With the U.S. Open among us, one cannot help but remember one of the sport’s fiercest competitors. Few tennis fans will forget his David vs. Goliath bout back in 1985 when the 5-foot 9-inch competitor came out victorious in a major U.S. Open match at the tender age of 15. And like David, Chang wears his heart for God on his sleeve.
Many professional athletes do not disclose their religious beliefs with the public. However, former U.S. Open competitor, Michael Chang, chose to share his life and his faith with the world in the book Holding Serve: Persevering On and Off the Court. As Christians, the Bible tells us to spread the Word, and that is exactly what Chang is doing.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. —Mark 16:15, KJV
Chang was born in 1972 in New Jersey. Even during his early years, Chang was making his name known in the tennis world. At the tender age of 12, he won the USTA Junior Hard Court Singles. Continuing onward in his tennis career, Chang won a main draw match at the U.S. Open just three years later. He was the youngest player to accomplish this and tennis enthusiasts were taking notice.
The most notorious moment of his career came in 1989, when he won the French Open. He was 17 years old at the time and beat former U.S. Open champion Ivan Lendl. The match took place on the day following the horrible events of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Peking (Beijing).
Although the student protests over the death of liberal reformer Hu Yaobang had been going on for several weeks, the situation exploded on June 4, 1989. The Chinese government wanted to take control of the protesting, and used a combination of rifles and tanks to accomplish this. There were world-wide reports that stated the death tolls were somewhere in the thousands, but the exact number of casualties was never released.
During a speaking engagement in 2009, Chang made the following statement about his victory in the French Open: “What it was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people’s faces around the world when there wasn’t a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God’s purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches.”
Chang is very open about his upbringing and religious beliefs. In the introduction of his autobiography, Holding Serve: Persevering On and Off the Court, he says, “I have lived my life sold-out to Jesus Christ, and I shudder to think how I could have gotten through the past 15 years without His guidance and love. God has a plan for my life, just as He has one for you”. He claims that his book is a “midterm reflection” and felt that it was important to capture his life up to this point in time.
The Chang Family Foundation was formed in 1999, and it focuses on integrating his family’s faith with an outpouring of community service. The mission statement of the Chang Family Foundation is: “To introduce the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world through strategic domestic and international programs; and to grow and nurture people in their relationship with God”. They hold several clinics, tournaments and events throughout the year, and you can visit their website to learn more about attending a function or making a donation.
Chang formally retired from the professional tour in 2003 and currently resides on Mercer Island, Washington. In the first chapter of his book, he discusses the importance of allowing his body clock to regulate his sleep patterns. He claims it’s not uncommon to take out his boat in the wee hours of the morning to enjoy some fishing and take in the tranquility of the moment.
Chang says, “I look to the star-filled sky and remember that, ‘the heavens declare the Glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ as Psalm 19:1 says. Amid the beauty and stillness of the night, I turn reflective”. This excerpt, from his autobiography, is a powerful reminder that we should always take time to enjoy the beauty of God that surrounds us.