Werner Stoltz was a semi-professional rugby player who’s life was dramatically changed when he was told, that due to an injury, he could no longer follow his chosen career.
To meet Werner Stoltz is to feel the whisper of the fresh sea breeze, or is it the proximity of the Holy spirit? He describes how he left home in South Africa at 18 on winning a contract to play rugby for a the Greystones RFC rugby club in Eire. He looks back on those years when he lived an egocentric life as a reformed man looking back on the life of a sinner, he was young, privileged, and living the life of Reilly. His life started to change when a good friend of his was killed in a car crash back in South Africa, he had gone home and spent some time hanging out with his old friends who were now in university.
One Sunday they were all going off to church on the university campus and invited Werner to come along, he felt a bit guilty as he had not exactly been much of a churchgoer during his time away but went along in the end.
Outside the church there was a man lying in the path, his clothes were dirty and torn, he was apparently asleep, or had passed out, there was an empty wine bottle in his hand, it was not so strange on the university campus, everyone looked at him but passed by, filing into the church without stopping to see if he was OK. They sang the first hymn, then the preacher came out, wearing the same clothes as the drunk they had seen outside, it had been him lying there in a distressing disguise! Not one of the parishoners had gone over to him.
He started to preach about judging others without once alluding to his stunt. Everyone in the congregation knew they were guilty of judging someone that day.
This opened Werner’s eyes to the poverty around him, he asked his friends about the young black kids that were everywhere, begging for money. “How long has it been like this?” he asked, “Well, forever, man, its always been this way.” And then he realised he had just been too blind to see it before.
He gave the kids begging at one particular crossroads all his money every time he passed that way until it ran out.
Next he took spare blankets and stuff from his mother’s house, he went in the car to them and said he’d give them a lift home with the stuff, they all climbed into the back of the car and directed him to the local graveyard, they lived in the graveyard! They would hide in twos in the open graves where they slept huddled together for warmth, those were the lucky ones, others lived in the open fields beyond there. He began to understand a bit more about their lives. Most of them had been infected with Aids, and had already lost their parents to the disease.
Two weeks after his return to Ireland he picked up an injury on the field, he was kneed in the side of his head, and left with a concussion, but he played on, then he was shoved in the back and suffered whiplash. They took him off the field then. he was told to take three weeks off training. During those three weeks it was clear there was something seriously wrong, he suffering nausea just going on the bus. After many visits to his MD and finally an MRI scan he was told his injuries would prevent him from returning to professional rugby. Or indeed any kind of sports. In desperation, he asked, “Then what can I do, I am a sportsman, its my life!” He was told, “Well maybe water sports.” Later, while sitting with his mates in a bar in Ireland, drowning his depression with a few bevvies, something came on the TV news about somebody doing something in a kayak, Werner was inspired, ‘That’s what I’ll do, he announced to his friends, “I’ll kayak round Ireland, solo” “Are you crazy?” they asked! “I’m gonna kayak round Ireland to raise money for the kids infected with Aids in South Africa”. And that is what he did.
With very little preparation he braved the rough seas round the Irish coast in a kayak. Through sponsorship Werner raised money to fund a shelter for 25 children who now get 3 meals a day and they got them and a bus and petrol money so they can go to school. Werner mpw wants to open a new shelter for 100 children. He is raising money for this through sponsorship of his trip from London to Durban. He has already rowed his kayak from London to Gibraltar, paddling through the day, sleeping wherever he lands at night.
His dream is to raise £150,000 to open an AIDS shelter called “the Nineveh Project” in South Africa.
Werner says: “ I know I’ll make it! I’m doing this for God and his children... I’m not afraid to go, actually I can’t wait to see Him! I’m so certain that the Lord will protect me and keep me safe! I have Philippians 4:13 on the side of my kayak and I live by that. If you can believe that with all your heart and soul,there are no limits to what you can achieve. I not only want to help the sick, more importantly, I also want to win people for the Lord. God has called me to do something and calling the trip “Ninevah” (from the book of Jonah) will ensure that I always remember not to turn away from what God wants me to do, and this is what I want to teach the children. All this would be impossible to do if I didn’t believe in God.”
Werner is still in Gibraltar and will be heading out shortly as the weather has impeded further progress:
"The wind kept us up all weekend checking on the fenders and lines. At times it gust up to 50mph and caused a bit of a problem to the boats in the marina. It's becoming clear to me that the next 3 months could be quite unpleasant on the water.
It seems an average day has an easterly wind blowing, which means it?s on the nose, and very short seas. Most days getting up to 3- 5 m swell. So my progress will be slow and frustrating once I get going.
On the visa front all is going well and I am only waiting for my Libyan and Egyptian visa?s.
The season is slowing all these things down and it now seems I will spend Christmas in Gib and head over to Africa a second time in the new year."