I could lift
700 pounds for Jesus, but I neglected my most important ministry.
My story BY JAMES HENDERSON with Ken Rodriquez
Some people call me the worlds strongest man. Maybe I am. But I
never felt so weak as when God touched me through my wifes tears. I could hear Him
talking to me: James, you need to come home.
I spent 42 weeks in 1998 on the road, flexing my muscles and preaching the
gospel. As my wife and 13-year-old daughter moved into our new home in South Florida, I
climbed atop one platform after another and smashed bricks, bent steel and performed other
feats of strength. As my family lifted boxes and furniture, I lifted a 600-pound iron bar
and thousands of people cheered. My daughter would call and ask if I would be home to
watch her in a play. "No," I would say, "Ive got to win people to
It was a good year working for Jesus. I traveled the country with
wonderful men known as the Power Team and appeared on national television. I visited
churches and went to schools and testified of Gods goodness and love.
Everywhere I went, people asked for my autograph. Little boys asked how I
got to be so big and strong.
I gave the glory to God.
And then I came to our new home and realized I had never moved in. I
hadnt hung one picture. And then I saw those tears. My wife Shelia had been trying
to reach me in different ways. The way she held onto my hand at the airport gate. The way
she said, "Baby, I miss you," on the phone. The tears brought the message home.
I apologized. I had missed so many things: school functions, church, choir. Shelia forgave
me. Thank God she did.
It is so easy for a minister to neglect his family. It was all too easy
for me last year. Invitations to speak poured in from all over the country. People wanted
to hear how I met Jesus and became a five-time world champion in the bench press.
Thirteen years ago, I blew out my knee playing football at Albany State.
While awaiting surgery, I saw a Bible in my hospital room. I began reading passages about
fear and anger and how all things are possible through Christ. I rededicated my life to
After surgery, I knew my career as an offensive lineman was over. But I
kept reading the Bible and became determined to succeed in another sport. I began lifting
weights. The weight room became my second home. I knew I was going to become champion at
something I loved.
Years earlier, I had been on the powerlifting team in high school. I
decided to compete again. I entered a few tournaments and won. By 1994, I had made the
U.S. Powerlifting Team.
One day, while speaking at a school assembly in Fort Mead, Florida, I
realized I needed a visual aid to demonstrate my power. I grabbed some weights and began
lifting. The students went crazy. And then it hit me: Maybe I could use this for the
And thats how I became a traveling evangelist.
During one of my trips, my wife saw the Power Team on television. Guys
were smashing blocks of ice with their elbows, shattering bricks. My wife thought, My
husband can do that. So she wrote the Power Team and told them that I was a Christian
and a world champion in the bench press. They wrote back. Before long, I was on the Team.
Sometimes, someone on the Power Team will introduce me as "the
Strongest Man in the World." The audience will hear how I hold the International
Powerlifting Federation world record with a 705-pound bench press. Ive lifted more
in the gym. My personal best is 744.
Sometimes my family is not impressed. My strength does little good for
them when Im not home.
Last December, about two weeks before Christmas, Shelia accompanied me to
the IPF world championships in Germany. It was a great trip. I got to share Christ with
lifters from around the world. I won my fifth world championship. And Shelia and I got to
I promised to cut back on my travel. Promised to spend more time at home
in 1999. Promised to be a better husband and father to my daughter, Shawanna. Promised to
heed the words of Scripture, "Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the
church" (Eph. 5:25).
Shawanna is leading her friends to Christ at school. She had only one
request for Christmas: to be able to give away gifts. One day she received a $100 check in
the mail from a relative. She spent every dime on others. We are so proud.
She kept her word. I intend to keep mine.
Reprinted with permission by New Man, May/June 1999. Strang Communications