Earlier this year Frans Ludeke stepped down as head coach of the Bulls and is on his way to the 2015 Rugby World Cup as part of the Fiji coaching team. We popped in at the Ludeke family before Frans rejoins the Fiji team for their final preparation.
When Frans talks about the new phase in his life, he is suddenly moved because the faithfulness and provision of God overwhelms him. “On the day that I walked out of my last team meeting with the Bulls players, Jake White, a good friend of mine, gave me a call to find out about my availability since John Mackee, the coach of Fiji was looking for a forwards coach for the World Cup. That call, out of the blue, was an answer to prayer! The Lord opened the Fiji door. Ever since I started walking with the Lord, my life has been full of testimonies like this. This is how the Lord provides; He always knows what is best.
A new beginning
It is exciting to get to know another culture in a new country and Frans views this as a phase where he can focus on a new vision for the road ahead. “I had an amazing time at the Bulls and the Lions, and now I am stepping into the international arena. I am learning to trust God in a whole new way. I am in a country where I did not know anyone and I am totally reliant on the Lord to grant me favour. I would like to offer more than just rugby, but the Lord is the One that grants you access to the heart of another and gives you the opportunity to speak into their life. I enjoy it there, not only because I mean something to them, but also for what they mean to me.”
Where did it all start?
Frans grew up as he puts it, “under the sound Word of God” with the Gospel ringing in his ears at school and at church. Yet, his relationship with the Lord only became a reality to him the day the Holy Spirit opened his eyes and he received the Lord as his Saviour and Shepherd of his life.
“At school my talent for sport was my identity, but when disappointments and setbacks brought me to the end of myself, I sought answers from the Lord that I got to know at school and in the church. In that search I found the Shepherd of my life, in His presence I realised that my lifestyle, attitude and language did not glorify Him. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my stubborn and sinful lifestyle and all this despite the fact that I had already been confirmed in the church.
I realised that I did not value the sacrifice of grace that Jesus paid for my sins on the Cross. It brought me to deep repentance. I confessed my sinful lifestyle and asked the Lord to forgive me and to make everything new so that my life would testify that He is my Shepherd and that I am serious about my relationship with Him.
Whoever finds a wife...
Frans and Anélia met after he returned from England where he was a teacher and played rugby for a year. He says he will never forget the day that he met Anélia for the first time, “I was immediately drawn to her vivacious and warm personality. She gives her all to me and our children, no matter what time of day it is. When I arrive at home she is ready to make me as comfortable as possible. This has always made me feel so welcome. I know that she really loves me.”
A long wait for their children
In 2013 the couple went through a difficult time when their triplets arrived prematurely at 27 weeks. Before the arrival of the triplets they trusted the Lord for seven years for their firstborn, Izebella. Frans explains: “It took a long time for Anèlia to fall pregnant, but from the beginning we walked this road with the Lord.” After Izebella’s birth, Anèlia had two miscarriages and every time it was a huge disappointment. The Lord, however, gave her Isaiah 49:16-17 as a promise that she would have more children. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me. Your sons hasten back...” It was a long road, a process during which both of us grew in our faith. And then, five years after Izebella’s birth, God blessed us with triplets!”
Ecclesiastes says everything has its appointed time and this Scripture is what flashed through Frans’ mind when he received the message that the triplets were prematurely being born. “I drove to the hospital with absolute peace in my heart knowing that this is the right time for them to be born,” he says. Júan, Mícaela and Dánièle turned two this year and keep Mom and Dad young and on their toes.
The gift of parenthood
It is very important for Frans that his children also receive the gift of faith in God, “Anèlia and I want to create an atmosphere where our children can mature, not only physically and intellectually, but also spiritually. I want to teach them good habits such as to eat healthy and to exercise, but also that it is not about what happens to you, but how you react to it.”
Frans regularly prays with his children, “I believe it is my privilege as the spiritual head and though Anèlia also prays with them, I do it gladly. When I am not home, I pray with Izebella over the telephone. It is part of our lives; she knows that the first and last part of her day goes to the Lord.”
Be involved at church
The family attends Ligpunt Kerk in Pretoria and is part of a small group. Frans believes in being involved at church, “You must meet with God, but you must also serve others and be part of the Body of Christ. You have a role to play in their lives and they in yours, that is how we shape each other.”
Spiritual fathers and mentors
Frans sees mentors in your life as a necessity. “The ability to gain wisdom through listening to and observing others’ lifestyles is a shortcut to good decisions,” he says. “Despite the fact that both my parents died when I was young, the Lord blessed me with wonderful role models, family, friends, teachers and pastors in my life that spoke into my life and cared for me. There were Godly men who showed me the way and helped me to make wise decisions.
Advice for sportsmen
It is normal to go through challenging seasons, but if you keep the Lord as your first priority, it is easy. In the beginning of your career you need the Lord, because you have nothing, but as you become more successful, there is a danger that you think you need Him less. Let Him always be your identity and keep Him as your first love. Keep to the principles that helped you reach your goals. If you become successful and you do not keep to good principles, the focus can shift to money and possessions and then the ‘main thing’ is not the ‘main thing’ anymore. This is the beginning of the end! If you do not keep God as number one, you will look, talk and do as the world does; you will love the world.”
The Lord is my Shepherd
Frans’ favourite Scripture is Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He says, “He guides me, He feeds me, He protects me. I have peace because He is for me.” It is clear that Frans indeed follows his Shepherd in the paths of righteousness.
—interview by Donna Kennedy-Meyer