If you have seen pictures of us recently, you will notice that we have gotten a bit thinner.  The picture above is a comparison between our wedding day in 2010 and me wearing a tux for a wedding we were invited to be a part of just a week ago.  Some folks would think that we aren’t eating well.  In fact, some families we serve are unhappy with our loss of weight.  In impoverished areas, being fat or overweight is a sign of prosperity: you have enough money to eat a lot.  From our American mindset, this is difficult for us to comprehend.  Yet there are others who have struggled with weight and continue to ask us, “what are you doing to get more healthy?  I want to learn!”  The answer is simple but the follow through is difficult.

Since coming to Guatemala, we have been trying to take care of our physical bodies better.  Our first 6 months in Antigua gave us a good start and inspired us to try to live healthier lives.  We learned in missions school that self care is very important on the mission field, but we also know this is true for life in general.  In Antigua, we walked at least 2 miles a day, had our meals mostly controlled as we lived with a host family that made our meals for us, and we tried to also exercise on our downtime.  Once we moved to Villa Nueva and started our full-time work with the ministry, we struggled a bit to find an appropriate balance in our daily schedules to include proper nutrition and time for exercise and rest.

Fast-forward 4 years and we seem to be getting it down finally!  Thankfully, healthier foods like fruits and vegetables are cheaper in Guatemala because there is such an abundance of it as opposed to fatty meats and treats (although there also seems to be an abundance of soda, sweets, and breads as well!).  We have to be careful, of course, but at least we don’t have to worry about the cost of food.  We were able to use our tax returns over the years to invest in gym equipment so we don’t have to pay for a gym membership and can adapt our routines to our constantly changing schedules.  For those who are wondering “how we do it,” it comes down to one simple factor: discipline.

I realized a couple years ago that if I am going to truly be able to teach discipleship to the church and its leadership, that I need to be better disciplined in my own life.  Sure, I can be disciplined in studying the bible, acting appropriately in difficult circumstances, and even showing up on time to meetings and appointments.  But, my constant outward expression revealed by my own body composition was lacking.  I had made some efforts to be healthier over the years but never truly came around to doing it well.  This year was the year for me to do it.  So when people ask me, “what did you do?” I won’t give them a lay out of my exercises or my meal plan.  I will encourage them to seek after God’s design for their life and never quit until you reach it.  This is how you achieve any goal that is worthwhile.

Our home church in the US is in a year of breakthrough.  Before this vision was revealed we too recognized that some things needed to change in 2017 and we indeed were working for a breakthrough.  We have learned from various sources and even have taught quite a few times the importance of taking care of our physical bodies so that we can be more efficient in how we minister to others.  Back in 2009 when I realized I had “let myself go for too long” after my time in the Marine Corps, I purchased a book online called Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.  I won’t go into too much detail about the book but if you are interested, you can message me.  Let’s just say it isn’t a program or diet or workout regimen.  It’s an informational book that helps you learn what works and what doesn’t work for your own body and mind so you can set goals, reach them, and experience success in your own bodily transformation…regardless of where you are now!  Some people call it the fitness bible and I would even venture to agree with the moniker.  It contains all you need to know!

I started applying these principles to my life and taking them seriously.  Tom (the author of the book) runs 5 challenges throughout the year that are free to enter and eventually I started winning.  One of the prizes is always a subscription to the online forums (known as the Inner Circle) which is chock full of information but also allows you to interact with others and keep yourself accountable.  This gave me an extra edge to continue moving forward with my goals.  Towards the end of one of the challenges I was competing in, Missy asked me, “So, are you just doing this stuff to win challenges or is this going to be a lifestyle change?”  The question made me really ponder why she was asking.  Throughout our entire relationship I had been overweight and not fully committed to my overall health and fitness.  Sure I was active and we went to the gym regularly but I had little progress to show for it.  “It’s a lifestyle change!” I responded with conviction.  That was 2015.

On Saturday I finished the “Big Summer Burn” which is a 14 week transformation contest.  It is the biggest challenge that Tom sponsors each year and this year the grand prize is a trip for two to Jamaica!  The judging has commenced and we are anxiously awaiting the results to see if we will be taking a vacation to the tropical island next year as part of our furlough.  The contest isn’t judged on just overall looks or weight loss, but an overall evaluation of transformation based on one’s personal progress, including mental attitude and belief in yourself.  As I wrote in my essay to the judges: I know I have succeeded!

Why am I sharing this with all of you?  Because I want to encourage you.  Firstly, we need to grasp the understanding that outward transformation is a result of inward transformation (more about that in a follow on post).  Second, in order to best serve and care for others we must make sure we care caring for ourselves well.  If you lack energy, strength, or overall health, we cannot be very effective for God’s Kingdom and certainly not for very long.  Third, change and transformation is possible for ANYONE.  It doesn’t matter your age, ailments, or excuses.  If you seek for change and ask for God’s guidance and help, He will certainly provide it!

For those of you who are wondering, I have lost a total of 87 pounds since I was at my heaviest weight of 275.  I have more to go on my journey which is not only to lose a little more fat but also put some muscle back on these bones!

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