comes to mind epitomizing one who lived to serve others.
Known as mother Teresa, this woman of Calcutta, once said: “Don’t look at the numbers, start with serving one, the one closest to you. Treat that one with kindness and love them as yourself. I have been in India, and in some of the poorest places in the world, and the numbers are staggering of people in misery needing help. If mother Teresa had looked at the numbers and been mired in wondering what could little she do to even begin to address the overwhelming need before her eyes, we cannot imagine the enormity of loss over what would not have been done for so many. Carefully consider the text above as it says serve ONE another. The focus is on beginning with ONE and letting God lead you from there. The numbers confound, ONE can be done. Jesus’ point in His parable of the lost sheep is that the shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep to find one that was lost. The rejoicing in heaven over one lost sheep that was found expresses God’s joy in the salvation of individuals. We are not an obscure number lost in the masses, we are ONE loved unique individual whom God knows and loves completely, and calls to join Him in doing the same. Love and serve ONE at a time, and let God lead you from there.
Mother Teresa did not seek the world stage, she sought only to help the one closest to her, one at a time, and God used this small, frail woman to help millions, many who would not have survived childhood, or even infancy. “So what, many say or by their nonchalance and disinterest say it in their life’s attitude; because they do not see the truth that they may be the ONE of the ninety and nine the Shepherd seeks to find and save, the one who desperately needs being rescued. Do you see and value yourself in the place of the one lost sheep the shepherd left the others to find and bring home? If you do not, He probably hasn’t, and you are still un-rescued out in the dark wilderness waiting to be found.
If you do not appreciate the “Hound of Heaven who with “unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy, tracked you down and made you his own, then the text above will mean little to you and will not inspire you to follow in his train. But if so, set the eyes of your heart on being kind to the one God sets in your path next, and serving them to the end that they will be the lost sheep that is found, and the once lost sheep that He still does keep.
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Within one month of turning thirteen years old, Jonathan became a man. At least, that’s what he thought. He had his first experience with alcohol, lost his virginity, and tried pot. To Jonathan, this made him grown up. More than that, he saw marijuana as an opportunity. He was a smart kid and understood smoking pot could be expensive – unless you bought enough to sell. By selling, Jonathan could accomplish three things all at once: he could make money, get high for free and be popular.
His plan worked brilliantly. He made money, got stoned for free, and people loved him.
What Jonathan didn’t plan were the consequences of the path he was on. He couldn’t see that in five years he would be sitting in a jail cell all alone. He didn’t anticipate the devastation that would befall his family. There was no way to recognize the impact of his actions on the community. He couldn’t have guessed the depth of the emptiness that would swallow him inside. Certainly, he wasn’t planning on becoming a statistic.
Growing up, Jonathan had a great childhood and all the ingredients for success. He had a loving family that was moderately wealthy. They attended church together every Sunday and Wednesday. They lived in a nice neighborhood. Jonathan was sent to private schools to protect him from the dangers of the public school system. Yet it was from within that safe environment that Jonathan became a drug dealer. He bought marijuana from a local grocer, a man respected in the community. Sometimes he even got pot from an usher in his church. Then he sold marijuana to his fellow students. For the most part, these students looked like him: white, middle to upper class, preppy and athletic. This wasn’t the ghetto. It was main-street U.S.A. It was Mayberry for the 21st Century.
By his first year of college, Jonathan was not only selling marijuana, but ecstasy and cocaine as well. Cocaine had become his personal favorite to use. It was easier to conceal, odorless and plentiful. As a student attending a small private college he found a broad customer base, even though it was a Christian affiliated institution. Once again, he sold drugs to his peers, none of whom “looked the part of a drug user.
The dark and seedy world most commonly associated with dealers and addicts was not Jonathan’s world. Who would have guessed just how dark his secrets were? No parent would have thought that he could be the type of person who would sell drugs. Yet he was exactly that type.
