by Fanie van der Merwe (Shofar Stellenbosch)
Fanie recently competed at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he won gold in the 100m T37 final. Here’s his story…
The team going to the Commonwealth Games was not the usual one, with the para-athletes only making up five of the total team (and two of the training group), so I was a bit out of my comfort zone, but it was great to meet new South African athletes! We met up in Gemona, Italy, beforehand and it was a huge blessing to get to know Rocco van Rooyen, who’s also from Shofar Stellenbosch, better during the training. I truly believe that the Lord used him as a link between us and the able-bodied athletes!
Once in Glasgow, I was quite nervous before my race, but while spending time with God He showed me specifically in His Word that I shouldn’t be afraid. I was still stressed out and felt a bit ashamed afterwards that I’d worried so much after God told me not to! When I walked out into the stadium the crowd was pumping, singing Sweet Caroline, so I embraced the moment and took in the vibe. I had a great race and did a victory lap with my two fellow South Africans, Andrea and Charl, afterwards.
During the course of the event we spent quite a bit of time getting to know the chaplains, who were providing spiritual care for the athletes, and joined the praise and worship at the Sunday service. It was amazing to worship God with people from all around the world! They asked Rocco and myself to share our testimonies at the service and a lot of our teammates and competitors, who we’d been praying for, were there and got to hear what God is doing in our lives. We are very thankful for that!
After the Games I had a chance to serve as a chaplain at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Wales. It was a fantastic opportunity to give spiritual support to the athletes, through prayer, praise and worship, Bible study and church services.
There was a shortage of volunteers, so we also got to go out and serve in other ways – carrying blocks and doing whatever else was needed. We were challenged to see people as Jesus saw them, to not overlook anyone or only try to get to those who’d done well. God constantly reminded us in His word that He came especially for the overlooked and outcast and that we need to become all things to all men, so that some might be saved. It was a privilege, but also a challenge, to serve those I compete against, but I’m so thankful to have been able to do it and share the Gospel with people I usually race against…
Fanie and his brother, Chris, run Inspired2Become, one of the NGOs that we come alongside through the Cyrus Trust. Inspired2Become works with young people who are often overlooked in society, inspiring them through positive role modeling, relationship building, sports coaching, life skills and mentoring.