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Arkansas pastor aims to be half his former self


PINE BLUFF, Ark. (BP) — Harold Chandler ain’t half the preacher he once was.


Last year, Arkansas pastor Harold Chandler weighed 349 pounds.

Last year, at 349 pounds, he was two cheeseburgers short of 350. Today he is under 190 pounds, well on his way to his goal of 170. He has already lost 160-plus pounds. When he reaches his goal, he’ll be almost half the preacher he used to be.

Chandler, 58, pastor of Shepherd Hill Baptist Church of Pine Bluff, had not seen 200 pounds or less since he was 16 years old.

What motivated him to lose all that weight? Several factors.

He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He was impressed when his daughter Wendy lost a lot of weight. His wife Betty prayed for him and encouraged him to lose weight.

But what really got to him was his granddaughter Jessica.

Last summer when Chandler and his wife went to San Antonio to attend the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, they took Jessica and spent a day at Sea World.

Chandler kept getting hot and tired and had to sit and rest while his wife and granddaughter were enjoying themselves.

That evening at the motel, his granddaughter said, “Papaw, I’m worried about you. I think you are too fat.”



With strong support and encouragement from his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, Chandler decided to do something about his weight.

He went to a new doctor. His blood sugar was ranging between 350-400. His blood pressure was running 190/100. He was on three medications to bring his blood sugar and blood pressure down.

The doctor suggested a 600-1,200 calorie a day diet. Chandler opted to try for 700 calories a day and stuck with it. He kept daily records of everything he ate or drank.


Today, Harold Chandler is under 190 pounds, well on his way to his goal of 170.

He lost 41 pounds the first 30 days, then upped the calorie count to 800-850 a day.

“Those first three months were tough,” he admitted.

“I was weak. I didn’t have a lot of energy to do anything. Your system is changing .... Everything in your body has to readjust.”

His wife of 39 years started buying healthy food and eating what he was eating.

Members of Shepherd Hill Baptist Church, where he has completed two years as pastor, also encouraged him.

“The church has helped me get through it,” he said. “They didn’t realize they were helping, but their encouragement has been tremendous ....”


The best for God

Chandler also was motivated spiritually.

“It was something I needed to do to fulfill the calling God gave me,” he said. “You are supposed to give God the best you can, and when you allow yourself to get in the shape I was in, I couldn’t give God the best.”

His weight loss was not without some difficult days.

At the end of the first week, he finished preaching his Sunday morning sermon, but after the invitation, he almost didn’t make it to the back of the church.

“Everything was swimming and I couldn’t see well,” he said.

His wife and the music minister got him to the car and she took him home. His blood pressure was 88/52 and his blood sugar was 47. He ate something and began to feel better.

His doctor explained he was taking all the sugar out of his system, which allowed the medications to work efficiently. He suggested cutting the dosages in half. Eventually, Chandler was totally off medications.

His blood pressure is 125-135 over 70-75. His energy level is higher than he ever remembers, allowing him to function better as a pastor.

“I’m able to put more into it – more energy, strength, time, and I’m able to go longer,” he said. “When you get as large as I was, you don’t get around well. My legs hurt. My feet hurt. When I would go to the hospital or do work of any kind, it would just take a short distance before I was pretty tired.”


Desire to do something

He has some words of wisdom for others who want to lose weight.

“Don’t try to quit eating. Just keep a record for about a week of everything that goes in your mouth,” Chandler advised. “Don’t try to decide what’s good or bad, just keep a record. You will be surprised.”

Chandler noted there is a spiritual lesson in this for every church member. He compared his weight loss to a lost person needing Christ.

“There has to come a desire in the seekers’ hearts to do something,” he explained. “I’m not convinced just telling someone is the answer. You can say until you are blue in the face that Jesus died on the cross and can save you. You can say to a person with health problems and weight problems that there are things you can do, and saying is important, but ... something has to hit a person’s life. Something has to happen to make you seek what you need.”


Charlie Warren is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.