The real world is very different than what we like to imagine. Reality shatters our preconceived notions. It also raises questions like what went wrong? How can this be?
How Could Jonathan Do This?
How could he grow up in what seemed to be such a safe, stable home and yet deal drugs? What starts someone down the road of living a lie? How can you lose your sense of who you are?
The answers seem difficult but they are not. Jonathon had divorced himself from who he was and become what others wanted. There was no real Jonathan anymore. He had played the part so long he had become the lies he told. No one knew Jonathan and Jonathan didn’t know himself.
When parents of some of the students at the school went to the school officials, that’s when his carefully crafted world imploded and sent him spiraling. Jonathan found himself hiding out at a friend’s house off campus, trying to decide what to do when his phone rang. It was his father.
“Where are you? his father asked. Obviously, the school had called him. Jonathan knew if he told his dad where he was, his dad would tell the school, the police would find him and he would be arrested. He thought it over carefully. Then he gave his father the address. After he hung up the phone, he called another friend and asked him to pack together a few items of clothing and bring them to him. He showered, got dressed and waited for the police to pick him up.
Sitting in the cell at the police station, Jonathan felt relief. His world had ended. He was spent. He couldn’t bear up under the lie anymore. Because of his charges, Jonathan was looking at serious prison time. Still, all he felt was relief at finally being discovered.
Jonathan did spend several months in jail, but he wouldn’t see the inside of a prison. His family found out about us, the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH), and the court agreed to let Jonathan come, but only after he completed a minimum of 90 days – maximum of 180 days – locked up. After about four months, they released him to us.
Home At The PAYH
Jonathan was defiant and so accustomed to manipulating others that he did it without thinking. However, for the first time in his life, he was in a place where he couldn’t fool anyone. We’d seen and experienced his type before. We understood his past.
It was a long, hard road and every step of it was uphill for Jonathan. It seemed that he could do nothing without us finding out about it. He was given practically every form of punishment we give boys while he was here. He dug holes, carried logs and wrote sentences with bricks. And every time he was caught, it dealt a harsh blow to his habit of deceit. His safety net of using deception to cover himself had holes in it and we made those holes bigger.
Jonathan was chosen, against all odds it seemed, to participate in our annual bike ride. However, the week before the ride began Jonathan lied about a routine task, his memory work. It was the smallest of infractions, but it was part of a larger problem in him that had to be addressed. His deceit once again had limited his opportunities and he was not allowed to participate in the ride. Further, he was not allowed to go with the rest of our young men to a fun week away on a PAYH family trip. He was left with staff to spend the week alone, on our campus, working. All alone, again, he was forced to look at himself and come to terms with who he was.
That was a turning point for Jonathan. We’d like to say that after that, Jonathan was a role model, but he wasn’t. Change rarely happens that way. It was still difficult for Jonathan, but now he was fighting to be different. It was hard to see this change in him, but gradually it began to show itself. Even a week before his graduation, he struggled with honesty. But over the next several years, his character and integrity continued to show. He stayed in contact with the youth home staff, making permanent and meaningful relationships. Weekly – sometimes daily – he called for advice or to talk and he listened. He visited several times a year. He told his friends about us. He donated to the home regularly. His heart, which had once been so hard and full of lies, had softened. He was becoming restored to others and his family.
Jonathan graduates college this spring and is going to be a teacher. After leaving the PAYH, he enrolled in Covenant College where he studied teaching, played baseball and was selected by his coach as a team leader. He was featured in the school’s magazine as an outstanding student of faith and inspiration. He married a beautiful girl in June of 2012. They are expecting their first child this May.
7,225,800 adults are either in jail, prison, on
probation, or paroled in the United States.
Jonathan is NO LONGER one of these statistics!
Jonathan’s story is a success. And it’s real. A real change was made in a permanent way. There is a ripple affect reaching out from him, affecting his fellow students and faculty at Covenant, his parents and siblings, the friends and neighbors he’d grown up with, the children who sit in his classroom. His experience is invaluable and it impacts countless others. That’s the power of one life that is changed.
