Sometimes we forget the life stories of our students and what brought them to study at Carey. Many were very successful in their careers of business, sports, arts, or sciences but chose to give that up and follow where God called them to go, regardless of not knowing the final destination. Neroli Matautia (nee Knight) is one example.

Neroli, and her husband Benhur, are recent graduates of Carey’s Pastoral Leadership Programme and are now Pastoring at Waihi Baptist Church. But that wasn’t always her aspiration. Neroli was a successful rugby player for years and was recently capped as Black Fern #28 in the NZRFU capping ceremony officially recognising all Black Ferns who have played in sanctioned test matches.

Neroli first played for the Black Ferns in 1990 as a 15 year old which gave her the opportunity to go to the World Cup in Cardiff, Wales. She went on to play as halfback and then first five eight in the Black Fern teams of 1999, 2000 and 2001.

I gave up my rugby in my prime to go and serve God with YWAM in Hawaii, Cambodia and Samoa. It was after this time that I came back to NZ and started my theology degree at Carey Baptist College.

“The Black Ferns Capping night was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and reminise. It was a real privilege to be honoured by the NZRFU…..and to be reminded that I am a part of the Black Ferns legacy. I am thankful to God for the talents he has given me and that I could stand in that place as a child of God.” 

These days she can be found coaching the Waihi Under 8 Black junior rugby team where she is passing her skills on to the next generation. It’s a strong sporting family with her husband Benhur also training the team in boxing and using his skills as a former professional boxer. They see this as an opportunity to outreach into their community.

Carey is so grateful to have had the privilege of being part of such an inspiring story of obedience to God.  Neroli placed her gifts, her ambitions, her future in God’s hands and it is great to see God take all of that and shape a life of participation in God’s mission of love and transformation of young people and their families and communities. That’s what we mean by Applied Theology!