Challenge Sport

Bigger reward than rugby

Timo plays
Timo played for Western Samoa at the 1991 Rugby World Cup

He played rugby like an All Black and embraced sporting culture and the fame that came with it but Timo Tagaloa says he soon realised his life was "going nowhere fast".

"I obtained the popularity that I was after but on the inside I was empty, lonely and seriously considering suicide," Timo admits.

Coming from a Samoan background and a large family with eight siblings, he grew up with many financial difficulties and struggled to fit in to the New Zealand culture.

"Violence was also prevalent in my family as I was growing up and there was a lot of yelling and screaming," he says.

"That was something that became a bad habit of mine too, I became short-tempered and would often yell and shout."

Apart from struggling with anger and jealousy, Timo confesses that looking at pornography also began to "ruin life".

"I think I was trying to find an escape from the problems I was facing," he says.

"I got to travel all over the world and any of the places that I would go touring with the rugby team I used to hope that they'd have adult movies on the TV channels in our rooms," he admits.

It was a temporary fix but Timo says he began to see its negative impact on his life and could not shake the thought that he had no purpose or reason to live.

Brought up in a religious home, Timo considered God to just be an "add-on" and was not impressed with the church, which he perceived to be full of hypocrites "trying to earn their way to heaven".

"I felt that going to church was performance oriented and that you had to fit-in with the 'in' people," he says. "I wondered if there was more to life than just going to church."

One day Timo was approached by a man on the way to the local scout hall who wanted to ask him a few questions.

"He asked me, 'If your were to die tonight, how sure are you that you would spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven?'," Timo recalls.

"Then he asked, 'If Jesus asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?' and I couldn't answer that question."

Intrigued by the man's questions, Timo listened as he explained that it was not enough to just know about God but that each person had to make their own personal decision to follow Him and put God first, above all else.

The man shared with Timo how much God loved him but also how he had been separated from God because of the wrong thoughts and actions, labelled as sin, that he had done in his life.

Realising that his anger, jealousy and continual lust left him guilty before God, it suddenly dawned on Timo that there was no way he could make himself right with God on his own.

Timo and family
Timo and Frances with sons Joshua (19, left) and Trent (17)

"I could relate to what he was saying, especially with the sin part," he recalls. "I knew I had been trying to earn my own way into Heaven."

"Then this person shared with me how I could know God personally through Jesus and I knew that this was what was missing in my life.

"I thought I was already a Christian because of my religious upbringing but I began to realise that it was just a religion and not a relationship."

After the man explained to Timo that there was a difference between the self-directed life and the Christ-directed life, he accepted the opportunity to pray a simple prayer to ask God to forgive him and help him live the Christ-directed life.

"After asking God to take control of my life, I can now say I have direction and purpose for my life," he says.

"God has given me a new eternal perspective in the way I look at life and has helped me overcome my sins by renewing my mind and reminding me that all these things that I desire are all temporal and don't last."

Timo is now serving God in a sports ministry called Athletes in Action and is using the platform of sports to share Christ with others, like that man once did for him.

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