Together, we can continue to create stories like Jonathan’s.
Make a contribution today that will provide another young man this same opportunity.
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Who's Your One?
Who’s Your One?
The poem “God Knows,” written by Minnie Louise Haskins, is more popularly known by the name “The Gate of the Year.” Published originally in 1908, it gained public attention in 1939 when King George VI read it in his 1939 Christmas Broadcast to the British Empire. At the time, Britain was in a war that they did not know if they would win. This made King George’s use of it incredibly powerful. The poem opens with these lines:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'”
Larry Crabb may have been referencing this poem or simply offering his own perspective on our nature of trusting when he said, and I am loosely paraphrasing here; “do you want the flashlight or are you willing to hold the hand of the one who can see in the dark?” The reality for me is that often, I just want the flashlight. Walking in the dark can make you feel uncertain. At the least, it creates doubt as we question ourselves. Am I going the right way? Am I really able to do this? What if I fail?
Doubt leads to fear. Fear leads to us questioning why we started in the first place. Our resolve weakens and the fear of failure, new circumstances, and the unknown often leads us to paralysis. It requires courage to step forward into what we think might be impossible.
Sometimes in setting goals, it is easy to forget that the first part of achieving a goal is simply showing up! Triumphing over fear takes an initial step of boldness. It is far easier to be courageous, when we know what is in front of us. But bravery is best seen when, despite our fear, we still step forward.
Here at the PAYH, we face these same questions of self-doubt as we invest our lives in these young men. On the surface, it seems harder to reach this generation. Daily we see the reality of what is really going on with youth. The pull of the culture on them is overwhelming. As a parent, it is daunting as well. Over time, it is easy to become numb to the mountain of statistics in front of us that make things seem almost hopeless.
Nearly 2 million juveniles are arrested each year
(13.9% of the total juvenile population).
70-80% of those will be rearrested within 3 years.
1.6 million 16 – 19 year olds are not in school or working.
So with 36,000 juveniles arrested every week, what should be our response as individuals, as families, as communities? What is your response?
The goal for the PAYH is to make that number zero! Seems impossible almost even to say, but all enormous tasks start that way. I like how Nelson Mandela described tasks of enormity when he said; “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
If we want to see change in our communities, our families, our children, then it has to start with one. No parent wants there child to be a statistic. But unless we act together, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are increasingly at risk. It is not always “someone else” who is facing the challenges of raising a child in this current culture. We all are. There is no way to make that number zero if we don’t first invest in the one life, one family, and one community that is before us. Investing in others is not solely financial. It is allocating your time and talent, all of which, requires action!
As staff here at the PAYH, we know that the first step in accomplishing this goal is to show up every day and give our best. It won’t be perfect. It is at times very messy. But all change takes time and never goes smoothly. If you are like us and believe that number should be zero, then we encourage you to take action with us as we start with your one. Together, we can impact one life, one family and one community at a time. Remember, change starts with one!
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Change Starts With One: Where To Begin Today?
Many of you have at one time or another heard the Starfish Story. It goes like this: “One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing? The youth replied, Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die. Son, the man said, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference! After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said I made a difference for that one!
Most of us approach life like the man in this story. It doesn’t have to be a “starfish. The starfish can easily represent bills to pay, pounds to lose, tasks to finish, responsibilities to take care of, problems to solve, worries to be rid of, hours, days, weeks, years to use successfully, pages to read, thank-yous to write, or people to change. When we consider all those in multiples multiplied, the mountain top seems unreachable; and it really does become a wearying headache with no relief in sight. Where to begin? How to start?
