Marge Woodfin, Pilot staff writer

Members of Brookings Nazarene Church have been bragging about the 51

pounds shed by their pastor, Rick Green, in an effort to raise money to

build a community center.

"It was the craziest thing I've ever done in my life," Green told the Pilot.

He said it wasn't losing the weight that was crazy, but the fact that

he announced it in a sermon last July. He said it was definitely a

strange sermon topic, especially from a man who'd never shown an

interest in diet or exercise.

"I was sitting eating my brownie and milk when I heard an announcement on the television about a 'biggest loser' competition to donate $10,000 to a charity. The thought popped into to my mind, 'why don't I do that?' I believe it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me."

Green said his weight-loss vision included using the money raised for construction of a large community center with classrooms, a gymnasium, a large kitchen and a youth room.

"I envisioned a place for kids to do something, and I have a feeling that the building will be very busy. It will be a friendly place that organizations can use for dinners.

"There's limited space in town for big dinners, and we look forward to making it available for other organizations because we believe the church owes a debt of gratitude to the community."

He said the vision is for the building to be, "the opposite of what happens up the river where kids go and get into trouble."

When Green preached his "crazy" sermon, he was surprised by the congregation's response. Members pledged from 25 cents to $20 for each pound lost. The total amount pledged was $12,066.60 before Green was joined in the effort by youth pastor Jim Wilson, and a few others. Now, it's $14,498.10, and counting.

Green said the experience has brought about a complete change in his lifestyle.

"I lost 51 pounds in six months, beginning July 12. My son-in-law, Ben, started me on a fitness-training program. It was like waking up in a foreign country where they spoke an unfamiliar language of diet and exercise," he said.

"He started me out easy. I couldn't do a single sit-up or push-up. I would walk several miles every day except Sunday, walking at lunch time and later with my wife, Marylynn."

He said the hardest thing for him was going from regular soda to diet soda.

"I gradually built up. I still want to lose more. I'd like to get below 200. As of Jan. 13, I was 205. I never expected this to be part of my ministry."