Jaco Van Der Westhuyzen is a successful South African rugby player who has represented his country on many occasions and won a myriad of awards and trophies. However, there could have been a different story after a career-threatening injury – if not for divine intervention… Here is the story of Jaco’s remarkable trip to The SCOAN to receive prayer from Prophet T.B. Joshua, as found in The Observer Newspaper of UK
When serious injury threatened to end his rugby career, the tough Afrikaner, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, turned to the only man who could save him: a Nigerian faith healer
“Sure, I believe in miracles. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. From an early age I was very religious. Both my parents were Dutch Reformed Christians. But it was not until 2000 that faith healing and TB Joshua, the Nigerian they call ‘the Prophet’, came into my life. I had just broken into the Springbok team when I ruptured my posterior cruciate ligament playing against Western Province one Sunday in August 2000. The doctor took X-rays and said I needed to have an operation that Wednesday. I was really down, because I desperately wanted to go on the end-of-year Bok tour.
“Here I must give credit to my wife. Her family are charismatic Christians, which means they stand up in church, clapping and singing. She, or rather her brother, had shown me this video of the Nigerian faith healer TB Joshua. I saw all the miracles he performed, such as curing people with HIV, freeing people from their wheelchairs, healing those with cancer. My wife said to me: ‘You’re pretty religious. Your faith is strong. I think you should give it a go.’ I was sceptical at first and I wasn’t too sure about the miracles. I read about them in the Bible but I thought: ‘Can this be true?’ Still, I decided not to have the operation and to take a leap of faith instead.
“Our church group landed in Lagos on a Sunday. We drove for about 45 minutes before coming to a very basic church site – 10 people to a wooden bench. It was just phenomenal to see how primitive Christianity can be while at the same time remaining so powerful. At each service, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 people, mainly poor blacks. Their riches are their faith. At five o’clock in the morning, there are 3,000 people queueing outside the church gates to get the best seats.
“For the first few days we had discussions with the disciples and talked about religion and its power. Then, on the Saturday, ‘the Prophet’ came out and delivered his message to the congregation, even though there were people in the church, scared of his powers, who wanted to kill him. It was a real eye-opener. But these doubters could not get near him. He said to us: ‘There’s somebody here who wants to kill me.’ If the guy does not come forward, the Prophet will identify him and the person ends up confessing to what he was planning.
“Towards the end of the service about 300 of us gathered in what they call the ‘healing line’. The Prophet walked down the line, identifying illnesses. When he came to me, he said I should remove my leg brace. He looked at me and it was like he had x-ray vision, like he could see immediately what was wrong with my knee. Moving his hands around as if he was tugging a rope, he seemed to pull out all the dirt and other stuff that was in my knee. Then he said to me: ‘Stand up and run.’ The brace had been on for weeks and running should have been impossible. Well, I trusted my faith and started to run – and at full speed. There was no pain.
“Back home I had another x-ray, and it showed the ligament was fine. The doctor could not believe or explain it. News of what happened started to spread and the wife of Ruben Kruger, the former Bok and Blue Bulls flanker, called me. Ruben had a brain tumour and his wife wanted me to take him to see TB Joshua. We went back to Lagos, Ruben’s brain tumour was healed and he has had no more symptoms since then.
“All the time, TB Joshua stressed that it was not him doing the healing, but the Holy Spirit operating through him. And we did not have to pay for anything, not even food. He even gives people money to buy plane tickets. He did that with me. Another Bulls and Bok player, the young lock Wium Basson, had developed terminal cancer and also went to see the Prophet. But he died soon after coming back to South Africa. You know, initially when I went to see TB Joshua it was for a quick fix, to make the Bok tour. Maybe Wium felt the same. I know for certain that he did not know the Lord as well as he should have at that time. If your faith is not right, the Lord will tell TB Joshua not to heal you. But Wium did make peace with God in Nigeria and that, for me, was the miracle. In going to see the Prophet, he probably saved himself from going somewhere else when he died. Luckily in South Africa religion is important; we often pray before matches. Most of my team-mates were not too sceptical about the faith healing. A few of the guys did give me some stick, teased me, but, really, I did not mind. I knew truthfully what had happened to me out there.
“Back home, and I think here in Britain, too, religion can become too commercialised. Often it’s not something you really believe in: it’s just something that’s there, that you do to make you feel good. I think it would be good for faith to play a bigger role in rugby, where there is a stigma that players are merely hard blokes without feelings.
“Was it strange for a white Afrikaner to seek help from a black Nigerian faith healer? I think the older generation, such as my grandparents, would have found it very difficult to fathom. But for me a person is a person and everyone has a soul. Whether you are black, white, brown or yellow we are all the same in that respect. I never thought of TB Joshua as a lesser person than me. In fact, I envy him because he has such a deep, meaningful relationship with God.
“Now I’d love to go back to Nigeria and get my spiritual batteries recharged. During the weeks we were there you could feel the presence of the Lord the whole time, even as we slept. Whenever I hit a bad patch in rugby or my life, I just think back and remember what that was like. The big thing I’ve learnt is that this life is just a dress rehearsal for what’s to come.”
The life facts
Jaco Nicolaas Boshoff van der Westhuyzen was born in Nelspruit on 6 April 1978. A boy wonder, he made his Super 12 debut at fly-half for the Natal Sharks in 1997, at the age of 19, and won an international call-up against New Zealand three years later. He has since worn the Bok jersey eight times and played at full-back against England and the All Blacks in the 2003 World Cup. Last year’s South African Super 12 player of the season joined Leicester Tigers for their 2003-04 campaign.
SOURCE: The Observer, UK