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Fitliness is next to Godliness
Westminster camp teaches kids to stay active, take care of body and spirit
Brisa Pizano, right, 9, watches as Storm Smith, 11, waits to bounce a soccer ball off his head Wednesday during summer camp at Westminster Church in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The Bible is most often associated with guidance for the spiritual being, but many Christians say it also gives direction for one's physical being.

"When you think about how Jesus ministered to people, whether it was healing the sick or feeding the masses, he always started with their physical needs," said Lisa Hulsey, director of ministry involvement and women at Westminister Church in Gainesville.

Besides being physically nurturing to others, the Bible also encourages followers to be vigilant about their own physical fitness.

In Romans 12:1, Christians are encouraged to use their bodies as a living sacrifice to God and to present themselves in a form that is pleasing to him. Being of sound body is one way of outwardly showing a dedication to leading a moderate life, as is prescribed by the Bible, church leaders say.

To help the younger members of the community understand that biblical lesson, all this week the church played host to a sports camp for elementary school students.

The students spent half of their day in a basic soccer clinic and the other half in a basketball clinic.

"We believe that being active is important. We're called to glorify God in whatever we're doing," said David Peake, co-director of the camp.

"In Corinthians, Paul talks about disciplining his body and being the best he can be. Whatever you're doing, you're supposed to do it to the best of your ability for His glory."

Several of the camps' participants say that the clinics helped them better their best efforts.

"I liked having the older kids showing us different stuff," said 9-year-old Esmirna Salcido, who is on the Lanier Elementary School basketball team.

"I think it helped me improve stuff that I already knew."

Some say they even learned new skills.

"I learned how to kick the soccer ball with the inside of my foot," said Ashley Granados, a 9-year-old Lanier Elementary School student.

"I used to kick it with just the front of my foot because the other way was hard, but now I got it."

In addition to helping area students brush up on their sports skills, the camp also gave them the opportunity to use their God-given talents.

"God gave us the ability to run and be active, so we should take advantage of it," Peake said.

If it wasn't for the camp, which the church says they purposely kept inexpensive, some participants say they would've been sitting around their houses doing nothing.

"I came because I didn't have anything to do this week," Joel Salcido, a 13-year-old Chestatee Middle School student.

"I'm glad I did. We got to play and have scrimmages. I really liked it."

Despite the sometimes sweltering heat, having the opportunity to play with friends far outweighed anything else, the campers say.

"I would come again," said Brisa Pizeno, a 9-year-old Centennial Elementary School student. "I had fun being able to run around with my friends."

Although the kids thought they were just at the camp to practice soccer and basketball skills, camp organizers say that by running around and improving their physical condition, the campers were also putting Biblical teachings into action.

"The Bible teaches us to be good stewards of what He's given us," said Margaret Stewart, a Westminister Church member.

"And that includes our bodies."