This is a testimony by Eroni Junior Clarke, youth member of LIFE Church, Mt Eden, Auckland New Zealand.
These stories are compiled by the West Side Story & South Side Story platform founded by Ligi Toleafoa and Pili Apulu in 2020 for Pasefika people from Auckland to share their stories with the hope to encourage, educate and inspire others.
This is Eroni Junior Clarke’s Story:
Talofa! My name is Eroni Junior (EJ) Clarke and I’m of Samoan, Tongan and Rotuman descent. I’m one of five children, the 2nd eldest and proud to rep West Auckland.
Growing up I think my siblings and I were very blessed living a life enriched with faith, family and culture.
Having a father as an All Black and Blues player really helped shape the mindset and future for my siblings and I. He taught us a lot about self discipline.
From a young age I remember Rugby was what I wanted to do, and it was the only thing on my mind.
I was like every other boy who had a passion for sport and wanted to represent my country at the highest level.
However, at birth I underwent a major heart surgery that later on would have a significant impact on my life. At a few weeks old I had an operation called a Coarctation of my Aorta. I also had a slight hole in my heart and had to have a 7 hour operation as a baby.
It is by God’s grace and His healing hand that I’m here today, and able to tell you my story.
Years later I was fortunate enough to be at Mount Albert Grammar School (a school that is well-known for their sporting capabilities). So I continued to chase my dream of playing rugby.
One day in Year 12 (I remember this day so well), we had a morning training for our rugby team. Soon after I went with my dad for my regular check up at Auckland Hospital. It was at this appointment that my “dreams were shattered”. The news from the medical experts was that I was no longer able to play rugby due to the heavy contact and high physical demand. I was told it could cause major issues for my heart condition.
It was here where I encountered for the first time what we know as depression and self harm. This life changing news led to such a low point in my life. I tried my best to hide my feelings and emotions, but I guess my parents could tell I was struggling. They saw my report cards and discovered I was failing at school.
Coming out of high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was sitting in a Sunday Service at LIFE Church & there was a promo on for Life Leadership College (LLC). So after discussions with my parents and my Youth Leader at the time who had also gone through LLC, I enrolled.
Not knowing what may happen but hoping for the best. It was here where I got to work out and discover what God really wanted me to do. It was my turning point.
My first year at Bible College was hard, but it helped me to discover myself in Christ. You can’t stretch and grow if there is no resistance right? 🤗
And now I’m on the path of allowing God to have his way over my life as I continue to strengthen my relationship with Him daily.
Today I am a Manager at I Love Ugly a mens clothing shop, and loving my day to day.
I am blessed to be in a relationship with my beautiful girlfriend Arielle and love getting to do life with her.
2020 was a hard year, burying two of my grandparents taught me a lot about life and what matters most.
Allowing God to take over and not holding on to the past.
2020 taught me the importance of family, faith and fellowship with others.
With Covid, lockdowns, funerals and such, it has brought me and my family so much closer. I love that I get to share the same blood as my parents and siblings and that I get to journey through life with them. My nana would say, “without your family, you have nothing”.
If you’re reading this, my word of encouragement to you is to never lose hope.
Through my faith, God may have closed one door but he opened up another. He has given me new hope and something to pour everything into.
God is never finished and you can never fully arrive at a final destination.
God will continue to take you to new heights just keep your faith in Him.