After recent ministry in Melbourne, I had a divine connection with the Samoan Team at Melbourne airport. I was walking to the flight minding my own business when I heard a basketball bouncing just behind me. I turned around to see a big fellow in blue with the basket ball in his hands. I said to him,” You’re not a basketball player, mate. Where do you come from?” He said, with great patriotism, “I play rugby for Samoa”. Suddenly the whole team was gathering around. I introduced myself as their chaplain and they all jumped in the photograph.
I walked to the plane with Earl, the Samoan kicker whose legs were very badly injured in the match against England. He had an ice pack strapped to a very swolllen right calf muscle. I asked him if he believed that I I prayed for him, God would hear my prayers and heal his legs. At first he said, “Sir, with respect, I’m not into that stuff”. I replied, “I’m you chaplain and I’m going to pray for you anyway. He bowed his head, and as I prayed I noticed tears running from under his sunglasses. He gasped as he felt the presence of God come upon him. In the next five minutes before we were hustled onto the plane, he prayed with me and received Jesus into his heart.
I walked with the Samoan team to the boarding gate and complimented them for the tremendous way they played against England, and nearly beat them. They were quite downcast that they’d not been able to hold the lead to the end. On the flight I wen to their seats to talk to some of the players and the manager, Mr.Kanape, I said, ” I think you men are the winners, because of the way you played that game. The way you handled loss, bravely and graciously, with dignity, really arrested my attention and many others too. There are not many teams who lose graciously. Many grown men don’t know how to lose – the pout, sulk and become vicious. You guys have shown a wonderful Christlike attitude. In God’s estimation and mine too……you men are the real winners”.
I thought some of these big men were going to cry. Tears welled up in their eyes. I thought is was discreet to leave at that moment, but not before I gave them my chaplain’s card and offered them copies of the World Cup Rugby chaplain’s video.-This beautifully presented video has some great testimonies of top rugby players still involved with the rugby scene and rugby footage of them playing. This is followed by the “Jesus Movie”.
At the Samoan manager’s invitation I went to Brisbane hotel where they were staying to deliver the videos. I was asked by the manager Mr. Kanape and Michael Jones, their assistant coach and ex All Black rugby player to speak to the whole team at their evening meeting. All the players were there together with the officials, selector, doctor, physiotherapist, drivers. I asked how Earl’s legs were healing. The team doctor told me that the injuries were healing amazingly quickly. Earl was a “talker” and had made my task so easy by telling many what had happened.
What an opportunity it was to minister the gospel and a challenge from the Word of God to them for 20 minutes, and then to pray for them, their needs, their families and the match coming up. The seeds of the gospel were very seriously and attentively received by this team of big men. I then enjoyed a meal with them at Michael Jones’ invitation. What a privilege from God. What a divine encounter. About a third of their squad came to the Lord.
South African Team
Christian friends of mine in the South African Embassy in Canberra, called and gave me the name and number of the SA Team’s liaison manager and Team Manager, Mac Hendricks. On Friday evening Mac Hendricks, returned my call and asked me to deliver 30 videos to the Hilton Hotel for him to distribute to the team. Apparently they had not received any videos that had been sent to them in the past. God’s certainly covering all the bases.
At the hotel I met members of the SA Team and personally handed them the video – one of them, a big mannamed Lawrence Sephaka was amazed when I spoke his black language to him. The other fellows were also amazed when I spoke to them in the Afrikaans Dutch language and shared the Gospel with them. Three needy men came to the Lord. What a blessing that was.
Neither the SA Team nor the Samoan Teams know that I’d visited both teams. Whew! Talk about being discreet and diplomatic. I was wearing a Samoan rugby jersey with the Samoans and had to quickly put on a neutral RWC rugby jersey for the SA team, in fact I had to quickly change in my car in a traffic jam outside the Hilton hotel where the SA team was staying. I looked around and saw a bus full of tourists next to me, watching as I changed.
I went to the match between SA and the Samoans. SA won convincingly as the better team. It was so beautiful to see both teams kneeling on the field after the match, linking arms and praying. What a witness that was to millions of people. This had been initiated by the South African captain, a committed Christian, when he heard that most of the men on the field that day were followers of Jesus.
The next day a friend from England who had seen the game on tv, emailed me and asked, “Were you responsible for that, Dave?” No, God was, and we all played a little part – those who prayed, who gave and myself who was on the frontline. All participated and receive God’s equal reward.
Monday morning I went to Brisbane airport to meet up with the SA manager, Mac Hendricks, to ensure the men received their Rugby Video, and see the SA team off to Melbourne for the quarter finals. I met with Louis Koen too, who had given out the videos to the men. I also met up with and shared with Ray Mordt (an ex Zimbabwean) who is on the SA team management. It was great catching up with him and sharing the Lord with him. He was very receptive.
I met with many of them especially Ashwin Willemse, who scored a brilliant try after a long run down the right wing. I had a lengthy spiritual discussion with this young man about his future in God’s service as a bright light for Jesus to the youth of South Africa. In the process I had a prophetic word for him – I “saw” him as a youngster, standing on a platform with a microphone in hand, preaching to hundreds of young people. When I shared that with him, he started weeping and told me that when he was a child in Sunday school, he would have dreams of standing on a platform speaking to hundreds of young people about Jesus. When he became a teenager he walked away from the Lord and lost that vision. He was amazed that God had kept the portfolio open to him. At that point Lawrence Sephaka came over and together we prayed for Ashwin.
God has been so kind to get me into these very privileged places.