Yeah, yeah, yeah, que no pare la fiesta! Don’t stop the party!”

Pitbull’s rap music blares over the loudspeaker in the parking lot. About 60 participants follow Zumba® instructor Gonzalo Hernandez’s lead. There are lots of twists, turns, lunges and laughter. It’s just another Thursday night at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bradenton, Fla.

Each week Hernandez ( lives out his faith in a distinctive way — by volunteering his expertise and seemingly endless energy with fellow members and the community at large. Located in a residential area, many neighbors walk over to the church and join the fun. Others honk their horns and wave as they drive by.

Gonzalo Hernandez leads a group of Zumba® participants at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bradenton, Fla.

Gonzalo Hernandez leads a group of Zumba® participants at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bradenton, Fla.

“What started out as a response to our church’s mission to ‘care faithfully for the treasure of our bodies’ has grown into so much more,” said Bobbie Blackburn, pastor. “Stressing scriptural support, such as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we are emphasizing a healthy body stewardship. Zumba® is great exercise, but it has also proven to be a wonderful community outreach ministry.”

Zumba®, a dance-fitness program created by Alberto “Beto” Perez in the 1990s, incorporates international and Latin dances, such as salsa and merengue, with aerobic exercise. Paired with rhythmic music, it improves muscle strength, posture, mobility and coordination.

Trinity’s program has attracted a variety of people. On any given night, male and female dancers range in age from 4 to 75. They come from all facets of life — a mix of different races, cultures and professions.

Zumba® provides physical exercise as well as social interaction for folks who may not normally be together.

“Weather permitting, we dance outside,” said Hernandez. “It’s a great way to encourage our neighbors to venture over. On inclement days, we move the activities indoors. For many people, this provides their first introduction to our church. Some of them have become Trinity members. Of course, we start each session with a warm welcome and an invitation to our services.”

The class is just one part of Trinity’s commitment to health stewardship. In addition to other exercise opportunities, Trinity formed a team to address health concerns and offers nutrition seminars.

Patricia Strutz

Strutz is a writer in Stuart, Fla.

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