Back in late January South African, Christiaan Welman - the first ever Marvel - became part of today’s team for a whole week! It was a moment where the past, present and future all seemed to get packaged into one.
Chris is 45 now, and like me, there’s a few grey hairs that didn’t use to be there, but the heart hasn’t changed a bit, and it beats just as much for Rhondda as it did 17 years ago!! He’s still a missionary, and he and his wife Lussna, and their two children, - Geraint and Anika Sian, both of whom are Rhondda born - currently live in Germany, where Christiaan serves the Kingdom work of Operation Mobilisation.
Christiaan's visit was also a little more special for me personally, because not only was Christiaan my first Team Leader in Sporting Marvels when I joined in September 2007, but along with Kate, Christiaan was the Marvel who first identified Chelsea for the All-Star Programme. Now while there are more than a few “if that didn’t happen moments” in all aspects of life, it’s fair to say that if Christiaan didn’t take the step of faith with my Dad to pioneer the work of Sporting Marvels, there wouldn’t even be a Lawrie and Chelsea!
Christiaan’s visit was also a huge encouragement to the whole team who were so buoyed by his presence, and by what he represents in the course and direction of their own lives. In anything successful, someone has to be first, and there was a deep sense of appreciation from all the Marvels who realise that so much of what they do is only possible because of Christiaan and former Marvels who ploughed up some of the ground long before they ever pulled on our jersey!
"It was amazing having Chris with us," said Chelsea. "It was a bit emotional for me because of how he specifically impacted my own life, but definitely emotional in a happy way! I feel like he hasn’t aged at all so when he told us he was 45, I literally couldn’t believe it!! Christiaan kind of symbolises the first era of Sporting Marvels, which although I wasn’t part of as a Marvel, I was part of as an All-Star. The All-Star Programme was his idea. He started it and I was one of the very first group of twelve or so All-Stars! Then it was up to the likes of Becky, Smithy, myself and now Lauren, to take on what Christiaan started, and it's unarguable now, that the All-Star programme is a vehicle of massive influence. It’s a really big time for us at the minute and I honestly believe that Chris came just at the right time so that he could help lift our faith. Christiaan’s visit was a stark reminder of just the journey we’ve all been on, and there was a real sense of appreciation throughout!!”
It’s fitting that Chelsea used the word “era”. It's very apt in fact. You see, there’s been five eras of Sporting Marvels: three during my Dad’s leadership of the vision (2003/06, 2007/09 and 2010/12), and two during my leadership (2013/14 and 2015/present). And there’s no doubt in my mind (and in my heart too) that the fifth era of Sporting Marvels is drawing to a close. The question for us right now, is what will the sixth era look like?
Christiaan really loved his visit, and when I asked him what it was like being back in Sporting Marvels after so many years away, he replied with a very big "Wow!!" before adding, in his unmistakeable South African accent... “In many ways it felt like the old days when I joined Phil to start out this new vision laid in front of us. I loved it all, reminiscing, taking everything in, seeing the massive progress! It was refreshing, encouraging and energizing, all somehow at the same time! As I look back with you guys on what has happened over the last 16/17 years I just want to say again, WOW!!! Phil's incredible obedience to what he’s been called to do, is something I admire massively. His ability to stick to the calling, regardless of the hardships he's had to endure, and even friendships he might lose. That is really something unique and true about Phil. His ability and commitment to faithfully serve the vision with his life, still making mistakes but always willing to learn from each season, each incident. Frankly, it's humbling to witness. Never backing down, always persevering, always able to say ‘I followed and dedicated my life to the vision.’ And Lawrie, the Marvels, the team, the partner family… what a week... so intense, so fast, so awesome!! I felt lifted and I sense something changed again in me, and I’ve been encouraged to keep fighting, keep obeying and keep moving forward in my own life!”
Yes, this really was a great time for the whole vision and we’re all looking forward to see what this next season has in store for us!!