BY MARCO LABUSCHAGNE
I was raised by religious parents in South Africa, in a small farming community called Winterton. They taught me about Jesus from the time that I was very small. I absolutely loved going to church, mostly to hear the pastor say that my hair looked neat, shortly before passing out on my mothers’ lap for the rest of the service. Growing up in South Africa, sport is a big part of your life. .So it was with rugby for me. I couldn’t get enough of the sport, and dreamed of representing my country at the national level.
In primary school I discovered that I had talent in a few sporting categories, but I would go on to focus on rugby in my high school years. I used athletics as my preparation for the rugby season ahead. In my final year of school, I was preparing to play other SA Schools and represent the country at my age group level. But in our third match, I got a very serious ankle injury. My mom and I went to Potchefstroom to perform blood doping - where someone takes your blood, spins it and it separates the white blood cells from the red and then injects the white cells back into my muscle tear to speed up the healing process. In that week on the 26 of May 2016, my mom sent me a video of a man called Uncle Angus Buchan, a well-known evangelist. He spoke about how people should use God-centred, not self-centered prayers, and all of a sudden he stopped and said he felt that there was a rugby player watching the video who is struggling to play provincial, or regional level. And if he believes he can do anything through God, he will not only play provincially, but nationally.
Unfortunately, the lady who took the sonar of my ankle told me I would be out for 8 weeks. In order to be eligible for my age group at the national level, I had to play in the regional tournament beforehand, which was in 5-6 weeks. We went back the next week for one more injection and the lady took a sonar again. She said that it was only through prayer that the tear could have healed that much, but that it was still not where it had to be.
Because of my 2015 season, my coach said I just had to get onto the field so he could select me, so that it wouldn’t be unfair to the other players. Although it was estimated that I would be out for 8 weeks, I was able to play my first match after 5 weeks, being selected for the regional team. From the very first game I was able to play with full confidence that my ankle was fine. I had an amazing tournament and after each match, there were predictions made by various people, news agencies etc., about which players they thought would represent at the national level. And I was on everyone’s list. I was very confident that I would be selected easily. The results came in, and I did not make it. For the first time ever I cried over not making a team. I was so sure and I was frustrated with God because I really had trusted Him for this.
By the grace of God, I got a contract in the western province with the SA sevens, a different format of rugby where only seven players for each team are on the field. The contract would start in 2017, my first year out of school. On the 22 April 2017 there was a massive prayer day for South Africa called ITS TIME. There were over a million people gathered in the presence of God, and the preacher was the same Uncle Angus Buchan, who I look up to so much because of the boldness of his faith.
I had given my life to God so many times, but this time it was different.
I had given my life to God so many times, but this time it was different. When I gave my life to Christ on that day, my whole life changed. My bad habits stopped, and God became tangible to me, more real than the people around me. I could always give everything to God, but never my rugby. I found my identity in the sport; it was my life. When I went back to Stellenbosch, I would go and sit at a soccer field there and spend time with God and in the Word of God. Two weeks after I gave my life to God, I was able to give rugby to God. And two weeks after giving rugby to God, my sevens academy coach told me to go and pack my bags, that I would be flying out to London that night to join the senior Blitsboks, (our country’s senior open group team in the sevens format). I made my debut on the national team on the 22 May 2017, almost exactly a year from when my mom sent me the video of Angus Buchan. The word I trusted God for bore fruit, and I give all honor and Glory to God.
This is significant for me because I always thought of rugby as my sport. It was always “my rugby.” I gave God control when I gave my life to Christ. He had sped my healing to be able to represent my country at the national level when I was just 19 years old; and despite being from one of the smallest regions in the country, and attending a high school that was not considered to be able to compete against bigger schools.
The second miracle was this - On the 22 January 2018, I was baptised in Bethlehem in the Eastern Free state where my high school is. On that day, the pastor who baptised me, referenced the verse he believed came from God, Judges 6:12, where the angel of God said to Gideon, ”I am with you, mighty man of valour”. God was saying that I am a mighty man! I have learned from experience and through the Word that God sometimes speaks through people and through confirmations. So I put the verse aside and kept it in my heart. At the end of 2018, I moved from Cape Town to Pretoria for a rugby opportunity. I joined a church and became friends with a man named Petrus. We would keep each other accountable: iron sharpening iron. One day, he asked me if he could write something in my book and when I looked to see what he had written, it was Judges 6:12. It was the exact same message God gave me when I was baptised, saying that I am a mighty man, God's confirmation. We will never fully comprehend the God we serve, but He is a God of miracles!
We will never fully comprehend the God we serve, but He is a God of miracles!
The third miracle in my life is - After a frustrating three dry years of rugby, due to a lot of things out of my control, injuries, politics, etc., I was in a season where I really wanted to start trusting God for a breakthrough in my life. Then early in 2021, a girl came up to me in church and said “I know this is very random, but I have a word from God for you. I don’t know you from anywhere, but God showed me a sailboat.” She described how I represented the sailboat, and the boat was in a storm. The wind and rain are pulling and pushing it all over the place and it feels like there is no direction, no knowledge of where the boat is going next; and how God is saying He has His hand under the boat and He is taking me through the storm, that the breakthrough is on the way. For a moment I had to stop my jaw from dropping open! She had explained the season I was in perfectly. As the year went by, God taught me so many lessons and eventually no real breakthrough came physically, although I did put the word she gave me aside, and waited for the confirmation. So eventually, closer to the end of the year, a friend of mine came to me in church, and he told me he had a word from God for me. At this point I was at a stage where I did not know what to do next, still having a year left to study, but not wanting to play rugby for the university. I was trusting God for a word again, so when my friend approached me I was ecstatic. He said he saw a compass and the needle was spinning fast. It may not look like I can see what direction to go, but that God was busy preparing me for the true north and that my direction would soon be revealed. And I just started crying. I was really feeling low, confused and frustrated and God came through again. God is almost never on our timetable, but God is never late. We may never know what God’s definition of “soon” is, but all we can do is trust. Since the last time I received word from this friend, I have signed a contract with a club in Portugal, after another rugby opportunity brought me here.
There are numerous other miracles that God has done in my life. God uses people to speak to us and confirm His Word. Are we trusting Him? Or have we lost hope in the waiting? So whether Portugal is my breakthrough season or not, I will trust God and be content in Him. I believe that my breakthrough will come and I also know that God can use seasons like this as a waiting room, to prepare me for what is to come. All I know is that I have so much peace with whatever God has for my life. Whatever God has planned for us is so much bigger and better than what we could ever plan ourselves!