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05 August 2014

Henry Olonga, Cricketer

Henry Olonga, Cricketer

Henry Olonga is a former professional cricketer for Zimbabwe who hit the headlines for publicly criticising the Zimbabwean government in 2003. Along with fellow player Andy Flower, they wore black armbands in a cricket match to call for an end to the human rights abuses carried out under the leadership of Robert Mugabe.

What were the implications of what you said about Zimbabwe?
It was a very uncertain time, because in spite of the fact that I knew that this was something I was compelled to do by my Christian conviction, there weren't any real guarantees that I would come out the other end. So when we discussed the possible fallout from our actions, we were very much aware of the fact that exile was one of those consequences, imprisonment was another, and death was another.

How did your faith help you?
The fact we'd already discussed the implications and already faced the music made it easier to face when I had to leave Zimbabwe. I now live in Somerset with my wife Tara and my two young daughters. There were some very real issues to deal with that would change my life, and I had to be very strong. My Christian faith helped me to deal with the consequences;as well as the extraordinary generosity from all over the world, particularly in this country.

How did you become a Christian?
I became a Christian at 16. I started to develop a strong conscience, things that were acceptable to me before my conversion started to become unacceptable. This came from reading the Bible and attending church. Before I was very quick to judge;as are many people. It's hard to understand that God's value system is very different to ours. God sees everyone and He treasures and values them.

What have you been doing since you left professional cricket?
I did play cricket here, with a travelling side full of former professionals. I have since worked for the BBC and Channel 4, and as an evangelist. God grew a love for people in me which I suppose you could say was the sowing of the seeds for itinerant evangelism. I'm working on an album that I hope will be out by the end of the year.

How has being a parent changed you?
One of the great lessons of being a parent… it helps you to be more loving I believe love is something you give. In a world that interprets love as being quite self-centred, having kids makes you look on it in a balanced way. It gives you a fraction of a glimpse of what God's heart is towards us as a father, as a provider, as a protector, and so on. You kind of walk in his shoes in the smallest of ways. I've learned about patience, compassion, and grace.

What have you enjoyed at the Keswick Convention this year?
Ravi Zacharias is one of my heroes. I love people who preach apologetics, who help us as believers to contend for the faith. It's good to catch up with thousands of people in one place where you've got an extraordinary spiritual vibe, believers together believing God for amazing things.

Any final thoughts?
The Lord provided an extraordinary measure of grace in times of great testing. If I wasn't a believer, what would I turn to, to find strength and hope and sustenance? God has provided for me physically and financially and protected me through dangerous times.

Henry Olonga was interviewed by Heather Tomlinson on behalf of Keswick Ministries