From South African missionary to Tarleton rugby coach
By Lane Mitchell—
Since moving to Stephenville last spring, missionaries Kenneth and Lydia Esterhuizen have taken on two major roles – they are directors of Grace Place, a non-profit ministry, and Kenneth started a rugby program at Tarleton State University.
“I have three passions in life — Jesus, my family and rugby,” said Kenneth.
In the fall semester of 2015, with the help of assistant coach Chris Thackwray, who played semiprofessional rugby in England, Kenneth started a club rugby team at Tarleton. He and his wife were born and raised in South Africa; Lydia is from Johannesburg and Kenneth is from Cape Town. Rugby is part of the culture in South Africa, Kenneth said, and is a “character-building” type of sport that focuses on conditioning, fitness and eating healthy.
Rugby is an aggressive contact sport that is similar to football and involves determination and teamwork. The Tarleton rugby team finished its first season undefeated at 6-0.
This month the team went to the Region 4 playoffs, “The Cowboy Cup, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The team placed second in the 2016 West Regional Challenge Cup.
Kenneth attributed the team’s success to the players.
“They showed great humility and great character,” he said.
Tarleton rugby is planning to host a camp this summer for kids and students to come out and learn how to play rugby.
The Esterhuizens said they enjoyed their time in South Africa and it will always be home. Kenneth said South Africa is, like most of that continent, very rugged and “no place for the gentle or soft at heart.” The couple said they felt like coming to Stephenville was a calling from God as a part of His plan for them.
In spring 2015, with the help of First Baptist Church of Stephenville, the Esterhuizens packed up and moved with their two sons, Brandon and Jason, to Erath County.
Soon after the Esterhuizens moved to Stephenville they became the directors of Grace Place. Lydia described Grace Place as “an emergency center for people who are in need of help.”
At Grace Place, they can find clothes, groceries, money to pay bills and prayer. Kenneth said that the vision of Grace Place is “is to lead people to the Lord and to get their spiritual life sorted out.”
Kenneth and Lydia want to thank the people of Stephenville and Erath County for supporting them and making them feel at home. They would like to thank the rugby sponsors and the people who help out at the Grace Place. They also want to thank Ronnie and Jamie Stockstill their son, Jake Stockstill, and Constable Larry Ciccarrelli for supporting the rugby team.
You can help Grace Place through donations of clothing, food, or money. Grace Place is located at 365 W. Tarleton St. in Stephenville.