By Henry Olonga.
Henry Olonga was born in Zambia in 1976 to a Kenyan father and a Zimbabwean mother. He spent the first few years of his life growing up in Zambia and Kenya before moving to Zimbabwe in 1981 just after independence was attained. At school he did well in athletics and had aspirations to represent Kenya at the Olympic Games. He also cultivated a passion for all things to do with the creative arts.
Henry made his international cricketing debut in 1995, becoming the youngest player and first black cricketer to play for Zimbabwe and helping his team to its first ever Test victory. Henry achieved international recognition (along with team mate Andy Flower) in 2003 by wearing a black armband in a Cricket World Cup match to protest against the policies of Zimbabwe’s government. Following this incident Henry had to flee Zimbabwe in fear of his life, finding refuge in England. At the time of writing, he and his family are planning to re-settle in Adelaide, South Australia.
Guest speaker at the 2015 SA Prayer Breakfast, Henry writes about how he came to be where he is today, and how God has guided him.
At this point in time in my life I am about to immigrate to Australia after living in England for over a decade, travelling to different parts of the country, singing, speaking, and videoing as well as sharing the gospel every opportunity I get. I love being able to use what God has given me to point people in the direction of the good news of Jesus Christ. I am currently working on my second and third albums, one of which will be a gospel album. Not sure which one will be released first but I am hoping to have one of them completed by Christmas this year. I am also attempting to pick up my painting again in what little spare time I seem to have. It is quite a different lifestyle to the one I once had.
Don’t get me wrong I am thoroughly enjoying what I am doing now. I often get asked if I miss playing cricket. I miss the competition and camaraderie of being part of a team. However, I don’t miss losing so often and being hit all over the place. It was hard work being a bowler for Zimbabwe!
Although I enjoyed my time and feel privileged to have played international cricket there was always a lingering emptiness at times about what it was I was really achieving in life. At the age of sixteen I became a Christian at a youth camp. I had some friends who were Christians who invited me along to the camp. We heard messages each night and on one of the final evenings a man got up and preached the message of the gospel and it was to this message that I responded and gave my life to God. Since that time I have attempted to the best of my ability (with God’s help of course) to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
Through reading my bible and listening to mature Christians in the faith I have come to realise there is more to life than just achievements. My faith was one of the reasons I did what I did (Black Arm Band Protest in 2003). Prior to making the stand I was reading the scriptures when a particular verse stood out to me. Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor, Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” I believe God placed on my heart to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves.
This of course is what led to many changes in my life. I have now lived in a different country to the one I grew up in. I have changed careers and am happily married with two beautiful little girls. However, the biggest impact that it had on me would have to be my spiritual walk with the Lord. I received death threats after making the stand which meant I had to leave the country I called my home almost immediately. God became more real to me than ever before. I experienced His help and deliverance to get me out of Zimbabwe, through a cyclone called Japheth, and again His provision in enabling me to get to England, a complete stranger bought me an air ticket.
Experiencing the Lord’s help, deliverance, provision, and protection in a time of trouble has strengthened my faith incredibly. Each of these experiences I believe has been the Lord leading and guiding me to where I am now both spiritually and physically. He uses many different ways to communicate with us be it through scripture, acts of kindness, miracles or even our circumstances. It has and continues to amaze me that when the Lord asks us to partner with Him, He always pays the bills!
Read the full story in Henry’s autobiography ‘Blood Sweat and Treason’, available in Australia from September 2015.