Although most people realize that regular exercise is essential to good health, many are reluctant to take the necessary, often life-changing steps. That’s why Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa and his cabinet launched a program that focuses on sports and recreation one year and choral music the next.
This year’s focus on sports and recreation involves multiple events, starting in circuits, followed by clusters of four circuits, districts, annual conferences and, finally, the entire episcopal area.
“Self-care is very important,” Nhiwatiwa said, “I always encourage my cabinet members to exercise daily so that they keep healthy. A connection of a healthy mind and a healthy body is the key to a much happier life.”
Setting a positive example is important, said Greater Nhiwatiwa, the bishop’s wife. She joined a netball team. “Many were excited to see me playing,” she added. “Sporting is an activity we should do daily to keep healthy. It is about your life.”
Sports activities were organized according to age. Soccer, netball, running and volleyball were popular with younger people, while many older adults participated in races.
Everyone was accommodated, said Ester Mumvuma, episcopal area sports and recreation chair. “We started [by] grouping participants according to age and matched them with an appropriate sporting activity.”
In the process, “we discovered that age was just a number” because everyone did well, she said.
Elemencia Tawafundidza, Harare East District sports and recreation chair, expressed appreciation for the church’s sponsorship of most activities, which mean the organizers only had to find a few donors to help.
“For the sake of fairness and continuity of the sporting activities, the church hired professional umpires. Because of their fair handling of the games, participants were satisfied with the results,” Tawafundidza said.
Individuals and teams that excelled received trophies, shields and cash.
Chris Romario Musekiwa, a Zimbabwe Warriors cheerleader, vowed to link the best performers with leaders of national teams so that they could pursue their talents.
“Nyarai Sokosi, 20, of Chisipiti Circuit has confirmed a great potential in running short distances,” Musekiwa said. “I will introduce her to national athletics authorities so that they can test her talent, and if she succeeds, she will represent the country at national level.”
If all goes well, Nyarai will join Enviolata Bandamuseve, a member of the Inner City United Methodist Circuit, who plays under-20 soccer for the national team.
Tendai Rebecca Gurupira, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area women’s vice president, said sports enrich spirituality and reduce stress. “My wish is for women to make a habit of exercising daily so that their health can be improved,” Gurupira said.
Through sports and recreation initiatives, multiple Zumba fitness clubs have been organized across the episcopal area. As participants dance to music, they burn calories, often without realizing it.
“Exercise is the most transformative thing one can do for the brain today,” Gurupira said. “It has immediate effects. A single workout will immediately increase levels of neurotransmitters. The more you exercise, the stronger the brain.”
Dr. Godwin Choga, the medical officer for Chimanimani District, works at the United Methodist Church’s Mutambara Mission Hospital. “Sports,” he said, “help in the relaxation of the mind, relieve stress and stress-related conditions like depression, improve physical fitness [and] blood circulation, and reduce obesity and incidence of heart failure.” He noted that involvement in regular exercise through sports also reduces noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart issues.
At one of the district events, the Rev. John Makaniko preached from 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, NRSV, where Paul highlighted a healthy lifestyle. “Train yourselves in godliness,” the apostle wrote, “for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
“Exercise is part of therapy and medicine,” Makaniko said. “When the body is not healthy, your mental thinking will be equally affected. One cannot attend services, and the faith is affected.
"Exercise helps to fellowship together,” he added. “Let us come and experience the love of God through sports.”
Chingwe is communications coordinator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.