Living for Christ from Slum to Scrum

TOKYO – Last weekend, the month and a half Rugby World Cup concluded with South Africa emerging as the champions. The captain of the victorious Springboks is Siya Kolisi, a 28-year-old who has also found victory in Jesus.

The Rugby World Cup concluded with South Africa emerging as the champions. Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, a 28-year-old has also found victory in Jesus.

Siya was raised by his grandmother and his aunt and uncle in a cramped home in a slum settlement near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The family was so poor that Siya recalls that a plate of food was rare. He didn’t have a bed to sleep in. Toys were non-existent.

Life was made bearable by his grandmother’s unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. She attended church regularly and took young Siya with her. He recalls with fondness the advice and inspiration she offered him. Noting her Christ-likeness, he told reporters that “she always put me ahead of herself and suffered so that I could be what I needed to be.”

After his grandmother died, Siya began to find a future on the rugby pitch. His coaches and mentors recognized his exceptional natural talent. His dedication and hard work honed his skills, gaining recognition from professional teams in South Africa.

But the cares of this world and the pursuit of success became weeds that prevented the spiritual growth he so desperately needed.

Following the 2015 World Cup, the Siya began to feel the Holy Spirit pursuing him as he struggled with temptations, sins, and lifestyle choices. He realized that, although he called himself a Christian, he has not living the Christ-like life his grandmother had taught and demonstrated.

Siya quietly struggled with a sin that he kept hidden until, eventually that sin was exposed.

“Up to that point, everything I was fighting against was hidden, but when my sin was exposed, I knew I either had to change my life, or lose everything. I decided to lose my life and find it in Christ.”

The change was dramatic.

“I’ve been able to discover the truth and saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace in my heart I’d never experienced before. Now that I have given everything to God, nothing else affects me. I now live and play with the freedom of knowing His plan will always happen, and at the end of the day, that’s all I care about!”

Siya has become a national hero in his native South Africa. He uses that platform to speak out for Jesus Christ, urging young people to trust the Lord and follow Him. And he does what his grandmother taught him to do: put others ahead of himself and suffer so that others, who are growing up in conditions similar to his childhood, can become what they need to be.

He encourages them to understand that,

“The temptations are real. At times we all struggle and make mistakes. The best is to always surround yourself with Christians . . . They will encourage you, build you up, and will always keep you accountable. We have Bible studies as a team and often pray together. I try to also read the Word as much as I can when I am alone, every single night before bed. Know that He is in control gives me peace.”

We invite you to watch this brief video excerpt of Siya as he speaks to young men about Jesus.


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