Bill Ingram is the Fitness Director at the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
In this interview he shares how he got involved in this ministry, the role fitness plays at the home, the transformations youth experience there and how he feels you too can Be Life to others through fitness.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What kind of an impression has Paul made in your life? What do you feel are his biggest enduring life messages?
Bill Ingram: The biggest impression on my life is Paul Anderson’s testimony, his wife Glenda’s love of Jesus, their selflessness in starting the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) in 1961 and faithfully continuing until Paul’s home going in August 1994. Glenda continues to actively serve as president of the PAYH.
God used a PAYH alumni’s testimony to impact my life. In 1993, I was a freshman in college searching for truth and trying to determine if God could help me with the chaos in my life. I decided to attend a Christian retreat weekend for college students.
At the last minute, an upperclassman joined us on the three-hour car ride to the retreat. As I sat there listening to his enthusiasm about his relationship with Jesus Christ and what God was doing in his life, my first impression was that he must have led the perfect life. There was no way he could understand the despair and agony I felt in my heart.
As I quietly listened to him go on and on about what God was teaching and doing in his life, I noticed a distinctive ring on his finger. It was a silver ring, flat on top, with a man lifting a barbell over his head. I asked him about it, and he replied, Oh man, this is from the Paul Anderson Youth Home. Let me tell you what God did in my life there.
He went on to tell me about being a troubled adolescent who was nothing like the choirboy/youth group leader that I had pictured in my mind. He was given the opportunity by a judge to attend PAYH rather than serve time in jail on drug and burglary charges. All of a sudden, the difficulties of my life seemed to pale in comparison to his. If God could change him, He could change and help me. I went into the retreat with a changed perspective.
That weekend, I committed my life to Christ. This PAYH alum had no idea that God had used his experiences at the Youth Home to give me the exact message that I needed to hear at the exact moment that I needed to hear it.
“Grab it and growl. This was Paul’s mentality when lifting. It was also his analogy to dealing with obstacles in life. When there is a task to be accomplished, get to it.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: Describe the physical fitness activities at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. What makes it such an important part of the over all ministry?
Bill Ingram: For over 50 years, the boys have started each day with a one-mile run. For a new boy who has just arrived at the home, has not been very active or has damaged his health due to drugs or alcohol, this activity can be very difficult. As his body adapts to the new routine, it simply becomes something he does everyday.
Physical Education classes are held year round. In P.E. they learn how to develop well-rounded fitness. Increases are quickly made in cardio-respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, speed, power, flexibility, coordination, accuracy and agility. They do high intensity workouts combining gymnastics, weightlifting and traditional cardio exercises.
From the early days of the home, there has been a model of growth based on the Bible passage, “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men. This emphasizes mental, physical, spiritual and social development. The physical fitness activities help in all four areas.
Anatomy and Physiology classes teach the underlying structure and function of the human body and how it relates to their performance in the gym. They learn the importance of goal-setting, perseverance and overcoming obstacles. The increased self-confidence makes them more comfortable in social settings. Another big component in the fitness program is encouraging one another to push harder and finish the workout.
Paul Anderson’s physical feats and tremendous faith in God have inspired me to mold myself into a man who can support a family, take care of his brothers, and live a life after Christ. For me it motivates me towards a life of ministry, of helping others and spreading the gospel. Physical attentiveness, laid out by Paul, is huge here. I spend most nights in the weight room and three mornings a week in a physical education class. Running in the morning has multiple purposes. As do devotionals at the breakfast table and Bible studies in the classroom. The Youth Home has made me feel like I can go down any path I want to for my future. It gives me the confidence to set my sights on anything, physically and spiritually and provide help to others.
– Chase, PAYH resident
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What kinds of physical development have some of these boys achieved while being at the home? Have any of your alumni gone on to have careers in fitness, wellness or other related fields?
Bill Ingram: A common example is a boy comes to the Home as a sickly 125 pound young man and will leave the program as a lean and muscular 175 pound young man. The overweight couch potato sheds body fat and gains stamina and endurance . The average graduate can do over 20 pullups, run a 6 minute mile, and squat over 300 pounds.
Each year the Youth Home does a bike ride fundraiser where several of the boys will ride a bicycle over 500 miles in a week. Their level of fitness makes training for such an event quicker and easier.
[Look for more about the 2015 Cycling Challenge in the Pedal, Race & Run department of Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine.]
The Youth Home boys participate in several 10k and 5k road races each year, consistently taking top spots in the overall and age group placings. The Youth Home sent four boys to participate in a Spartan Race (a 5 mile course with numerous obstacles to overcome) and as a team, they took 1st place out of 250 teams with very little specialized training. The well-rounded inclusive fitness the boys develop gives them the fitness foundation to pursue whatever sports they are interested in.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What is the most significant spiritual transformations you see in these young men?
Bill Ingram: The most significant spiritual transformation in any young man is when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. In the history of the PAYH, thousands of young men have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. These young men have been used by God to touch countless number of people around the world. [See below for The Ripple Effect Of Change, the story and video of Billy.]
What really sets Paul Anderson apart from most is that a man who could have potentially had untold fame and fortune, laid it all aside to follow Christ and start a Youth Home which has impacted thousands of families.
– Jesse, PAYH resident
Faith & Fitness Magazine: How is working at the Paul Anderson Youth Home different from doing your Cross Fit business? In what ways have you learned to minister to people at your gym as a result of doing ministry with these boys?
Bill Ingram: As a coach and personal trainer, you have to care about the whole person. You can’t just be concerned with their squat technique; you have to deal with their emotional stresses, nutrition, relational issues–you have to be prepared to be a trainer, counselor, and cheerleader.
Many times I would have high level athletes come in and just be “off. Their energy levels would be low, their countenance would be different and their performance was not up to their normal output. I would just stop them in mid workout, ask questions, and then listen. Coaches who can teach squats are everywhere. Coaches that demonstrate a deep concern for the whole person are harder to find.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What opportunities do you think there are for other power lifters, bodybuilders, personal trainers or other fitness professionals and enthusiast to follow the example of Paul Anderson and his wife and establish a ministry?
Bill Ingram: I think that Paul’s greatest example is not the physical gifts and talents that he possessed, but how he used those talents to serve others.
If God has given you a passion for movement, lifting, or fitness; I believe that there are unlimited opportunities to use those gifts to serve him in unique ways by helping others. Your “ministry “may be to help others become physically well, learn to set and accomplish goals, or just to have more energy to play with the kids. This happens by building relationships and genuinely caring for those you train. These relationships provide the context for sharing spiritual truths with others.