Study the Bible, consider the Bible characters we encounter, examine God’s method in relating to them and their problems; it all begins with one: one person to be changed, one task to accomplish, one day to consider at a time, the first step, and, in most every case, change begins with you, not the other person (Matthew 7:5). When you hear the instructions given before flight on a commercial aircraft, the stewardess explains how, in case of an emergency, oxygen masks will be released from the compartment above you. Even though you have children traveling with you, you secure the mask on yourself first, before attempting to help any others. The principle is self-evident in this situation; but in real life circumstances we are very prone to ignore it. Almost always we think we are alright; everyone else and every other thing is messed up, and we have to fix it. Or there are too many bills, too many pounds, too many problems, too many children, et cetera, to even know where to start.
You need to begin with the true base point: you and God. You will not get anywhere with lasting permanence unless you begin here, and get clarity with the reason for your being; who am I, and Whose am I, and what do I do first, and then second? You want change for the better in your life, in your relationships, in your children, in your friends, in your bills, in your problems, in your use of time, you name it; it all begins, all the time, every day, with you and God.
Through 42 chapters of the man Job’s oppressive problems with and in life we do not find out Job’s (God’s) solution until 42:5-6: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Too many who feel they know God and have “been there, tried that without finding any relief or any solutions and seeing their life really make a difference, have heard of him with their ears, but have never “seen Him as He is, because they have not wrestled with God and found Him to the point they can say with Job, now my eye sees you! You may have “seen God in the past as your Heavenly Father, as your Savior in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, as your provider, as your protector, but do you “see Him as all that personally, intimately, and real in this present moment and in the midst of your present problem.
He knows your “frame! He knows what you can do, what you can be, and where to start. If you have not experienced His guiding you to the first step, to right prioritizing, to who you are, and where you are, you are not “seeing Him. Genuine faith, and you say you are a person of faith, believes God when He says: “…He rewards (answers) those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
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Can One Move Mountains?
Can one move mountains? Most definitely, yes! One can make all the difference in the world. God’s Word proves it; and numerous examples throughout human history have illustrated the truth that one person is able to do what Jesus says: move mountains! “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you, (Matthew 17:20). Whether you accept God at His Word or not, God Himself tells us that He was intent on destroying all the nation of Israel in the wilderness, but one man stood in the gap between God’s anger and Israel’s survival (See Exodus 32). One man’s action saved a nation, literally!
Moses was willing to be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life for eternity to entreat God’s forgiveness of an unconscionably rebellious people. But this wasn’t just a man thinking of the right words in the moment of God’s anger; Moses’ action was backed up by character; he was a person who had been tested by fire and remained true to his word and to God. “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). We do not think much of meekness in terms of strength of character, but God does, and so does His Son: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29).
My wife and I recently watched the movie, Won’t Back Down, and it illustrates that one in the face of incredibly negative odds moved mountains. Jamie, a single mother, was eventually joined by Nona, but it all began with one who would not take “no for an answer, so that her dyslexic daughter could get a genuine education. But what the film shows is that the effort of discipline and perseverance by the mother, Jamie, was not trivial. Jamie’s indefatigable spirit to achieve a worthy goal stood in the gap in the face of insurmountable barriers, until the barriers came crumbling down.
One person with Christ can move the world. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me, is not a meaningless platitude. This is truth backed up by the God of the Universe. One person devoted to the truth can slay dragons. One person with the strength of godly character is a force to be reckoned with. You are only one, but that is not a superfluous force. It all begins with one, you. One can take on the world, and with God slay the Evil One, and accomplish the work of thousands. It is also true that ONE is precious in the sight of God. One is worth the death of His Son. One is worth saving. Saving ONE is worth all of eternity. If there is only ONE jewel in your crown in heaven, it will shine as bright as all the rest, because ONE is precious in the sight of God. Never belittle ONE; if it is you, or one upon whom you have set your sights to deliver into the loving hands of the Savior.
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The Uplifting Story of Paul Anderson
Article from 1988 Saturday Evening Post Society about Paul Anderson.
He was there when the country needed him–a man possessed not only of physical greatness, but the heroic qualities of kindness and good common sense.
