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Abby Rike: There Is Life After Tragedy

Debra McCown • May 3, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Abby Rike had a great life – until her beloved husband and their two small children were killed in a car wreck in 2006.

The weight of her grief was crushing, she said, but in years of healing, she’s turned that horrific experience into a ministry: an effort to deliver an encouraging message to others who’ve suffered life-changing tragedy. She’ll be in Kingsport May 4-5.

"We need to know that other people have walked through the depths of hell and come out on the other side," she said. "You can’t go back. I can’t change what happened, so I have to appreciate what I have today, and that is a long and arduous process, but it’s a possible process."

A school teacher who was a contestant on "The Biggest Loser" and who has been on the road as a full-time motivational speaker for more than two years, Rike is scheduled to speak on Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, May 5, at 8:40 and 11 a.m., at First Baptist Church in Kingsport, 200 W. Church Circle.

Marvin Cameron, pastor at the church, said First Baptist has two ministries that he hopes will benefit from her message: Celebrate Recovery, a ministry to "people who have hurts, hang-ups and habits" (www.fbckpt.net, listed under ministries) and the Providence Medical Clinic, which provides free health care to the poor (www.providenceclinickingsport.org).

Rike is also scheduled to run in the AmazinGrace 5K, a race that’s scheduled for 6 o'clock that Sunday night and will benefit the clinic (www.fbcamazingrace5k.com). For more information on the events, call the church at 423-247-4122.

"I am going to be speaking about what all God has done in my life and how situations that can truly appear hopeless... that God is able to redeem that, beyond anything that we can conjure in our minds," Rike said.

"What I have learned through this whole journey is that the whole world is hurting, be it through the loss of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job: There’s so many situations that can cause us to grieve."

Before the wreck, she was a school teacher. A longtime high school theatre and debate teacher, she – along with her late husband, Rick – led students to state championship wins in speech competition; in 2003, she was voted Teacher of the Year.

When she lost her husband, 5-year-old daughter and infant son, she was devastated.

"I loved my family, more than anything, and I would have thought that I could never get up from it," she said. "The hope is that people will walk out with a renewed sense of hope that our God is big and that it is possible to have joy again despite hideous circumstances."

Rike said her path to public speaking began more than two years later, when she auditioned for the reality television show, "The Biggest Loser," where obese contestants battle to lose the most weight. During her participation in the show, she lost 100 pounds.

Oddly enough, she said, she’d been extremely private about her grief – and was "not really a reality television kind of person." But as she progressed through the interview process, God guided her to pursue the opportunity anyway.

"At that point, I was at my absolute lowest. I didn’t know how to fix my heart, so I thought if I physically felt better, maybe my heart would heal," she said. "I truly believe God can use even a reality television show... The weight loss and the television show were just the platform that God created so that I was able to share what He’s been doing in my life."

Rike said she feels particularly blessed because at First Baptist she’ll be speaking in the church attended by one of her dear friends.

She calls herself "a living testimony" – and hopes that her message will help people to gain new perspective on their lives.

"I feel so blessed to get to go and do what I do," she said. "I think if people have that inkling that maybe they should go [to hear the presentation], then I think they should."

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