Born in Samoa, I then grew up in New Zealand where rugby is almost a form of religion. All my friends played rugby and so naturally, I wanted to as well. I began playing at age 7, but it wasn’t until I was in high school when I started to think about rugby becoming a possible career. That’s when things really started to shape up.
In 2008, at the age of 20, I traveled to America to play on the U.S. national rugby sevens team. It was my first time on the mainland, and while there, I realized how fortunate I was to have grown up in a country where rugby was so big. On my team in the States, most of my teammates didn’t start playing rugby until they were in high school because the sport wasn’t as well known here. That’s when I decided we had a lot of work to do. I knew I could really help the sport grow in this country and that’s what I set out to do.
Since that time, the game has taken off in a massive way here in America. In 2012 the sport made it back into the Olympics, and just last year the U.S. launched Major League Rugby, where we could become professional at the sport.
The greatest thing about rugby is the relationships that are built among those who play it. It’s nice to travel the world and sightsee, playing in particular stadiums I grew up watching games played at is cool, and competing at the highest level is awesome, but the most satisfying thing about this sport is the friendships I’ve made along the way.
In 2012, one particular relationship changed my life forever. Well, two relationships really. That year, my wife and I were married, and soon after, she told me that she had begun a relationship with Jesus Christ. She was really excited about this newfound hope she had.
Growing up, I knew all about God and had the head knowledge of Jesus Christ, but this was the moment when I discovered it was one thing to know of Christ and quite another to be in relationship with Him. I too gave my life to Christ during that time, though it was a long journey to find true peace and life-change with my new life in Christ. Through time and pursuit of Jesus Christ, I came to know much more peace and joy in life. I can now say that Christ has brought out a better version of me. By no means am I a perfect person, but God is using my relationship with Him to build relationships with others.
I know for a fact that God has me in this position and given me experiences of both successes and failures so I can help others. God has blessed me with talent, and God’s Word asks us what we are going to do with the talents He gives us. Rugby has given me a position of influence to be able to help mold and change kids’ and adults’ lives as I coach and partner with rugby players. With this level of influence comes a certain level of responsibility as well. I want to use my position to show Christ’s love — to care for people as He cares for us all.
I’m still learning about my own relationship with God and how to live out my faith in Christ. If I’m not continuing to learn and discover these things, I’m not living. I always felt like God had His hand on my life, that He had a plan for me. Looking back, I see that if I didn’t go to this school, didn’t meet this woman who became my wife, didn’t experience this moment, everything in my life would look different. He’s in complete control of it all.
— Shalom Suniula, fly-half for Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves