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The Power of a Text Message to Change Lives

Tevita Koloi sends life-changing text messages to thousands of people around the globe, including well-known figures in the sports and entertainment industries.

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He stood on the bridge, pondering how everything in his life had gone wrong. After several years of depression, disappointment, abuse and separation, he had reached the end of his rope and was ready to end it all.  He closed his eyes, readying himself to take this irreversible step.  At that very moment, he heard a seemingly innocuous noise from below, “Beep-beep!  Beep-beep!”  He opened his eyes and reached into his pocket for his phone, intending to read this message before he went forward with his tragic plan.  The words he read, sent from an acquaintance he was not even particularly close to, shocked him out of his stupor, “Jesus loves you. He will never leave you. Receive His love.”   

Tevita Koloi, an elite trainer who has been part of several professional and World Cup teams (both in Rugby Union and Rugby League), has an unusual method of encouraging world-famous athletes – every day he sends them text messages. His texting list includes the likes of rugby’s Charles Piutau and Israel Folau, MMA’s Ray Sefo and UFC’s Mark Hunt.  His messages range from short encouragements to mini sermons.

For Tevita, a text message has tremendous power to change the trajectory of a person’s life.

How does he know this? Many years ago, a desperate struggle with depression and suicide had him on the verge of jumping off a bridge, and a text message literally saved his life.

The depression he was struggling with was nothing new to Tevita.  He had gone through a tumultuous childhood – his beloved father, a well-known revivalist in Tonga, died when he was only 9 years old. In the years that followed, Tevita grew up in a chaotic home. His family eventually joined a cult where he was sexually abused. For about ten years, Tevita accumulated numerous scars on his body as he tried time and again to take his life.

To make matters worse, as he entered adulthood and marriage, Tevita and his wife struggled in their relationship. They were both living “backslidden lives” and eventually she left him. Fortunately, Tevita’s wife recommitted her life to Christ and they reconciled, joining a church and starting to build their family once again.

But then came additional disappointment – the church they were part of suffered a painful split and they were unable to find a new church family. To top things off, Tevita lost his job. This triggered another bout of depression, and months of frustration and bitterness. These circumstances and struggles were what brought Tevita to that bridge, where he intended to end his life.

The text message Tevita received while on that bridge, “Jesus loves you. He will never leave you. Receive His love.”, was God’s way of saving and healing him. Despite the simplicity of the message, it cut to his heart and stopped him from disaster. Tevita was not even particularly close to the person who sent the message – God had just led an acquaintance to message him at that very moment!

“If you realign yourself to Jesus and let God change your life, anything is possible.”

That day changed his life: for one, he finally settled back into a new church family. The community helped him in his battle against despairing thoughts, and his new pastor started encouraging him to give back to others. One of the ideas the pastor planted in him was that he should go back to coaching. Tevita had stopped doing this while he was sorting out his own marriage issues, but the pastor told him that now he could mentor these rugby players – not only in their sport, but also in their personal lives.

(This pastor had also prophesied that Tevita would make it to the Rugby World Cup and lead prayer meetings for the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies – prophecies that came to pass many years later!

Committed for Life

Tevita did go back to professional coaching. One day, he felt an impression from the Lord to text a particular professional athlete.

He approached his pastor with this thought, while feeling inadequate because of his poor educational background. His pastor stopped him with one question: “Are you ready to exchange texts with this person until the day you die?”

That question got him thinking – it sounded like a major commitment. “Can I really be this committed? Can’t my text be a one-time-only thing?”

But he realized this commitment was exactly what his pastor had done for him – believing in him, encouraging him, and bringing him to a higher place of walking with the Lord. After praying about it, he came to a decision – yes, he would commit himself for a lifetime to every person he would start texting.

From that first text message, Tevita was soon texting the whole Queensland Reds rugby team. His texting list continued to grow, and at the peak of it all, he was sending messages to more than 850 people.

This all happened despite his poor spelling, which was a major stumbling block to him, especially at the beginning. Tevita chuckles at the thought that he couldn’t even spell properly, and yet the Lord clearly led him to start texting people!

“Pretty much everybody who plays rugby union gets a text message from me,” he says.  “God gave me words of knowledge and prophetic words that really elevated many of the players to where they are now.”

