“Growing up, no one ever told me I was created for a purpose,” said Debbie Brown, Fitness Ministry Associate at Houston’s First Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) at The Loop Campus. Debbie’s journey to establish a relationship with Christ, find her life purpose and discover a God-appointed ministry would cover uncertain and painful paths.
A child of the ‘60s, Debbie recalls her paternal grandmother being the only churchgoer in the family. But the small town, one-room church held little allure for young Debbie. “My family got off track,” said Debbie. Family vacations included time spent with members of a rock band, which contributed to her alcohol and drug use as a teen. Having little godly guidance, graduation day came and Debbie had absolutely no idea what to do with her life.
“My dad said I needed to do something and suggested community college,” said Debbie. “Learning didn’t come easy, so I didn’t want to go to college. My heart’s desire was to be married, but I had no dates in high school; I never even went to the prom. Those scars ran deep.”
Not yet 20 years old, Debbie met a young man where she worked as a waitress at a Holiday Inn nightclub. He was bound for the Texas oilfields and encouraged her to pack her bags and follow him to Palestine, Texas. “It was worse than the small town I came from,” she said. The relationship didn’t pan out and Debbie moved to Houston, which she immediately loved.
Life began to stabilize after meeting Denny, 20 years her senior and the man she would eventually marry. “Denny thought his life was over after his second wife left him,” Debbie recalls. “He told me he believes God dropped me on his doorstep.”
Debbie began longing for home about the time she turned 25. “I began realizing how important my parents were,” she said. In the meantime, a neighbor invited Debbie to teacher Beth Moore’s Life Bible Study. Debbie never set foot in a worship service until five years later, but began attending Beth’s aerobics class at Houston’s First. “God meets us where we are,” she said. “The Holy Spirit started drawing me to God.”
Her mother was not well, and Debbie and Denny discussed moving to West Virginia so they could reconnect with her family. But before they could move, Debbie’s mother took her own life on the day after her forty-fourth birthday. Debbie and Denny moved anyway. Six months after her mother’s death Debbie’s churchgoing grandmother passed away. Within a couple of years of her mother’s death, Debbie learned she was pregnant with Jessica, Debbie and Denny’s only child. “I recalled thinking I finally had a purpose in life,” said Debbie.
After moving back to Houston, Debbie attended worship at Houston’s First for the very first time. She heard hymns that took her back to the little church where her grandmother had dragged her as a child. The message of the cross of Christ changed her life.
Beth Moore inspired and counseled Debbie in Beth’s aerobics class and Life Bible Study, where Debbie’s faith walk began taking top priority. God was at work putting all the pieces together on behalf of the FRC and for Beth’s fledgling writing and speaking ministry. Debbie was in the class the day Beth announced that God was leading her home to begin writing Bible studies.
Beth’s departure created a hole in the instructor schedule and Houston’s First staff member Diane Bagby took charge of the program. For three months she prayed for a fitness instructor and Debbie fit the bill. She taught classes until her family moved back to West Virginia the following year. Teaching aerobics was becoming Debbie’s ministry.
Debbie began directing the Fitness Ministry at Houston’s First after returning to Houston in 1996, and she began teaching a variety of classes which now include Bible study for members and non-members alike.
Amie Koronczok moved to Houston four years ago and began teaching yoga and relaxation classes for cancer patients in the Medical Center. While living in Dallas, Amie had had a “falling out” with God after a few major disappointments. “I got mad at God and depressed,” said Amie. “I felt stagnant and lost contact with Him.”
A Christian man she began dating while living in Dallas proved to be a turning point in her spiritual life when he told her he could no longer date her because they were “unequally yoked.” Amie’s relationship with God in some ways mirrored the relationship with her dad. Looking for affirmation from him since her parents’ divorce at age 12 fostered in her low self-worth.
A weekend Christian retreat with her stepmother began soul mending toward her father as the speaker’s message focused on forgiveness. Amie decided to act on the many invitations from a neighbor to attend Houston’s First and immediately found the FRC. She contacted Debbie about teaching, and their first meeting was an emotional one. Amie noticed a book on Debbie’s floor — the very one she had just ordered, but hadn’t received. Debbie explained it was the new Bible study she would be leading in conjunction with an upcoming fitness class. Amie took it as a sign.
Amie learned more about what it meant to be a Christian, but felt some confusion about what it truly meant. “Am I missing something?” she asked Debbie and another fitness instructor at a second meeting. Amie received the answers she needed and prayed to receive Christ. “I got the peace that I needed that day,” she said.
As her faith in Christ grew, Amie reevaluated her methods of teaching yoga. Growing increasingly uncomfortable with the spiritual nature and self-focus of the practice, she has refocused her teaching on its physical benefits. “I teach yoga because it feels good — it’s calming,” she said. “The relaxation part of yoga is a good time to pray, after you expend your body.”
Amie substitutes now as an FRC fitness instructor and has also found a way to practice faith in her workplace. She plays Christian music during her classes, something she would never have done months ago. While counseling patients taking chemotherapy, instead of hypnosis she offers to read to them from the Scriptures. “My whole focus has changed,” said Amie. “I realized I had not trusted God. I’ve changed a lot of things about the way I teach.
Learn about the many classes, programs and health and fitness opportunities offered by the Fitness & Recreation Center for Houston’s First members and non-members at Fitness Expo 2016 on Sun, Jan 24, from 12:30-2:00p at The Loop Campus. During January, the $50 enrollment fee to join the FRC is waived. Membership is only $25 per month — with no contract! Visit the FRC page to learn more, or contact Debbie.Brown@HoustonsFirst.org or 713.957.6701.