It’s time for the work to begin

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By Tom Wilmoth

    It’s do or die time for me to get in shape.

    In just 11 weeks I should be headed for the hills of the Philippines to be part of a medical missions team from my church. While I’m excited about the trip, I also realize I have a lot to do to get ready.

    I’ve participated in all types of mission trips over the years. I spent two summers in Kenya, working in the Northern Frontier District with the Samburu people there. Those trips were more mission oriented with the second having as its focus showing the “Jesus” film to many who had never seen a film or heard the Gospel before. I was young then — a student in college — and though both trips required considerable walking I weighed a lot less and was a lot more active. The first time I went to Kenya I learned early on that walking was the norm for where we wanted to go. Whenever we asked how much further, the response would be, “Oh, it’s just there.” That, of course, could still mean several miles of walking were left on our trip.

     I’ve also been to Mexico numerous times participating in several types of trips. Many of those were based out of an orphanage ministry at the border city of Reynosa while one took me to Juarez where I took some teens and we helped build homes in what could best be described as the dump area of the city. That trip required more physical energy than the others, but I was still modestly young, then.

    For several years I had a good friend serving as a missionary in Romania so I led several trips there. During those trips we worked with a local church in Sibiu in its ministry — from holding Vacation Bible Schools to working with the teens and helping launch a church plant in a nearby village. The most strenuous part of those trips I recall, was on one trip when we had gone into Bulgaria with the church. On the train trip home — a 12-plus hour ride — we had to make a quick change from one train to another in Bucharest, carrying all of our luggage with little time to spare. It always helps to travel light, a lesson I’ve learned the hard way over the years.

    Some of my more physically demanding mission trips were to the island of St. Lucia, of all places. There I was part of team building a several churches and a parsonage. The team spent about 10 years going there, finally finishing up all the projects. I went on three of those trips. The friend who led those trips (he’s since begun a new work on another island in that area) worked us hard. We never had any trouble going to sleep at night and he liked to finish all of the work he had planned to do, even if it meant working on a day that had been set aside for relaxation. Of course, at the end of the day we always knew we could run down to the ocean for a quick dip before the night’s activities and services began.

    I say all that to lead into the preparation facing me for this trip to the Philippines.

    Most of the work we’ll be doing will be in areas that we must hike to get to. As I contemplate that, I sit in front of a computer screen, typing out this column. That’s about the extent of exercise I’ve gotten over the past several years. The truth is, I live a very sedentary lifestyle these days.

    When I first got back to Virginia from Kansas I was pretty active. I had to be, there wasn’t much else to do. With my family still in Kansas while we attempted to sell our home there, I was living in the basement of my Mom’s home in Roanoke. Not too long after getting here I purchased an exercise bike for $10 at a yard sale and riding that became a part of my regular routine. In fact, I exercised every day from one to two hours and also lifted some weights. I also had a membership to the Bedford YMCA that I used fairly regularly.

    I had time to do that then. Once my family got here, all of that changed. Not that I’m complaining. That was a long nine months for us to be apart. But my exercise habits have waned.

    Some of you might know that from 2004 to 2005 I lost about 50 pounds. I went from 235 to about 185. While that is still heavy for my size, it was quite a difference nonetheless.

    I lost a lot of that weight utilizing the Atkins diet, at the height of that diet’s heyday. At that time you could buy all kinds of carb-free foods, including some good candy from Russell Stover. We lived near a Russell Stover plant that had an outlet shop and I used to make numerous trips there to feed my carb-friendly chocolate cravings. Restaurant menus were stocked with carb-friendly meals back then. It was all the craze and to be honest  eating meat and cheese suited me just fine. The weight came off fairly easily.

    I’ve more or less tried to keep up with the Atkins style diet since then. But I have put about 20 pounds that I lost back on. The lack of exercise hasn’t helped and I’ve made a few too many trips to Chinese buffets. I also confess that I love to eat those free chips the Mexican restaurants set in front of you. That’s not part of the low-carb lifestyle.

    I say all that to go back to the fact that I have 11 weeks to get in shape for my trip to the Philippines. My goal is to lose the 20 pounds I’ve gained back and to start walking a lot more, with something strapped to my back. We’re going to be toting everything we take there on backpacks. I can’t say I’m excited about the work that’s going to have to go into this, but I am excited about what this trip means so I know it will be worth it. And, the good news is I’ll be able to use the time out walking and hiking to help get myself spiritually ready, which is ultimately the most important part of the trip.

    So my resolution to get in shape starts a month before the normal time for such endeavors. I’ll keep you posted. Just know if you see some guy walking down the streets of Centerown with a backpack strapped on, he’s not flipped his lid, he’s just getting ready for a trip halfway across the world.