‘In the achievement-focused cricketing world, I was suddenly confronted by something I had no control over’

Kim’s story | Bowled over by God

“I was playing cricket for South Australia, semi-professionally. In July of 1984, I said to my wife I wanted to give it one more crack, to see if I could finish off my career well. I was training really hard. The same month, the doctors discovered I needed open-heart surgery. It was picked up by chance. I had a condition that had been there since childhood but never been detected. They couldn’t believe I’d been training at that level. I was the fittest bloke on the side because I was training so hard, but my main artery was completely blocked.

The doctors said if I didn’t have the surgery it would kill me within two years. There were also high risks in doing the surgery. I was feeling very confronted. I had a wife and four kids. The youngest was 15 months old. In the sporting world, it’s all about self-achievement. You push yourself and you achieve. I’d never been confronted with something I had no control over. I was extremely challenged.

At the same time, my wife was involved in the local church. I went along with her, to appease her more than anything else. When I told her about the open-heart surgery, she spoke to our friends at church. The husbands in the group all said they’d like to come around and pray for me. They did that. It was a powerful experience in my life. I remember sitting there in my lounge room and they were all praying for me, and the whole burden was lifted off, right there. I committed my life to Jesus on the spot. It was quite incredible. I knew that God was with me. I knew that Jesus was Lord.

I remember going into surgery the next week. My pulse was low. I was at peace – knowing that God was in control, but not knowing the outcome. I could trust him with everything. It was very powerful.

The surgery took six hours. They joined the main artery back together. It was a massive procedure. Afterwards, my blood pressure was very high, so I couldn’t take pain meds. I was hanging from the rafters. But I do remember lying there, learning so many lessons, in excruciating pain. It was the first time I really started to pray. The pain wasn’t taken away, but something changed within that. God was leading me through it.

Afterwards, I became the flavour of the month. I was suddenly more famous than I had been before. There was even a billboard in Adelaide, saying, ‘South Australian sports star faces open-heart surgery.’

Part of that meant I was asked to speak at youth groups and Christian conventions. I’m not sure being a cricket player makes you more qualified to speak about Jesus, but the process really helped me to think about my faith deeply. I always told the kids about the parable of the talents. God has a plan for us. We don’t know what it is, but he will bring it about through the power of his Holy Spirit. We need to accept what the Lord Jesus has done for us on the cross. He died for us and rose again. We need to worship him, to glorify him in all that we do. We also shouldn’t put limitations on the circumstances that God might use to bring that about!

After the surgery, I didn’t play professional cricket again. I played locally and then I got heavily involved in coaching at schools. Then in 2007, Rod Marsh asked me to coach the Redbacks (SA side). You can imagine the demeanour of an all-male, gung-ho, professional sporting team. I was really challenged going into it. But I knew there were two guys on the side who were both Christians. And all the blokes in the team knew where I was coming from, and they appreciated it. I think it provided the stability the team needed. And for me, my Christian faith has underpinned everything in my life since that day in 1984. The biggest impact on me has been doing regular studying of God’s word on a daily basis. It’s been incredible – a very exciting journey so far!”

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey …” (Matthew 25:14-15)

Kim’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.