Spiritual Coach to the Stars

For example, one of the athletes he mentored through prayer and texts, Charles Piutau, went from being an average player for the All-Blacks to being one of the best and highest-paid rugby players in the world. Tevita believes strongly that this was a result of God’s favor, simply because Charles gave his life to the Lord.

“It wasn’t me that brought about his growth,” Tevita is quick to point out, “but the power of prayer through Christ Jesus.”

He also spends time with rugby giant Israel Folau. Whenever they meet, they catch up with each other and pray together in what Tevita describes as “powerful prayer times.”

Through his texting ministry he got to meet with one of his personal heroes, UFC fighter Mark Hunt, on what Tevita considers one of the most special days in his life.

“Meeting him was like a dream come true,” he quips. “When I met him he was in a bad place, and we spent the whole day together praying. Then his career started to come back to where it was supposed to be, at the top of the mixed martial arts world.”

Mark recognizes the calling of prayer in Tevita’s life. Whenever Mark is in Brisbane, he will give Tevita a call and they will pray together before his UFC matches.

Tevita with UFC Fighter Mark Hunt, Auckland, New Zealand, 2014

 

Reaching the World of Entertainment

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Tevita, his messages were also getting forwarded to so many other people, reaching thousands in the sports and entertainment industry.

One time, a young man approached him on the street and asked to take a photograph. The person told Tevita that he had a cousin whom Tevita was texting regularly, and that cousin was forwarding his messages to his whole family.

“Your messages were the key that drew me back to the Lord,” the stranger said, hugging Tevita.

One notable encounter Tevita had was with actor Beulah Koale.  He had been texting Beulah for over a year when they agreed to meet at a McDonald’s. While they were there they had a prayer meeting and Tevita encouraged Beulah to give his life to Jesus, encouraging him that it was through Christ that his dreams would be fulfilled and he would even find success in Hollywood. They took a photo together at the end of this meeting, and Tevita’s parting shot to the young man was, “Have faith and expect God to move for you.”

Within a few weeks of this meeting, Tevita led Beulah in a salvation prayer and he accepted Christ as Lord. After a few more weeks, his audition tape somehow made it to the highly acclaimed filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, who liked the tape so much that he invited him over to Hollywood to audition for a role in the movie “Thank You for Your Service”. Beulah eventually got the part, and he has had continued success after landing the role, currently starring in the hit American TV show “Hawaii Five-0”.

Tevita with Beulah Koale, Los Angeles, 2016

 

There was another young man Tevita mentored who was going through depression and suicide. They met again just before he auditioned for a part in Disney’s Broadway musical “The Lion King” in Australia. Nick Afoa was not a trained singer, but a rugby player. Yet he got the part as Simba, and eventually even performed the role at the famous West End of London. He now tours around the world performing in what has become the highest grossing Broadway show of all time.

Long-term Change Comes from Short Messages

Professional sports and the entertainment industry are very rough places for the concept of marriage – so many people in these fields are used to just living together outside of marriage.  Thus, Tevita is especially happy to share that in the last year he has seen 15 couples entering into marriage. He believes these decisions were the result of these people coming to the Lord and wanting to honor Him with their lives.

“If you realign yourself to Jesus and let God change your life, anything is possible”, he asserts.

“I make sure to get the message across that God doesn’t want to condemn you, but to redeem and uplift you so that He can use you to glorify His name.” – Tevita Koloi

Almost 10 years since he started his texting ministry, Tevita is still ministering to people through text every single day. He has found his God-ordained way of helping people, particularly in the public scene, to find meaning and purpose in Christ.  Apparently, when Tevita talks about his texts, it’s not just little snippets. In fact, he describes his messages as being “mini-sermons”. The messages are always designed to encourage people; sometimes they are challenging, but he always wants his messages to be positive.

“I make sure to get the message across that God doesn’t want to condemn you, but to redeem and uplift you so that He can use you to glorify His name,” he explains. The same man who was rescued through a text message now uses his own texts to offer redemption and the hope of the Gospel to others.

Check out part 1 of Tevita’s story, where we discover how a prophetic word led his team to a championship game.