16 July 2012

The Radical Call of Tatenda Taibu

by Dr Mark Keown

I dreamed of being an international cricketer in my younger days. Each year, I played rugby in winter, cricket in summer, and wanted to be one of those double All Blacks who played both codes for NZ. I made it to Premier Club level in both and perhaps might have made it higher if I had stayed in sport. However, once Jesus got a hold of me in my early twenties and called me to preach, it was all over, and I gave away competitive sport to follow Jesus’ call.

It was a hard decision at one level, sport was so important to me. At another level, due to my radical experience of conversion and involvement in evangelism and ministry, it was easy because all I wanted to do was to obey Jesus and tell people about him. I still feel the same. While this is not the call of every Christian sportsman, many of whom stay in the sport to play and give witness, it was my call. I have never regretted this decision and am where I am today because I dared to say yes as we should all do, no matter what the call is.

With this in mind, I was intrigued to read recently of Tatenda Taibu. Tatenda Taibu is a much more successful sportsman than I ever was and who has much more at stake. Until a week ago, he was a wicketkeeper batsman for Zimbabwe after a 11 year career. First selected at 18, just 3 years later at age 21, he became not only the first black captain of the national cricket team, but the youngest test cricket captain of all time. He was a fine player with an impressive record, scoring 5198 runs, average around 30, 3 centuries and 34 fifties, and taking 215 wicketkeeping dismissals across all forms of international cricket – impressive. He was internationally regarded, playing in the lucrative IPL. He is just coming into his prime as a cricketer and could likely have played on into his late thirties and made an awful lot more money.

Yet, last week on the 10th of July at age 29, shocking many, he retired from cricket to do church work. He is quoted as saying, “I just feel that my true calling now lies in doing the Lord’s work, and although I am fortunate and proud to have played for my country, the time has come for me to put my entire focus on that part of my life.”

Tibby, as he is nicknamed, has turned his back on pursuit of glory and has devoted his life to preaching. While a successful sportsman, he admits seeking true happiness and has found it in God. Renowned for his love of money and bling, he has renounced this preferring to store up treasure in heaven. He has put aside his bad boy image. He once fell out with the Zimbabwe cricket team for two years and played in South Africa. During this time he was charged for assaulting a Zimbabwe cricket official. Now, on the wall of his house is written, “I am God’s disciple – Taibu.” He has also said, “there is no looking back. I have stepped over the line. I won’t let up, or shut up. My focus is clear, my path straight, my God reliable, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” His wife’s name is Loveness, his children Taibus, Tatenda (Jnr), and Gershom Paul (named after Moses’ son and the Apostle). He is raising his children in the Lord – “through him, the sky is the limit for me and my family.” He is a member of the Eagle Eye Tabernacle.

It is interesting reading blog sites and comments on ESPN Cricinfo, where critics debate his decision, mostly critical and showing little comprehension. Yet, those of us who know Jesus, know that Tatenda Taibu illustrates the heart of true discipleship found at the call of the first disciples (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11) and through history; namely, if called to do so by Jesus, to be prepared to give up anything for him and to pursue his call no matter what the cost.

May we be inspired to do the same, and may Tibby, his family and the church be richly blessed as he preaches God’s word.

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