In 1955, Americans needed a hero. Toe-to-toe with the Russians in the Cold War, tightly locked in a propaganda battle pitting Our Way against Their Way, we’d even begun to doubt ourselves.
Low fitness scores by elementary-school children and a high number of draft rejections during the Korean War pointed to our declining physical abilities. The clincher had been the Russians’ phenomenal showing in the 1952 Olympics–the first Games the Soviets had attended.
Clearly, we needed a man of action, of physical power–a strong man who also possessed other heroic qualities: kindness, gentleness, and good common sense.
When he appeared, it was in the best heroic tradition: he arrived on the scene virtually overnight.
Out of Nowhere
In June 1955, Paul Anderson went to Moscow as the least known of six American weightlifters who were to meet the Russians in the first athletic competition held solely between the two countries since World War II. The Russians were visibly disappointed when he stepped off the plane as a replacement for the injured American champion heavyweight.
“How will you identify yourself with your team?” he was asked.
“When they load the barbell, they’ll know who I am,” he said.
In the first of three required lifts–the two-hand press–the Russian lifted 330.5 pounds, his personal best. The crowd cheered deliriously, and many assumed the short, fat American would not even try to match that figure. Paul called for 402.4 pounds. The crowd gasped; the weight was more than 20 pounds over the world record. Was this a joke?
The announcer dryly informed the crowd that officials were being meticulous in loading the bar because “we very rarely have such weights lifted.” Fans snickered.
When Paul lifted the 402.4 pounds, there was dead silence for ten seconds. “I felt like the man at the end of the newscast who says good night and the camera stays on him,” Paul recalls. Then the crowd went wild. It continued cheering uproariously when he set another record for clean and jerk. “He’s a wonder of nature!” many screamed.
Overnight, Paul Anderson, the squat, round replacement, had become the “Strongest Man in the World.”
Of course, “overnight success” is never really achieved that way. It’s the result of years of dedication, hard work, and faith. Paul had known for a long time that he could outlift any other human being. He’d also nearly despaired of ever getting the chance to prove it.
Building a Mountain
Paul Anderson was born on October 17, 1932, at Toccoa, Georgia, a small rural town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. “In high school, I wasn’t supposed to be any stronger than anyone else. I’d had all these kidney diseases and rheumatic fever before I was six,” he recalls.
Nonetheless, he earned a football scholarship to Furman University. He stayed for only a little more than a semester, but it was at Furman that he began lifting weights. He quickly discovered he had a natural ability. “It was very encouraging to me that some of the people had been lifting since they were little tykes and I could lift far more than they could,” he says.
Back in Toccoa, he put himself on a specially designed natural diet that greatly expanded his strength and his girth. His homemade “gym” consisted of weights of concrete blocks and bars from truck axles–primitive but effective.
Part of his training regimen was to work with heavier weights than he’d have to lift in competitions. “My idea was that if you were going to be a weightlifter, be strong first. Then you can work on form,” he says. He progressed quickly.
“I could have won the world championship at any time from 1952 on, but I always had injuries,” he continues. “The first competition I won was the North American championship in Montreal in 1953. Then I broke my wrist before I could go with the team to Europe. Later, I was in a car wreck and broke some ribs and hurt my hips. Another time I tore up my knee. I really think it was the good Lord putting me in the right place at the right time.”
After the Moscow meet in which he established himself, Paul took the world heavyweight championship at Munich in October with a record total for three lifts. He was virtually conceded the Olympic title in 1956 at Melbourne–if, for once, he could stay healthy. It was a big “if.”
When Paul Anderson represented the United States at the Melbourne Olympics, the weight he had to contend with was even greater than his world record. He was carrying the nation’s hopes on his broad back.
Should an American of awesome international repute–namely, Paul Anderson–be vanquished in an event that he seemed certain to win, the embarrassment would be national.
Under his photo in the Melbourne newspaper was a caption suggesting that all he needed to do was drop by the arena to pick up his gold medal. The only way the “Strongest Man in the World” could lose was if he broke a bone or was sick.
