Churches and healthy living

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

There is logic in Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s call for the leadership of the churches to play a more active role in promoting healthy living. That much is undeniable.

Given the fact the church is one of the strongest pillars of Samoan society responsible for shaping thought patterns and molding lives, the church could certainly use some of its influence to sway its membership towards a healthier lifestyle. 

After all, God needs healthy bodies on earth to be his hands and feet to do the work of extending his kingdom. 

While we know he has the power to heal the sick, we believe God would rather have us live healthily so that we can preach the good news and fulfill the great commission. This is why healthy living matters in the church.

Besides, the scriptures talk about our bodies being the temple of the living God.

This is a clear call for everyone to look after their bodies in a way that would be pleasing and acceptable to him. Among other things, it includes healthy living through a proper diet, regular exercises and doing everything else associated with it.

Now this week Prime Minister Tuilaepa has called on church leaders to step up become a lot more active in promoting healthy among members of the church.

 Said Tuilaepa: “It is time for church leaders to stand up and help out the government to have a healthier Samoa.  

“I believe that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and obesity are real problems in Samoa, and it is time to address them. 

 “In Samoa, we have so many people who are left with just one arm or leg because their other limb has been amputated. And this is a result of them eating a lot of food and having no control over what they consume.

“The Ministry of Health has been trying to address this issue but I think once the churches turn around and support the ministry, I know our people will never get sick anymore.”

Well we’re not sure about not getting sick anymore but the Prime Minister is correct about the church playing a more active role. We can’t stop people from getting sick but we can do something about reducing the number of people getting sick as a result of unhealthy lifestyles. 

When it comes to healthy living in Samoa, nothing can be further from the truth. Our health statistics in relation to non-communicable diseases – also known as lifestyle diseases – are frightening. It’s not just frightening the cost of having to deal with it is astronomical. It’s costing millions of tala that could be spent to improve other infrastructure to deal with these health issues.

As the Ministry of Health has been advocating over the years, one of the best ways of addressing our health issues is through early prevention. This is where the church comes in.

The only catch for the leaders themselves will be that they have to walk the talk and not just mouth off and continue to become the biggest hypocrites on the face of the earth. 

With due respect, it’s well known that some of the unhealthiest and most obese people in Samoa – and Samoan communities around the world – are church leaders. Given the lifestyle of privilege and being honoured with everything and food in the villages and the congregations they look after, this has seen some of them literally eat their way to death.

But it’s not too late to change. 

The most important part is getting started. 

We already have some wonderful programmes in place where people mindsets about fitness, spiritual health and healthy living are slowly being transformed. One that immediately comes to mind is the Nobesity programme driven by the team at B.S.L. and Pastor Lenny Solomona. Imagine if these guys had the opportunity to visit every church in Samoa to share their stories and inspire people to begin small.

Imagine if the Council of Churches was to organise a Health Summit for all Church leaders in Samoa where Pastors and Priests can learn some simple tips about healthy living they can share with their congregations. The impact will be enormous. That will achieve far more results than wasting money on public awareness campaigns that only go as far as the TV ads. 

At the end of the day, healthy living has got to become a lifestyle. It’s nice to do a multi-week challenge and lose so many kilos but it won’t get you far. The combination of healthy living, regular exercise and most importantly the right diet must become a daily routine for it to work. 

And if the church encourages its memberships about these things on a weekly basis, we are under no illusion that this nation will become a lot healthier and we can finally tackle the health crisis we’ve got on our hands.

But that’s what we think anyway, what about you?

Share your thoughts with us!

Have a healthy Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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