Black Armbands for Jesus
We’re having a week of special events this week under the banner of 3D – LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE. It’s already proved to be an extraordinary time – with a couple of great preaches from Hugh & Rico on Sunday (on Real Freedom and Real Happiness respectively), and last night, we had Jonathan Aitken interviewed (hoping to have that put online, so will post about it if and when).
But today was our Senior Members’ Day – a regular bunfight for our (er, well) senior members – and we had another special guest star. Now, I think we do need to be careful when we get the big names in as if the Christian life was all about being big names. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, it is almost as if we can assume people will be sufficiently impressed by someone’s celebrity to become a Christian. Everyone’s testimony is miraculous and wondrous, regardless of their fame. That said, every now and then, it certainly adds spice to hear from people who have done courageous things for their faith because it spurs us to action.
And so we had Henry Olonga – ‘who’s he?’ some might ask. Well, he was the first black Zimbabwean to play cricket for his country – and with white teammate Andy Flower (left), courageously protested against Mugabe’s villainous regime during the 2003 Cricket World Cup by wearing black armbands during their first match. It had profound consequences for both men, including the end of their international cricket careers and death threats for Olonga. There’s a brief account here on Cricinfo. But while Henry is certainly not shy of talking about it, his motivations are not always widely known. For he is a Christian believer, having come to faith at boarding school at 16. And this was his supreme motivation. He talked this afternoon how he’d increasingly felt uneasy when fielding journalists’ questions whenever they went on international tours. They’d trot out the usual lines about ‘hey, we’re just cricketers here to play a game’ etc, but it never sat well with them. And as someone who was involved in a couple of orphanages in Zim, this verse from Isaiah kept coming to mind:
learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow. [Isaiah 1:17]
And so they did what they could in a silent, dignified but provocative way. Here is their official statement, which makes inspiring but heart-breaking reading.
So today, Henry had our senior members and the guests they’d invited lapping it all up. The biggest surprise is that now Henry is a singer, doing everything from Nessun Dorma and the Londonderry Air (there was a noticeable chorus of ‘ahhs’ and ‘oohs’ when he introduced that one today!) to his own pop songs. In particular, he sang one he’d written called RISE AGAIN, giving hope for a better future for Zim. It’s beautiful and anthemic. Apart from buying it on iTunes or getting the album, you can get excerpts of it on this promo video he did for Tearfund (on which he also talks about the armband thing).