Interview by: Gillian Fraser
Article source: JOY! Magazine

In the world of cricket, JP Duminy’s name resonates with excellence and dedication. Over the past 19 years, he’s donned the Protea jersey and represented various T20 teams globally, leaving an indelible mark on the sport. Yet, beneath the cricketing glory lies a remarkable journey of faith, transformation, and unwavering commitment to serving others. In this exclusive interview, JP Duminy opens up about how his professional cricket career profoundly impacted his life and faith, the pivotal moments that moulded his spiritual journey, and his unwavering dedication to serving his community and country. Through his story, Duminy inspires us to find significance in serving others, a message that carries hope for South Africa and the world in the face of challenges.

Q. How has your journey in professional cricket impacted your life and faith?
It has impacted my life and faith tremendously. The appreciation and gratefulness for the opportunity to represent the Proteas, and also represent a few T20 teams around the world, has truly been a blessing. It has obviously provided many opportunities to travel the world, to meet some amazing people, and to play with players from different countries and teams. I think that has certainly impacted me. But it has also impacted the journey of sharing the Gospel. I have had great opportunities throughout my career to share my testimony, to bear testament to the people that I’ve played with, and that has shaped me in terms of my character, my life, and my faith.

Q. Could you reflect on any particularly significant moments or challenges in your cricket career that helped shape your spiritual journey?
There have certainly been a few significant moments, but one that comes to mind is just the experience and feeling of emptiness inside of me. During the early parts of my career, my identity was largely shaped by my performance. If I wasn’t playing well, my self-esteem suffered, and conversely, when I was performing well, I felt confident and worthy. That’s a rollercoaster ride because in professional sport, especially cricket, there are many variables, and you often find yourself not performing your best. So, the significant moment for me was understanding that there had to be something deeper and more to my career. This realisation shaped my spiritual journey because there was a longing for more, an emptiness inside of me, despite the occasional boost in confidence from good performances. It wasn’t until around 2009 or 2010 when I met some impactful people in my life, those in my inner circle, who shared the Word and helped me understand that there’s a loving Father who wants a relationship with me, something I didn’t grasp well back then. I embarked on a journey with these influential individuals who still play a significant role in my life today. They helped me realise and understand who God is in our lives. This transformation in my spiritual journey had a profound impact on my cricketing career, especially during a challenging period in 2012-2013 when I suffered a nerve injury and snapped my Achilles tendon, keeping me out of the game for seven months. It was during this time that I truly began to understand the Lord, and it marked the start of my journey in building a relationship with Him.

Q. Can you share more about your conversion to Christianity during the 2013 Sri Lanka tour?
Sri Lanka was a pivotal moment, genuinely experiencing the Holy Spirit coming into my life. Faf du Plessis played a pivotal role in that journey. A few months before, he had received Christ and was on a mission to bring Bible study connections into the team. I was his first candidate, so we embarked on this journey together for a couple of weeks during our tour. We went through some material about what it means to have a relationship with God, and our group grew within the team. You could sense that there was an interest and a longing for something more in some of the guys’ lives, considering what we were going through. We committed our lives to God in that country and declared with our mouths and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. It was a life-changing moment, and I remember calling my pastor, parents, and my wife to tell them the good news. This decision has significantly impacted my life up until now. It’s been a beautiful journey filled with trials and tribulations, testing my faith. I’m reminded of James 1:2, which talks about how the testing of your faith creates perseverance. Our trials and tribulations continue to be part of the journey. But the silver lining is that I wouldn’t want it any other way. The Lord has been faithful through the highs and lows. I feel His presence constantly, knowing where I am in my life. Whether in my job or career, the opportunity to influence and impact people’s lives lies within the Holy Spirit in me. For me, it’s about sharing these stories and experiences that hopefully give hope to those who need Christ in their lives. I’m certainly not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a fallen creature in need of a saviour, and fortunately, Jesus Christ came in and saved me. I’m very grateful, and I hope that my journey and story will continue to help people come to Christ.

Q. How has your faith helped you navigate the challenges you face on and off the field?
It continues to be a journey. Doubts, pressure, and fears continue to pop up from time to time. The thing that always comes to mind for me is identity. What do we root our identity in? My identity was rooted around performance. Whether it’s in the business world, family, or in my case, the sporting career, if performance is all you’re after, it’s a shallow journey because it comes and goes. That’s why there was a need and a seeking for something more, and I came to understand that my identity lies within Christ. He says I’m good enough. He is the fulfilment of my faith, the Alpha and the Omega, and He navigates my steps. If that is the case, no matter what we experience – doubt, fear, pressure – if I can stay rooted in who He is and who He says I am, I believe that gives me the best chance to navigate whatever comes my way. What is the Lord doing? That’s always the pivotal question for me, really trying to rest in the fact that He has a plan and a purpose for my life, and whatever we go through, He uses it for our good.

