Anyone who’s ever made a New Year’s resolution knows it is hard to change our habits. In Chile, our Health and Wellness support program recognizes that many people were struggling to live a healthy life. Physically, obesity clogs arteries. Spiritually, lukewarm connections to God drown people's faith.
Viviana, a Wellness Circle participant shared, “One says, ‘I am catholic,’ but then does nothing to show that they profess that religion.” Viviana felt disconnected from God. But that all began to change as soon as she joined her first Wellness Circle.
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Wellness Circle support groups encourage participants to live healthier lives.
Growing up, Viviana felt constrained. “In Chile you are either Catholic or you are Catholic.” She struggled to connect with God in the formal worship services. She was even afraid to bring her children to church because they couldn’t “be perfect” the whole service. Viviana felt a hole in her life but didn’t know how to fill it.
Viviana, like many other Chileans, also struggled with her physical health. 75% of adults are obese* compared to 42% of adults in the United States.**
This puts them at risk for health complications like diabetes and heart disease. People know they need to change—they just don’t know how. This health crisis can have devastating consequences.
That’s where our team in Chile saw an opportunity. Through listening to local community members, we recognized the life-changing value of combining physical health training with a gospel foundation and spiritual instruction. To do this, local volunteers and staff created Wellness Circles—support groups to encourage habit change and connect people to Jesus.
Viviana discovered the Wellness Circles after seeing a post on Facebook.
“I was looking for something. I was thinking that ‘something’ had to do with faith. I wanted to get closer to God and He led me [to Kingdom Workers]. It made me think, ‘How could I live an even better life to thank Him for everything I have?’”
Before attending a Wellness Circle, only 58% of participants felt very familiar with the gospel message. After, that number jumped to 77%. And half of the participants now exercise the recommended 120+ minutes per week, an increase from only 4%.
At the end of 2020, Viviana brought her family to the program’s Christmas event. She is also now a coach for the most recent round of Wellness Circles. She told us, “Every day I want to see more, I want to know more, I want to belong more, and I want to learn more. I want to know what else you have to teach me so I can continue to model it and spread it around.”
Establishing new habits takes time. But with the support and encouragement offered through Wellness Circles, Viviana is seeing change. Our hope is that more people will join and experience the benefits of embracing a healthier lifestyle and closer relationship with their Savior.
*Chile Ministry of Health
**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention