Dear Pastor Rick,

My wife and I have been members of Saddleback Church for nearly 14 years. Saddleback Church has had a profound impact on our lives and the lives of our two kids. We feel blessed every day that we have the privilege of calling Saddleback our home. We have been part of the same small group for the last 10 years (since the first Purpose Driven Life study). Our entire family (including my mother) serves in the Welcome ministry. We want everyone to love our church as much as we do. Saddleback Church changes lives.

There is no greater example of how Saddleback has changed my life than what happened on March 3, 2007. That weekend, you spoke about the need to be healthy to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. You challenged those of us who were carrying a few extra pounds to write down the number of pounds we wanted to lose by Christmas and drop a card in the basket.



I wrote down “25 pounds” hopeful that this would finally be the time it worked. My wife rolled her eyes at me and wished me good luck. At age 36, I was 288 pounds, probably headed towards all the health problems that overweight people have. My wife had seen my weight increase since we met at age 19. There seems to be a relationship between years married and weight! I had no idea about the journey God was going to take me on. I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t hear God speak to me. I just dropped a card in a basket. God knew what I did. God had just enrolled me in what I like to call The Daniel Plan 1.0.

When I woke up the next morning, God had taken over my physical life. I had not exercised in years. That day, I started small by going for a walk. I had not eaten well … ever. That day, I began to view food differently. My lifelong battle with my weight changed that day because God grabbed hold of me and changed my heart. As I write this note, I am 70 pounds lighter than I was 6 years ago. You have spoken about the many undiscovered passions and talents we have within us. It took this radical change in my life to discover my passion for fitness. On my journey I discovered the sport of triathlon. I used to think that people who ran and exercised for fun were crazy. Now I know they are crazy! I have competed in nearly 30 triathlons since I dropped the card in the basket. This November I will race Ironman Arizona. That is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. I proudly race in my Multisport Ministries jersey with Philippians 4:13 emblazoned on the side and a big cross on the back. God got me off the couch 6 years ago and he will get the credit when I cross the finish line of Ironman Arizona. I have swum, biked and run nearly 20,000 miles in the last 6 years. Along the way, I have said many prayers of thanks that He has given me the ability and desire to be fit. I know of no greater way to worship God than to be outside enjoying His creation doing what He created me to do. Only God knew that the fat guy sitting in church 6 years ago was about to embark on the adventure of his life. I could not and would not have done any of this on my own.

I suspect that I am about to go on another adventure. You have told us that the two most dangerous and exciting words a Christian can say are “use me”. At the ministry fair a couple weeks ago, I approached The Daniel Plan table and told them to “use me”. I don’t know what this means. I think I am about to find out. God does not give us pain without purpose. I was overweight for the first 36 years of my life. That was painful. I want to use that part of my life to help others. I have discovered many things about life and about myself during the past 6 years. The greatest truth I have discovered is that life is so much better fit than fat. I am excited to help in any way that I am able. I have never felt more alive and passionate than I feel right now. I know God has equipped me with the tools to serve others in this capacity. It just took a few years to discover that. We are blessed to be a blessing. I pray that He uses me for His glory.

We recently had some friends over to the house. They noticed our wedding picture and did not know how to ask my wife who her first husband was. They did not know if he died or if there was a divorce. In a sense, the man in that wedding picture is no longer. I have become a new man through my years at Saddleback. I have grown immensely on the inside and shrunk on the outside. You have helped me become a better man, father, son and husband. I am happy to model a healthy lifestyle for my family – physically and spiritually. This is something that will serve us very well during our time on Earth and very well during our time in Heaven. I am so thankful that God brought you to the Saddleback Valley 33 years ago. God bless you and God bless our church family.

Thank You,

Joel Guerra