I remember the day I met JP. It was day one of the u/19 National Cricket Week 2001. A rather memorable introduction to a small huddle of boys; Rory Kleinveldt, Vernon Philander, Ryan Bailey, William Hantam and of course JP Duminy.
Duminy is currently one of South Africa’s most valuable players in all three formats of the game. He made his ODI debut in 2004, but only played five games for his country in that year. Two years later he returned to the international scene. It was however his Test debut in 2008 against Australia that set him apart as a world-class cricketer. Standing in for the injured Ashwell Prince, he helped lead South Africa to victory with an unbeaten 50, chasing a mammoth 414. Duminy continued his heroic form by scoring an incredible 166 in the second Test match, contributing to South Africa ending on 459 after starting the morning on 198-7. He impressed the entire cricket world and consequently, in 2009 he landed himself a two year contract with the IPL Mumbai Indians for a lucrative amount of US$950 000 per year.
Just when he thought that life could not get any better, he met the love of his life. JP walked up to say “hello” to a beautiful girl modelling the new cricket kit at a launch in Johannesburg. After dating for two and a half years, on the 25th of June 2011, Jean- Paul Duminy said, “I do” to Suerette Mare Erasmus. It was indeed a fairy-tale Wedding.
The little boy from Strandfontein, Cape Town, has now became a rock star in the sporting world. He earned the dollars, is married to a tall blond model, and is highly esteemed in his profession; life was good, almost perfect. However, JP soon realized that although he was on top of the world, there was a void in his life that he just could not fill.
“I always had a sense that something was missing in my life”
On one of his domestic tours with the Cape Cobras he sat next to Dieter Swanepoel, Cobras fitness trainer. Dieter made use of the two hours stuck next to JP on their flight and took the liberty to share his salvation testimony. This left an impression on JP. “I wanted to know what caused him to make such a dramatic change in his life”
After that flight the two of them became good friends. One day Dieter invited JP to a Bible study session at his pastor’s house. “I remember clearly that I was very uncomfortable, all the guys were saved… I did not say much… I realized that it was not for me.”
However, JP contacted the pastor later in that week and asked to see him personally. “I think the uncomfortable part of it (the initial Bible study) was that I always felt that everyone was watching me, probably nobody was watching me. It was just my perception of other people and who I was as a public figure.”
JP then started to meet with the pastor one-on-one on a regular basis. They became really good friends and today JP and Sue are members of his church. The time he spent with the pastor fostered a safe space to ask questions that he was wrestling with. During the Australia tour of 2012, JP started to test his longing for something more with one of his teammates, wondering if he was the only one on this search.
“I remember clearly that we were in a warmup game. I was standing next to Faf du Plessis in the field and I asked him, ‘Do you ever feel that something is missing in your life?’ -He looked at me as if to say, ‘What are you talking about?’- I then explained, that I meant that something might be missing from a spiritual point of view. He said, ‘Nah, I have not really thought about it”
They never spoke about the subject again for a few months. To some degree, that question might have been the
trigger for Faf to start to think about his own life and his walk with God. Faf then ventured on his own journey with the Lord and made a personal commitment to follow Jesus. (I will have to sit down and have a coffee with Faf so that I can tell you the details of the story- hopefully soon!!). JP was once again inspired as he witnessed yet another dramatic change in someone’s life. This time, it was one of his teammates. Faf took it on himself to be the leader of the pack and encourage the boys on tours. He started Bible study meetings which JP attended.
One evening they had another Bible study group and the topic was salvation. At the end of the chapter, the question was asked: Are you ready to make this commitment? “I then committed to following Christ.” Sri Lanka, 27 July 2013 became a date to remember in the life of JP Duminy “That was the most revitalizing, most powerful day I’ve had in my life…that decision changed the rest of my life”
JP went back to his room. It was already early morning hours. He tried to phone the pastor but he could not get hold of him. “I phoned my mom and my dad and my wife and I shared with them the commitment I made… they were overjoyed and confused” The pastor called him back the next morning. JP shared the great news with him as well as with Dieter.
I personally remember receiving a message from one of the players who was also in that Bible study group, telling me the good news of JP’s decision to follow Jesus. I was thrilled by the news!
Coming back from the tour, JP shared his journey with his wife Sue, who also made a commitment to have a personal relationship with God. A month later they were both baptized together, on the 7th of September 2013.
Following Jesus is an adventure of living life to the full and being satisfied by His love for you (John 10:10). It is however not without its challenges. “The first 6 months were very challenging, especially in the area of friendship. Considering I was not indulging in the same activities as I used to… it was an adjustment for my friends and for me trying to find my feet in how I wanted to manage my relationships… it was an uncomfortable process. Fortunately I had people helping me through that process.”
JP was happy to be at home for Christmas in 2014. Cricket players hardly get to spend Christmas with family and friends due to the Boxing Day Test. One of the biggest setbacks in JP’s career must be the countless injuries he had over the years. He tore his Achilles in 2012 which resulted in a seven month period at home. This time it was a knee injury that kept him out of the Boxing Day Test match. I remember sending him a message sharing the scripture; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God surely turned things around; from a bad injury to a Christmas with friends and family that marked another memorable moment in JP’s walk with the Lord.
“I opened with prayer and I shared a scripture with them… one of my good friends then stood up and spoke on behalf of all the friends and just said how proud they were of the commitment Sue and I made, and how they support it. This was the turning point as I needed to hear that. Now I am in a position to encourage them and I feel ten times more comfortable saying no to things or just walking away. I understand that this is my journey. It’s a journey that I need to keep growing in. Yes, I do bump my head ten times a day. There are many challenges but I know that God is constant through those challenges.”
JP is a role-model to many young boys and girls. He recently started the JP21 community project. Its long-term objectives are to promote a positive and healthy lifestyle. The project takes on the form of a school cricket league providing the opportunity to the youth of Mitchell’s Plain and Strandfontein to enjoy the game of cricket and establish a culture in the community where values like respect, kindness, transparency and integrity are being modelled. Duminy is hoping to see a youth ministry birthed out of this project. He has realized that fullness of life starts with a relationship with God and his desire is to see that the kids not only become great cricketers but that they too will experience the deep satisfaction that he now knows.
JP inspires many athletes not only those in cricket. I used to work at the SARU Boland Rugby Academy as a mental coach and I asked JP about a year ago to come and share his journey as a professional sportsmen. One of the players asked him a question to which he answered: “I was scared.” An answer which made him vulnerable because it could make him sound weak. JP did not share his salvation testimony with the players on that occasion or even mentioned God, but that answer spoke volumes to the players and myself. That day I saw a man whose identity was no longer found in what he does or what people think about him. His identity was now found in Jesus and what He has done for him on the cross.
The rugby boys stared at JP with big eyes, as if to say, “Did you just confess that you were scared?” JP, with so much wisdom and grace used the opportunity to speak to them about the value of vulnerability. “When you can admit that you are scared or that you struggle with something, you will be more willing to look for help. I got help and as a result I have improved in that area.” He continued to encourage them to not be scared of making mistakes or mention their weaknesses, but to find someone they trust, speak up and get help.
JP Duminy’s message is simple: Be true to yourself –Life has its obstacles but every setback is an opportunity for a comeback!!