This week’s case study comes from Twickenham, where Christian sportsman Henry Olonga has been helping the church to reach out to cricket fans in their community by speaking at a men’s breakfast. Andy Ricketts takes up the story:
About 70 men met together over breakfast to hear the former international cricketer Henry Olonga at St Stephen’s Twickenham last month.
The former Zimbabwe fast bowler Olonga, best known for his ‘death of democracy’ protest, when he and teammate Andy Flower wore black armbands in protest at human rights abuses in their country during an international match in 2003, talked about cricket, his life and his faith. He also showed off his vocal talents by singing three songs.
Olonga gave an insight into the story behind his and Flower’s protest, which took place in Harare during the Cricket World Cup and has meant he has been unable to return to Zimbabwe for fear of arrest and even death.
He described how he felt God had protected him after the protest, when a freak rainstorm caused the abandonment of a later match and gave Zimbabwe the draw they needed to go through to the next round, which meant he the team had to travel to South Africa, from where he could flee. He said:
‘There is a God and he does hear us when we call to him and responds to us, especially when we are in danger.’
He also talked about his Test debut for Zimbabwe, when he became the first black player to represent the country, and took a wicket with his third ball. Olonga told the story of how he came to faith and encouraged those present to ‘consider Jesus and think seriously about him’.
‘If it was true that Jesus died and come back to life then I needed to do something about it. So I felt compelled to give my life to him.’
If you’d like to use sport to reach out within your community, perhaps this Thanksgiving for Sport Service from The Diocese of Chelmsford could be a first step. Please get in touch with your stories of how sport helps you engage with your community.