Body & Soul BLUE Challenge entrants mark the midpoint with an outpouring of spirit

Only the serious showed up at Fuller Park in Grand Rapids on our recent squishy Sept. 11. But, they were enough.

The hardy band of cold, damp souls I met at the park was there to mark the midpoint of this year’s Body & Soul BLUE Challenge, a three-month wellness competition between 11 African-American faith communities around the city. The Blues are co-sponsors of the Challenge along with the American Cancer Society. Participants had free massages awaiting them in the park, a Zumba® warm-up, rows of health and fitness vendors, a group walk to the Fulton Street Farmers Market and discount tokens for the goods they’d find there.

That persistent rain had no chance of causing a wash-out. There was too much heart there for that to happen.

And, if you’re unsure about that, just check out this from that day:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZVTtwpqXoA&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Or consider that participants in last year’s Challenge, which was won by Ms. Moody, who you’ll meet in the video, and her husband Rev. Nathaniel’s church, logged a whopping 167,000 miles. About 49,000 of those miles were from members of Moody’s Brown Hutcherson Ministries alone.

Considering the date, an observer couldn’t help but think a lot about transformation as he walked around the park. I asked everyone I spoke to that day whether they were seeing lives being changed and every one of them came back with an emphatic yes.

Holding such an event in the African-American community makes a certain amount of sense. It’s true that many African- Americans are at high risk for many serious and often fatal diseases, some of it lifestyle-driven, some of it not.

But, I quickly found out that there was much more at work here. The bulk of the conversation that came back to me that day was about how taking care of the body is a spiritual act in itself. Others talked about having a responsibility to their spiritual selves to be as fit as they can be. “Bringing together the health and well-being of whole communities,” BCBSM’s Cle Jackson called it.

This year’s Body & Soul Challenge will end Oct. 2 at the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute Rhythm Run at Martin Luther King Park in Grand Rapids.

But, in a more important sense, Body & Soul won’t end that day … or on any other. It can’t, really.

People were changed through their participation, this year and last. Transformed.

I saw fuller lives at Fuller Park. It’s tough to go back once you’ve been there.

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