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Jesus and turkey stew
Unusual diet helps local Methodist pastor lose weight

Physically, he was dragging.
At 59 the Rev. Glenn Ribelin had had both knees replaced. He was on medication for arthritis, high blood pressure, acid reflux and gout.
He stays busy ministering to his two congregations at Foster's Chapel and Bethlehem United Methodist churches. The only exercise he got was the walking he did at the hospital to see patients.
And the folks at Foster's Chapel and Bethlehem- including Ribelin's wife, Mary - are good cooks who like to show their love with food.
The result of all of this was that from June of 2012 when Ribelin came to pastor the churches until 2014 he had gained 45 pounds on his 5-foot 9-inch frame.
"We make choices in our life," Ribelin said. "We all face things in life that we enjoy that we have to overcome sometimes. When we realize that - when anything begins to have control over our lives; it doesn't matter what it is - food, drugs, alcohol - we have to draw our strength from God and God has to be first. We can't let anything get between us and God."
Ribelin said he prayed that God would give him the strength and the willpower he needed to lose weight. In 2014 he lost 70 pounds. Mary lost 40. Ribelin said two factors working together helped them achieve their weight loss goals - Jesus and turkey soup.
Lifelong eating habits had to change
"For me in life, one of my weaknesses has been enjoying a good meal around the table," Ribelin said. "Since I was a young boy my family gathered together every Sunday. And I was brought up that what you put on your plate - you ate it. It was sinful to waste food."
Over the years, Ribelin said, his weight was a roller-coaster ride - he lost and he gained. His weight problem started to get worse when he became a pastor nine years ago.
"There is always food involved in a gathering and that makes it even tougher," he said. "Church families like to bless you with a meal."
Mary's life has been defined by food, Ribelin said. Along with being a good cook she works in a school lunchroom and worked as a waitress for many years. Before they came to Union the Ribelins conducted a ministry where Mary cooked and she and Glenn took meals to about 25 shut-ins.
Mary was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent surgery. Her hospital stay lasted longer than anticipated. The congregations of both churches wanted to make sure the Ribelins had food. Members of the two churches decided to take turns feeding Ribelin and his and Mary's 11-year-old son, Joshua.
"One night the doorbell rang and Amy Austin came to the door with a meal," Ribelin. "Joshua and I sat down to eat. Amy hadn't been gone long and the doorbell rang and another lady showed up with a pie. We sat back down and began to eat again. It wasn't long and the doorbell rang again and there was another pie. We had just about finished our meal. The doorbell rang again and there was another pie that came to our house."
Ribelin said he knew that Sunday at church each of the ladies who had brought a dessert would expect him to comment on how good it was. He told Joshua they should taste a sliver of each so they would not disappoint anyone or hurt their feelings.
The doorbell rang again. It was a lady with a cake.
"Folks in the church like to feed you," he said.
Ribelin said he decided to start making choices concerning what he would and would not eat.
"I didn't do it in a way of dieting," he said.  "I did it in a way of 'I'm changing my lifestyle.'"
Ribelin began eating cereal - Honey Nut Cheerios or Cinnamon Toast Crunch - and 2 percent milk every morning.
Bethlehem church member Karen Gallman brought some low fat turkey stew to a church function. The Ribelins liked the stew and decided to make it themselves. The recipe for the stew is listed below. Ribelin said they have modified the recipe for variety and taste, including making it a little spicier and thicker. The Ribelins save some of the onions and finely diced cabbage and add it toward the end of the cooking to give the soup a little more crunch. They also add tomato soup.
"Every day at lunch I eat one or two bowls of that soup," he said. "At supper we grill everything, we don't fry anything. And we eat something green. And a friend told me to try and not eat anything after six o'clock, but being a pastor, it doesn't always work that way."
If Ribelin needs a snack in the day he gets a Slim Jim.
Ribelin eats three meals a day and ends the day with a snack - a Red Delicious apple every night.
"Just staying with that routine has taken 70 pounds off me in a year," he said.
Both Glenn and Mary have been able to stop their blood pressure medicine. Ribelin has stopped his acid reflux medicine, one of his gout medicines and some of his arthritis medication.
"I have almost cleared the medicine cabinet out," he said. "I feel good. I feel lots better. I have more energy. But the story in this is making right choices in life. You have to draw your strength from God and let God help you through what you are doing. You can overcome anything with God. That is the important thing. We also have to set an example for people around us that struggle with other things. We all have struggles in life. We all have desires in life and we can't overcome those things ourselves but God can help us with that. He has to be first in our lives to do that. The story is not about turkey soup it is about what God has done for me. We are tempted around us. We all need to be aware that if folks have a problem we don't need to contribute to it, we need to help and it can be something as simple as food."
Karen's Healthy Turkey Breast Stew
(Karen Gallman from the Bethlehem
United Methodist Church cookbook)
One pound of extra lean ground turkey breast
One tablespoon of dried chopped onions
Two tablespoons of olive oil
One large onion, coarsely chopped
One 8-ounce carton of sliced baby bella mushrooms, washed
Two 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chilies
One cup of ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
Two teaspoons of Texas Pete, optional
In a large skillet heat olive oil on medium high adding ground turkey while slicing it into pieces as it is cooking. Add dried, chopped onion to turkey while cooking. You may have to add a few tablespoons of hot water (turkey breast is very dry.) Add in the large chopped onion and continue to stir until the onions are tender. Add in the mushrooms and continue to stir. Add diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, Texas Pete, if desired. When this begins to bubble, add ketchup. Stir, then lower heat until it is only simmering. The longer it simmers, the tastier it will be. Just remember to keep the heat low and stir occasionally (you may want to transfer to a crock pot.) This is wonderful just by itself or you can serve it over small noodles or just eat with your favorite crackers. You may also modify the recipe to your taste.)

(Posted February 16, 2015)

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