Ox Roberts is Partnership & Fundraising Manager at Nungalinya College in Darwin.
When I was 13, I was as tall as I am now. By age 15, I was like a man-child. One day as I was playing 1st grade Senior Football and Cricket, someone said, “Man, you’re as big as an Ox.” It stuck, and I’ve been called Ox ever since.
I grew up in a home where we attended church, but none of my friends did, and at age 16, I decided it wasn’t for me. My father was a policeman, which probably meant I rebelled even more than other kids.
For the next 12 or 13 years, I lived life my own way. I can’t believe some of the stupid stuff I did. I spent a lot of time drinking and partying with my mates. I was devoted to playing football and cricket. Being one of the boys was the main focus of my life.
I have had several life-threatening accidents in my life, but I believe God protected me because he had things he wanted me to do to advance his kingdom.
When I was four, I was run over by a car, which broke my femur clean in half and fractured my skull. I spent two weeks in hospital, but was running around again in five weeks.
At age 17, I fell off a car on a rural property doing about 50km – I had scratches and bruising but no broken bones. The following year, I fell off a ute while spotlighting with a loaded shotgun in my hand, doing about 70km an hour. Thankfully, the gun didn’t discharge, but all the people with me thought I was dead. I had significant grazing to my face and a bunged-up knee.
At age 19, I had another near-miss when a car pulled out of a side road in front of me while I was travelling at 100km an hour. I slammed on the brakes and somehow swerved to miss the other car, which was carrying five elderly people.
Over the next four years, I got into even more trouble. I was arrested a couple of times for doing silly things, and I crashed a car three times through drink-driving. On one occasion, there were 11 people in the car, so it’s miraculous that I never hurt myself or anyone else.
“I couldn’t change myself – God had to change me.” – Ox
Things started to change in my early 20s when I met my wife, Karen. We instantly connected because she had also grown up in a Christian home and had walked away. We married in 1999 and had our daughters: Amber in 2000 and Emma in 2002.
While Karen was pregnant with Amber, she became sick with pre-eclampsia and spent a lot of time in hospital. The night before Amber was born, Karen made a deal with God that if Amber and she were okay, she would raise our child in the church. We hadn’t been to church for many years, but she knew God existed.
Amber was born seven weeks early, weighing just 1.62 kg, so she lived in hospital for the first four weeks of her life. After she came home, my wife started taking Amber to church, which led to her attending the church playgroup.
“There were a couple of hundred people in that church, but I know God had that sermon just for me that day.” – Ox
When my wife got a new job and started studying, I started going to playgroup with my daughter and later our second child.
What led me back to the church was three ladies at the playgroup – Georgie, Nikki and Jenny – who just loved me and cared for me and my daughters, and I hadn’t experienced that before.
God had a plan, because the first day I went back to church, in 2003, a sports chaplain of the Western Bulldogs AFL team and the Australian Boomers basketball team gave a sermon about sports. There were a couple of hundred people in that church, but I know God had that sermon just for me that day.
For several months, God worked on my heart. But I felt I wasn’t good enough to become a Christian. I tried to change my life by getting rid of obvious sins, but failed miserably, so I almost gave up trying. Then a couple of people shared their testimonies at church, and God used their testimonies to show me that I couldn’t change myself – God had to change me. I broke down in my seat and thought, “God, I’m stuffed; I need you to fix me”.
That was on 9 November 2003. From that very moment, my life instantly changed. That night, I went to the newspaper where I was working and told my 35 work colleagues, “This morning at church, I gave my life to Jesus, and I will never be the same again.” There was dead silence and everyone was really awkward, but it didn’t bother me. My life was very different from that point on.
At that point, Karen had not yet made a decision, but the radical change in my life convinced her that God was real because there was no way that I could have changed myself, and some months later she was also baptised.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man or woman remains in me, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Since becoming a believer in 2003, I knew that my life was no longer my own and that I would always use the gifts and skills God has given me to advance his kingdom. I’ve been serving in church ever since and been in full-time ministry since 2009. My wife and I have tried to be obedient to where God has called us over the past 20 years, even though that has meant moving all over the country.
In 2019, we moved to the NT, and I became the director of Scripture Union in the NT. God opened many great opportunities for camps and programs during the next few years, and then earlier this year, God unexpectedly closed the door on my SU journey.
But being willing to be obedient to the call God put on my life, I took on a new role as Partnership & Fundraising Manager at Nungalinya College, where I pray that God will use me to share the good news of Jesus and lead others to him – just as those playgroup ladies did for me 20 years ago.
My passions are mentoring and pursuing the Great Commission, always remembering John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man or woman remains in me, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”