Three-time South African kickboxing champion Henk van Wyk appeared tough on the outside but behind his consuming pride was deep shame at his impoverished upbringing and pornography addiction.
"At first the pride was just a screen behind which I could hide my shame, but [then] I became so consumed with myself that there was no more space for anybody else including God," Henk confesses. "Sport became my god."
Henk grew up in a traditional church but it did not help that as a bouncer he saw the same men who sat on the pews on Sunday drinking and carousing in the club the night before.
"I believed church was a place for hypocrites," he admits.
And yet as a boy he had a high regard for God and Jesus and desired to be a preacher.
Henk's upbringing had been very poor, with his single mother trying to provide for four children. Even in high school Henk was working delivering newspapers and pumping fuel to support himself and his love of kickboxing.
He later wanted to be a lawyer but eventually became a bouncer and club manager and lost any desire to attend church or live a moral life.
The sin in your life will only destroy you"I was completely addicted to pornography from the age of 14... Pride completely consumed me... At times I used alcohol to such a degree that I would be drunk already at 10 in the morning," Henk confesses.
His search for God began on New Year's Eve 2006 when his mother, not even a Christian herself at that stage, sent him a text message with a Scripture verse on it – Jeremiah 29:11. Henk did not look it up but the next morning he took a card out of a little box called Bread of Life, as was his habit, and it contained the same verse. He didn't think it could be a coincidence.
The verse reads: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'."
"I did not get saved through this, but I believed that I was a child of God and began to pray to God to get me out of the alcohol industry and to show me His way for my life," Henk explains.
He began to watch sermons on DVD and read about Christianity, dropped his alcohol consumption, and got out of the clubbing industry into a personal training position.
Henk started going to church with his girlfriend, but the church emphasised tradition over the good news message of Jesus dying on the cross to pay for people's sins and he admits sleeping through a lot of the sermons.
It wasn't until he went to a different sort of church with his mother that Henk was challenged to make a decision to completely surrender his life to Christ and to live for God.
"On 27 October 2008, for the first time ever, I realised I was a lost sinner and on my way to hell," Henk recalls. "Although I didn't react to the invitation in church to make a commitment to Jesus, I felt God's prompting in my heart and at the end of the service I stayed behind to hear the pastor out.
"When I went home I read a verse in the Bible in 1 John 1:9 which says: 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'
"I prayed to God and said to Him that, based on this verse, I was now confessing my sins and believed that He would save me."
Henk knew his prayer had been answered when three weeks later a colleague came up to him and asked him what had happened in his life because he had changed so much.
"At that very moment I realised the sin of the past had left me and I was free from slavery to it," Henk says. "After my salvation most of the outward sins just disappeared. And in reading the Word of God (the Bible), studying it, and attending Christian gatherings as often as possible God opened my eyes to see other sins in my life and helped me to deal with them."
Henk, who before would never willingly read anything, has done a three-year Bible correspondence course, and is currently busy with a Bachelor's degree in Theology. Where once he spent every free moment in the gym and doing sport, now he spends his time preaching, studying the Bible, and evangelising in schools and businesses.
"The Lord has changed me from the most selfish person alive into a tool usable for His kingdom," Henk says humbly.
When asked what he would like to share with others about his story, he replies with conviction: "Nothing in this world could ever satisfy any of our needs, the only way to find peace and freedom is in Christ.
"The sin in your life will only destroy you and leave scars that will never be removed this side of eternity. Trust in Jesus for salvation for there is no other way." •