And sick is precisely what Paul Anderson was in Melbourne. He was suffering from an inner-ear infection that affected his balance. He’d run a fever for two weeks and dropped 30 pounds in body weight. In his own words, he was “feeling punk.” Three days before the event, the doctors told him they would not let him lift.
“Lift?” he said with a gasp. “I can’t even walk!”
Nevertheless, Paul begged them to put off their decision until the last minute. When they agreed, he went back to his room and started gobbling aspirin “like goober peas.” On the day of the competition, the fever came down, but he still felt as bad.
“How do you feel?” the doctors asked him.
He would not lift until midnight, he remembers: “I went to a movie. Later, when I went to the arena, the aspirin had worn off and my fever shot back up to about 104. I felt terrible, but I suited up and did some warmups.”
His competition did not come from Russia. The Soviets hadn’t bothered to send a heavyweight, so certain were they that the “Wonder of Nature” would win easily. But every other heavyweight who had expected to scuffle for silver now saw a chance for gold.
“It’s ironic,” Paul says. “Just two weeks before, I didn’t have any competition in the world. But that one night, everyone was my competition. I feel it was God showing me that I need Him.”
It finally came down to Paul and Argentina’s 316-pound Humberto Selvetti, having perhaps the night of his life. On the third of the South American’s required three lifts, he brought his total to 1,102 pounds.
Paul had totaled far more than that before, but not when he was so ill he could barely stand. The fever had dropped his weight to an official 304. Under weightlifting rules, as the lighter contestant, he had only to tie Selvetti’s weight total to win. But he was trailing so badly after two lifts that to tie required an Olympic record 413.5-pound lift in the clean and jerk.
Quietly, Paul asked for 413.5. It was three in the morning. He was reeling, sweating, near collapse. Twice he tried to lift the record weight and failed.
Then, like a modern Samson, Paul asked God for the little extra his straining muscles needed. “I wasn’t making a bargain,” he insists. “I needed help.”
Wire services described how Paul’s 52 1/2″ chest expanded to near bursting as he made his final lift, and how he finally held the weight high in Olympic victory.
“I would have liked to have gone out with fire and thunder,” Paul admits. “But as I look back, getting sick was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It gave me a type of humbleness.
“All my setbacks have been physical,” Paul says today. “And all my victories have been physical.” The kidney problems of his youth returned; eventually he had a transplant. In 1985, he suffered a burst colon. “The doctors gave me a 20 percent chance of living. The Lord gave me 100 percent,” he says. “In October of last year, I had two new hip joints put in, both at one time. I’m coming back now. I just turned it all over to the Lord.”
Paul’s deep faith, shared by his wife, Glenda, is at the core of what many would call his most enduring achievement: the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, Georgia.
Since 1961, the home–along with two others later established in Texas–has provided an alternative to juvenile penal institutions for troubled and homeless boys. To date, more than a thousand teenagers, mostly from broken homes, have gained a new measure of self-worth through the Andersons’ potent blend of hard work, love, and faith.
Until his latest round of physical ills, Paul was on a nearly constant speaking tour to raise money for his youth homes. Averaging 500 speeches a year, he mixed humor (“I was a 97-pound weakling–when I was four years old!”), a hard sell for God (“I couldn’t get through a day without Him”), and such strength stunts as driving a nail with his bare fist.
His show-stopper, raising on his back a table loaded with eight men, was really a “light” weight for Paul. The Guinness Book of World Records (1985 edition) lists his feat of lifting 6,270 pounds in a back lift as “the greatest weight ever raised by a human being.”
In his speeches around the country, Paul has described many times how on this third and last try at Melbourne he got the record weight to his chest and suddenly knew that he could lift it no higher. Alone. He tells his audience how in that brief split second, he made his lifetime affirmation to God.
Then he explains that he values the gold medal he brought back from Melbourne, and he’s proud of his many other honors: “But the greatest thing in the world is my faith.”
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