Q. How do you maintain spiritual growth while being in the public eye?
The main theme here is that it’s not about me. Professional sport encourages the idea that it’s all about you because it revolves around your performance and team performance. I’m not saying that’s completely wrong, but I think it’s important to emphasise perspective. In professional sport and the public eye, the glory that you receive, you should give away. That’s where the growth in my spiritual life lies. As much as I’m in the public eye, and despite the demands of professional cricket, how do I give the glory away? How do I uplift other people? How do I encourage others with it? The key understanding here is that when you’re given credibility, what do you do with it? Do you serve yourself, or do you serve others? I believe that is a crucial lesson I’ve come to understand better over the years. It’s not always easy because we all have egos and pride, which can sometimes cloud our judgement in how we respond to various things, what we say, and how we interact with people. The journey of self-awareness is pivotal in our spiritual journey. If we are aware of where we are, what we are, and who we are, it shapes our character and influences how we respond to adversity and success. Realising that there’s so much more to this journey than just personal success, but also significance in how we impact other people’s lives.

Q. You’re currently the batting coach for the Proteas. How has the transition from playing to coaching influenced your perspective on the game and your relationship with the players?
I always looked at my playing career, representing my country, as something bigger than me. The purpose was always significant in that I was representing 60 million people. And with that, there’s such a huge responsibility. Even though the expectation can be daunting at times, I took hold of that responsibility and tried to be influential in a humble way. I aimed to use that platform to serve others. That transition was tough because I wasn’t part of a team environment anymore. I almost felt like I lacked a bit of purpose. But I certainly found great perspective and purpose in coaching because it’s very much about the next person. It’s about who you’re influencing, helping, and mentoring. But it literally starts with relationship building. The influence that you have depends on your ability to build a relationship based on trust. You might have significant insights to share within the game or provide perspective on life, but if the person you’re speaking to isn’t on the same page in terms of the relationship or they don’t feel like they can trust you, it’s not going to have the impact you want it to.

Q. You’ve mentioned the importance of balancing your career with family life. How do you and your wife navigate this?
It’s an ongoing journey and certainly something that we are very cognisant of, and we try to converse with each other quite often about it. How do we put great emphasis on our family while also maintaining perspective on certain goals and aspirations that we have in life? The critical piece here is my wife; she plays such an important role in this. She, in many ways, supports me in fulfilling my goals and aspirations as a coach. The beauty is that we’re fortunate because she loves travelling, as do my two daughters. They come on tour with me whenever we have an opportunity to do so. My wife is somebody who loves exploring different parts of the world, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people. That gives her great perspective and purpose. The opportunity to see and experience new things inspires her, which ties into my job as well, as it requires me to travel to different countries and cities, providing me with various opportunities to learn and grow in different ways. My wife wants to expose our kids to life beyond just our home and immediate surroundings, using that as a schooling mechanism in many ways. We’ve recently made the decision to homeschool our kids, and one of the primary reasons behind that is to enable them to travel. So far, it’s been working quite nicely for us, allowing us to spend time together while also providing them with the schooling opportunities they need.

JP and his wife Sue with their daughters: Alexa-Rose and Isabella

Q. What values do you and Sue prioritise in raising your children, Alexa-Rose and Isabella?
I think, first and foremost, I’m a great believer that the way I treat Sue and the way I speak to her, my behaviours around her, will dictate a lot of what my daughters receive and understand as values for us as a family. So, while it’s important to share great things about values like respect and love for each other, I believe it’s the actions and behaviours behind those values that will truly make a difference. With that comes great perspective on sharing our faith with them and speaking about who Jesus is in our lives. We aim to be a representation of that, to show the impact our relationship with God has on us, and hope it reflects onto our kids. The language we use in our house is very intentional. We often talk about loving each other and encourage them to respect and treat others well. We use examples of how Jesus treated people He came across, emphasising not being judgemental but rather intentional with people, standing firm in what you believe. However, this doesn’t mean showing disrespect to others’ viewpoints. We appreciate where people stand on various topics, but that doesn’t mean it should influence our core values and principles in our home. These things are continually evolving for us as a family, especially in a society that throws many curveballs and brings about many questions. It’s important for us to navigate through those questions and provide answers as best we can. It’s an ongoing journey, one that we can appreciate.

Q. Your JP21 Foundation focuses on transforming hearts and communities. How can the principles you’ve learnt through your faith contribute to positive change?
It all comes down to the principle of serving others rather than serving oneself. Throughout my career, I’ve had my fair share of successes, and this has given me a certain level of credibility. The question is, how do you use that credibility to make a positive impact on other people’s lives? In 2015, we established the JP21 Foundation, and over the years, we’ve witnessed incredible transformations within communities, especially among the younger generation. Our focus is on providing hope and perspective to these young minds by exposing them to success stories and different ideas. This initiative is deeply connected to my faith journey because I believe that my career has been a gift from God. Understanding this, I feel compelled to utilise my position to positively influence others. It’s crucial to recognise that as a role model, your behaviour matters, and consistency is vital in our society. We aim to instil these values in the JP21 Foundation. Recently, we launched a new sports ministry programme within our foundation, led by one of our coaches, Chaern Golding. We’ve already witnessed significant positive changes in a community struggling with issues like alcohol and drug abuse, as well as gangsterism. Through this programme, we use sports as a vehicle to deliver a message of hope through the Gospel, emphasising that Jesus loves and wants a relationship with everyone. It’s been an incredible journey, and we’re excited about the impact we can continue to make.

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Date published: 15/11/2023

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