We Got This

Sunday was gym day.  We did not go to the gym. The gym came to Los Héroes. And it was beautiful.


A Back Story
We have a little group at the church called the Comisión de Salud - the Health Commission. We meet on the first Sunday of the month (with the other 3 church ministry commissions).  At our first meeting in January, we decided to sponsor one health education workshop or event each month on a Sunday after worship. We discussed using the Mission of Healing curriculum which was developed last year.  Commission members suggested we meet an extra time each month for internal training with the curriculum, particularly to expand the reproductive education team which will assist with Days for Girls kit distribution events.  We identified potential partnership connections with the Unidad de Salud (local clinic) and organizations which support holistic well-being.

A Partnership Connection
Just over a year ago, a community gym opened up in a neighborhood not too far from Los Héroes. Sometimes we just have to marvel at the way connections happen (and I could write a whole other story about this one), but the key point is that the ethic and work of the Pesas y Poder movement align well with the values and goals of the Los Héroes health team. The gym coordinator (Aracely) and her mentor (Noelle) were looking for ways to develop teaching charlas and expand their work beyond the gym walls. With years of experience as participants and leaders in Missions of Healing, the folks in Los Héroes could provide an incubator in which the gym team  could develop workshops and get valuable feedback. Most importantly, Los Héroes is a vulnerable community which lives with layers upon layers of trauma, and the supportive, caring, empowering experiences like those provided by Pesas y Poder are desperately needed. The Los Héroes Health Commission made a plan with Noelle and Aracely to host a gym day at the end of February. 

A Plan
The participants in the Los Héroes Health Commission include teen girls, young adults, moms and two grandmas, including me. We created a safe space to brainstorm so everyone contributes and shares in leading. As we were planning for the gym day and talking about perhaps providing a snack, the youngest group member suggested we have water and fruit because those are healthy and if you are exercising, you really shouldn't have anything except water and fruit. She and her mom helped organize that. Members of the commission put the word out in chat groups to remind people to come. Even the pastor climbed on board the PR train, and put out  this message:

To get through the 40 day walk of Lent, carrying the cross, we should be strong physically, mentally and spiritually. So don't miss our Gym Worship! Come with your family, children, youth, adults, grandparents. Don't forget your sporty casual clothes. Vamos todos al banquete (a song - Let's all go to the Banquet).


A Different Way to Be Church  
Sunday! Gym Day! We were a little disappointed that the turnout for gym day was pretty low. (We found out later that a community leader had called for a meeting at the same time, and that's a whole other story.) We were also a little disappointed that the preacher really took his time with the message, which meant Aracely and Noelle had to wait. 


After worship, folks scooted their chairs into a big circle. Aracely introduced herself and Noelle and talked about the work at the gym. She led a little interactive conversation which helped her to know what the community's gym culture is (or isn't) and what "health" or "being healthy" means to people. Aracely was so good at affirming each person's answers. 


The goal for the day was for Aracely and folks in the community to get to know one another and for community folk to be introduced to lifting weights. Hauling bars and weights into the Sunday School room was a great way to pique curiosity. The group really paid attention to the introductory instructions, and the brave ones volunteered to lift, which encouraged others to try. One by one, almost everyone lifted. The teens and young women started with the light weights, gained confidence, and every one of them lifted the heavier weights too.


There are a few girls who participated who have serious health problems. Some of the women have suffered great losses due to violence. A few suffered recent traumatic events. Aracely and Noelle don't know any of their stories. It didn't matter. Inclusion, Respect, Encouragement: that mattered. 


Children were included in the same way as the adults. Aracely is experienced in adaptive teaching and guiding so that even the little lifters knew they were brave, strong and proud of themselves. Their mamas were pretty proud too.





This is Rosita. She is quiet, shy and has not always been physically strong.
This was a big achievement for her.

After the lifting had gone on for a while, Julia went to the bar. Julia gave permission to tell a little bit of her story and to share photos of her. Julia is an historic pillar in the church and community. Julia has a number of serious chronic health issues which worsened several years ago when her son was murdered. She can't really walk on her own because she has episodes (like fainting) where she just falls down. Earlier Sunday morning, Julia stepped out of church for a moment. She had an episode, and because Aracely and Noelle were outside waiting during that long sermon, they were there to catch Julia. They spent quite a while together.


When Julia came to the bar to lift - a surprising and brave act - Aracely was ready. At first, Julia's grandson stood behind her out of concern. Julia lifted. She was OK. Julia wanted to try again. Her grandson was worried, but Aracely encouraged him step aside, saying, "I cradled her once already today, so we've got this." 


On her own, face determined, Julia lifted the weights. She lowered them to the floor and gave a victory shout, "¡¡Yo gané!! (I won!)" The entire room froze, turned their heads, and burst out with exuberant applause for Julia. She was so proud, and every person there was so proud of her. I watched Aracely gracefully place Julias shoes so Julia could slip them back on, and then Aracely guided Julia to a chair. 

We got this.


Whether inspired by Julia or Rosita or the vibe of the room, a very shy little Byron finally made his lift. I caught a glimpse of him from the corner of my eye, and was lucky to catch a photo of him lifting and catching Julia and Rosita seated nearby, giving him some positive energy.


What is the impact of one Sunday gym day? for individuals? for the community?  What could the impacts of an ongoing partnership with the gym be?

In Los Héroes, we talk about the Mission of Healing all the time. Healing is a mission of the church. On Sunday, Gym Day, the people who needed to be there, were there. The moments of waiting served a purpose. There was healing, visible in faces, heard in little shouts of victory.

The development of sustainable local partnerships like this emerging relationship between Los Héroes and Pesas y Poder is powerful and beautiful. And fun. This is a Mission of Healing: lifting spirits and lifting weights. It's hard work, but together, we got this.



Just a little note about the phrase, we got this. In our Milwaukee congregation, we use the phrases "God's got this" and "We got this" all the time as we engage in the hard work of ministry in a vulnerable community. So, while grammatically not exactly correct, culturally, this phrase is packed with meaning. 

Comments

  1. Thanks, as always, for sharing your journey with us!

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