Arul Selvi from Bangladesh loved table tennis. "Like most sisters, I learned the game from my brother Ravi," recollects Selvi. But Ravi's interest waned and turned to other things, leaving Selvi to fend for herself in table tennis.
"I felt so insecure and was struggling to practice, that I almost gave up playing, but fortunately I met Raman."
S. Raman, a budding champion at that time motivated her to continue playing. "But what attracted me more than his encouragement was the difference in his life." Raman shared with Selvi that Jesus had made the difference in his life, and invited her to church.
Arul recalls, "I was challenged by the priest to accept Jesus as my Savior as He had died for my sins, in order that I could have peace with God." Arul gave her life to Jesus Christ and told her parents who were orthodox Hindus. They accepted her faith in Christ and even allowed her to marry Selva Kumar, who is from a Christian family.
Arul Selvi, like everyone else, has her ups and downs in table tennis. Once she ranked #1 and now she is ranked #8 in India. Whatever her rank may be, she is never ashamed to proclaim the reality of Jesus Christ in her life. Whether it is over Bangladesh TV when she won the gold medal at the South Asian Games in the mixed doubles or with her fellow players.
Peter Dias from India came from a poor middle class family in Mumbai. "Poverty prevented me from having the things I wanted, let alone my needs," recalls Peter. His teenage years brought him into contact with friends who taught him how to make easy money.
First, it was to threaten someone at another's request, slowly it turned to beatings. Finally, he became a part of a notorious gang linked to the most famous Don on the Mumbai underworld. All for the love of money.
Peter was very skinny and his new line of "business" called for a tough looking man. Peter's father, with all good intentions, motivated Peter to join a gym when he saw Peter's interest in body building. Peter was self taught and soon developed a great physique. On one hand, he won many body building titles like "Mr. Maharashtra" and even "Mr. India" for two consecutive years; on the other hand, it brought him more business in extortions.
Peter was different from the others in the extortion business who were interested in "wine, women and song," a disciplined and strong body was his life-style. His parents finally persuaded him to marry, surprisingly, a Hindu Brahmin girl. "I promised Gita I would give up the extortion business in 6 months, " laments Peter. But they were mere promises. His success in extortion, elimination of business rivals and crime, made him live more with his armed bodyguards than with his wife.
Gita persuaded Peter to take a holiday. While he traveled in another compartment with his armed guards, she sat in the ladies compartment. Gita was attracted to "Jesus Calls," a Christian magazine that a lady was reading. The lady saw Gita's interest and began to talk to her about Jesus. Gita asked a straight forward question, "can Jesus release my husband from the bondage of crime?" assuring her that Jesus could do it, the lady sent her pastor to Peter's house.
Peter seeing the pastor, decided to kill him as soon as he spoke to him. But Peter humbly says, "my spirit drank in everything that he said about Jesus. I wanted that love and peace of Jesus, more than anything. So much so, I walked with the pastor to the train station, received Christ as my Savior and came back home. It dawned on me for the first time, as far as I could remember, I had ventured out without my armed bodyguards. Jesus now was my protector."
Peter gave up all his ill-gotten gains, weapons and life of crime and lived elsewhere for over three months. In prayer, God spoke to him that he was to go back to his old house without fear of his past, even thought Peter knew that no man left the underworld and stayed alive. Peter affirms, "Jesus is my shield and my protection. I now live a simple life, working in the railways and coaching physical fitness at the YMCA. I use every opportunity to tell people of how God has taken my past away and given me a new life in Jesus Christ."
Romesh Kaluwithurana (Sri Lanka)
God means a lot to me. I come from a family where God always had first place. I have never lacked anything and know that whatever I ask He is able to supply. God is very importatnt in my life because I know whatever happens is God's will.
My wife is a commited believer who has been a great encouragement in my Christian life. We go to church regularly and read the Bible as a family.
I know God has given me this talent and I must use this talent which God has given me. Life won't be a bed of roses all the time. I may fail in cricket but I know that I am not a failure in God's eyes and I am still confident that God is the source of my strength.
My goal in life is for me to be a better Christian than what I am now to get to know God better and to be an influence and witness to other people.
Jacob Martin from India began his cricket career at the age of 5. He was fortunate enough to have a sportsman father who encouraged him at every turn. When he felt discouraged, his father would say, "Jacob, do not give up! It's when you feel low that you have to work hard and fight to succeed."
Jacob's cricket career soared. He played for Baroda and then went on to play in the inter-state competitions. He was finally selected to play for the West Zone. He continued his rise to success by soaring several centuries and being declared best batsman of the season. But, the joy of his achievements did not fill the void in his heart.
Jacob Martin should have been the happiest person on the team because he had encountered success at every level. There was, however, an emptiness in his life which he discovered only Jesus could fill. When he actually found Jesus, there was no looking back. He says, "today, my Lord helps me all the time. When I face the ball, I look to Jesus for help in scoring runs. He is greater than I."
There have been some physical failures in Jacob's career. As with every athlete in any sport, there have been times of injury and illness. At times it seemed he was unable to reach his full potential. He has felt, on more than one occasion, that he had let his team down. Over the years, he has come to realize that every situation is a learning experience. He is now able to say, "failure was good for me."
Martin will not forget the time he played a match despite serious illness. He remembers going out to the wicket without strength, taking only his bat and the name of the Lord. He played like he never had played before and went on to score more than a century while his body burned with fever. The press interviewed him later to find out how he was able to play so well despite his fever. His reply was brief, "I played in the name of God."
Jacob still will not allow his family to watch him play. They make him nervous, but his family is behind him. His greatest support has been and will always be his Divine partner: God. If life could be compared to the game of cricket, we would say that victory is as crucial in the game of life as in the game of cricket. In both cases, victory is as good as defeat without the recognition of God as God.
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