If you were called on to make a stand that could cost you everything, could you do it?
Recently I briefly met Henry Olonga. I knew of him mainly because I watch way too much cricket, and he had been part of the Zimbabwean team from 1995 to 2003. My memory of him was of a good bowler at a time when his nation was emerging as a cricketing force.
However, what really grabbed my attention was what Olonga did on during the 2003 World Cup. On 10 February, Olonga and Andy Flower took to the field wearing black armbands in Harare to "mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe." It was a bold protest against human rights violations committed by Robert Mugabe's government.
Of course, protesting against a dictator comes with risks! But Olonga had underestimated just how great the personal cost would be. "I had in my own naivety thought that I could carry on in Zimbabwe - maybe my career would come to an end but I could still live there, but that all changed when I got death threats two or three weeks after the World Cup."
What I didn't know in 2003 was that Olonga's stand owed much to his Christian faith. Olonga had become a Christian at 16. By the late 1990s, not only had his faith deepened but so too had his political awareness. So when Andy Flower asked him to join him in speaking out, Olonga knew this was something he needed to be a part of.
"Scripture spoke to me. I remember reading Isaiah 1:17, which says contend for the widow and the orphan, rebuke the oppressor. Until that point, I think I was just a sportsman who played cricket for the love of it and the passion, and the desire to achieve."
Armed with this conviction, Olonga made the stand that would not only cost him his cricketing career but leave him an exile from his homeland for fear of his life. Indeed, the story of his escape from Zimbabwe has a touch of the miraculous.
The team's final match against the might of Pakistan offered a simple equation. A loss would mean Zimbabwe were out of the World Cup and stuck at home.
A draw or win would see them travel to South Africa for the tournament's next stage. On the eve of the match, a cyclone off the coast of Mozambique travelled 800km inland overnight, sending enough rain that the game was abandoned. From the safety of South Africa, Olonga and Flower were offered help to settle in England, where the pair began to rebuild their lives.
These days Olonga lives in Adelaide, where he has built a career as a singer. You may have even seen him competing on "The Voice" a few years ago. He may not have the attention of the world's media upon him that he did as an international cricketer.
Nor does it seem that he has been called on to make such a high-stakes stand in the last 19 years. However, the same desire to live up to his Christian convictions continues to motivate his approach to life.
"If I can live a life that I can look back over and say, in spite of my clangers, in spite of my failings, I still have woven a tapestry of a life that counted, that made a difference, and that people can look back over and say good things about... I know that we're saved by grace, but James (in the Bible) says faith without works is dead and so, I want the work of my life to have Jesus shining through it. I know I do that imperfectly, I know that I'll fail in the future, but that's where my heart is anyway."
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