Journey talks with Iven about his faith, his lifelong journey with maintaining fitness and what advice he has for others keen to stay active and healthy.
While some people entering retirement may be keen to embark on a leisurely cruise or simply put their feet up, Iven Hewett is still going strong. Literally. The 70-year-old retired Chinchilla Uniting Church pastor recently won gold at the Australian National Powerlifting Championships, competing in the 83 kilogram weight division for men aged 70 to 80 years.
Journey: What’s your faith background?
Iven: I grew up in a Christian family—we attended the Methodist church in Jandowae. I embraced the Christian faith strongly at the age of 25, and that’s when I felt my first call to ministry. I kept on saying “no” right through to the age of 57—I’m a bit of a Jonah, really. But I have to admit the last 14 years in ministry have been probably the most fulfilling years of my life.
What do you love about the Uniting Church?
The concern with social issues is one of the biggest things. These are expressions of Christ’s love in the world. For example, going right back to when I was 30, I took on the role of doing day camp in the Jandowae Uniting Church. Every year we touched the lives of hundreds of young people. I was leader of that for about 17 years with the valuable help of other folk who volunteered to come in as leaders, assistant leaders, cooks and that sort of thing.
I thoroughly enjoyed that 12 years as community pastor in Chinchilla and got involved in social groups there as well. But one of the things I got involved with while a minister in Chinchilla was the “Coal 4 Breakfast” [protest movement], which was a group of farmers who were protesting against the acquisition of prime agricultural land for opening up coal mines. I came on board with that particular issue, visited many farmers in the region and took photographs and put a PowerPoint together and presented a proposal at Synod at Alexandra Headland; we got that proposal through.
Who is someone you look up to?
My wife Vallerie has always been a great support, I have to acknowledge that because without her I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved, that’s for sure.
I was influenced by Rev Ivan Alcorn right at the start; Rev Evan Stenlake was a home missionary when I was a young fellow in Jandaowe, there were a number of other home missionaries who would have had an influence on my life and my thinking. Many ministers within the Methodist Church and then the Uniting Church had a tremendous impact on my life in a very positive way, the Rev Ron Watson giving the final push for me to go into full-time ministry. Someone I look up to would be Australian sprinter Peter Norman.
What led you to take up powerlifting as a sport?
When I was 16 I used to be a middle distant runner—1500 metres was my pet distance—I had a good time of three minutes and 58 seconds for 1500 metres on a grass track which wasn’t too bad.
I used weight lifting to strengthen my body for running and when I retired from running at the age of about 26 or 27, I continued with weight lifting right through my life—exercising three or four nights a week.
On the whole I’ve probably exercised with weights 85 per cent of my life actually and when my young grandson had his 17th birthday (I was 69 at the time), I challenged him to a bench press and so, he being a competitive young fellow said, “Right-o grandad, bring it on …” and I cleaned him up. That’s two years ago. We’ve been competing ever since but he’s yet to beat me.
The weights I was lifting were comparable to a championship level in weight lifting and I thought, I’ll have a go at this and so I entered the competition in Brisbane. I won that one for my weight division and age division. The team there asked me if I’d like to go to the Australian National Powerlifting Championships with them.
I did that, and on 5 August this year took out the gold medal in the 83 weight category—that’s Masters IV which is a 70 to 80 year-old group.
How does your faith link to your health and fitness regime?
I’ve always believed in a holistic approach to life. Not necessarily in this order but look after your body, look after your mind and look after your spirit. So I link the three together continually right through my life. The benefits of that are I’m still enjoying good health, still enjoying my Christian journey and I still do a bit of reading and research from time to time.
I have been aware of God’s presence in my life, aware of what Christ has done. That’s the most important thing in my psyche. So from there, we endeavour to look after ourselves the best way we can and there are issues that sometimes we face that we find very difficult to overcome. I’ve gone through that as well—we’ve had sadness, we’ve had hard times to deal with, basically all the little knocks and blows that come along in life. We’ve met them head-on, sometimes went under but climbed out again. But through all that I’ve been aware of God’s presence in my life. I’ve never said, “Why me, God?”—you know, it’s more like “Why not me?”
Life is a challenge, it’s a journey, you’re never there yet. It’s not a destination, so we continue to journey until the day we die. Embracing the Christian faith when I was fairly young helped me in every aspect of dealing with life’s issues.
What advice do you have for other Christians who may not be as fit and healthy as they’d like to be?
I was talking to a well-known lady at the Uniting Church recently; she would be in her eighties and she has a personal trainer (PT), believe it or not. She goes to the gym regularly with a PT—she has been successful in improving her health immensely so now she’s enjoying her latter years much more.
We have to be conscious of our health at all times and aware of what we’re eating, aware if we’re exercising or not exercising and aware of our well-being all the time. My advice is to find a gym, find a PT instructor and set out your program properly. The main thing is to do it properly. It costs a few dollars, but it’s a few dollars well worth spending.
We have to be very careful with our eating habits—we have to monitor it all the time, I believe, and get proper advice. You can get into a bad eating habit and that becomes a norm in your life and that’s when you’re in trouble. It’s having a good diet and moderation in all things. If you have some fatty foods or that sort of thing be aware of that and say, “Right-o, I’ve got to make up for that” by discipline in exercise or making sure we don’t eat too much of that sort of thing.
Read more at The Scoop for our online-exclusive interview with Iven on his future plans and what he thought of Australia’s performance at the recent Rio Olympics.