At 6:07 a.m. our journalism team got the message: “We arrived in Athens, buddy. God is good.”
From Florianópolis in southern Brazil to Athens, Greece, is a straight distance of 6,510 miles (about 10,475 kilometers). That distance was the exercise challenge that the Santa Catarina Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil launched for church members across its territory.
The virtual trek initiative sought to motivate Adventist Church members and others to step up the time they spend doing physical exercise. “The invitation was for each participant to count the distance walked and then report on it,” organizers said. The target of 6,500 miles seemed high, but about 300 participants who walked, ran, or rode their bicycles contributed to reaching the goal in just a few days.
“We shared the project with local churches,” organizers said. “Through a WhatsApp group, participants checked on the progress made by them and other members. It encouraged them to seek for a greater good.”
Local Adventist Health Ministries coordinator Wanda Luz said she was surprised at the results, since, at the beginning, she was concerned that not many people would participate in a virtual event. “We thought it would take longer to reach our goal,” Luz said. “Now we will head towards ‘Tokyo,’ and then will return to Florianópolis,” she revealed.
Initiative coordinator Joelma Passos, who sent the message at 6:07 a.m., shared some of the participants’ experiences. “A mother told us about her autistic son who has several health challenges. The boy liked the initiative and said that he now wants to exercise every day. It is a life changed! In Lages, a couple has now decided to leave their car at home and walk to work every day. And in my Florianópolis neighborhood, I formed a walking group for seniors, and we meet every Sunday to walk,” Passos said.
Noting that physical exercise is one of what Adventists know as the eight natural remedies, Luz said organizers are thankful that people embraced the initiative. “We are glad that some people who are not members of our Adventist churches participated,” she said. “After all, good health should be the goal of every person!”
Now the virtual marathon has departed for Tokyo, Japan, the site of the coming summer Olympic Games. “You can see participants are engaged and motivated, looking to enjoy a higher quality of life,” Josemar Luz, health ministries director for the Santa Catarina Conference, said. “Together, we have covered more than 11,600 kilometers [more than 7,200 miles] so far.”