The community's concept of a “Christian” is of someone who regularly frequents a church and prays a lot. Christian living is not often associated with a red-blooded, hot-headed, highly competitive motor racing driver.
So the seemingly contradictory combination of a practicing Christian and racing car driver is a rarity. However, rare or not, that's Andrew Fisher, who punts a Ford Falcon ute for the Jesus Racing Team around tracks in the Yokohama V8 Ute Racing Series in Australia, and is poster boy for the interfaith ”Jesus. All About Life” initiative, sponsored by the New South Wales chapter of the Bible Society.
“I decided to live my faith in a practical sense. I love motor racing and feel privileged to be able to compete at this level,” Fisher says. “However, I also love the Lord Jesus Christ, so bringing my two loves together is very exciting.”
It was actually his wife, Annie (Annmarie), who encouraged him to go one step further. “I'd planned to put a fish [a Christian symbol] on my race car and adopt a Christian nickname,” explains Fisher. “She challenged me, saying, ‘If you really want to make a statement, why don't you advertise the “Jesus. All About Life” campaign on your car?' “That was the best thing I ever did! It left me nowhere to hide. I could no longer carry Jesus as a ‘back pack' into the motor sport community.
“I became labelled as the ‘Christian guy,'” says the man in the “Jesus Ute,” who before earning the respect of fellow competitors, had to endure their good-natured ribbing and nicknames such as Devil Dodger.
The “Jesus. All about Life” campaign is an interdenominational Bible Society NSW initiative, which has run in various states of Australia. It encourages family, friends and the wider non-Christian community to become actively involved in trying Christianity as a way of life. It's theme is based on bringing Jesus back into the everyday lives of ordinary people as well as challenging Christians to share their faith in some way.
In order to raise funds for the Jesus, All About Life (JAAL) prime-time media campaign, Fisher, who is also a successful businessman in his own right, became a “Herald Hero,” taking part in the Sun-Herald City2Surf 2009 fun-run, setting himself a target of raising $5000 in donations.
Unlike many of his peers who began racing careers in karts, Fisher was a successful footballer before taking up motor racing later in life, nine years ago. His introduction came in 2001 in the little-known Daewoo Cup before moving to the MG Trophy Series. A natural progression was to the Lotus Series Championship, in 2004, where he finished a creditable third the following year. When the series folded midway through 2006, he was lying in second place and demonstrating championship potential. With the demise of the series, he focussed his attention on 2007.
Competing in the rough and tough V8 Ute Series, this promising (but mature racer) finished the year in the top five, importantly claiming two victories and Rookie of the Year award—his friends suggesting he was the oldest driver ever, at 40, to achieve the honour.
Taking another step up the ladder, he raced for Lotus in the Bathurst 12-hour endurance event, earning seventh outright, before making his Bathurst V8 Fujitsu debut in 2008. However, as fickle as motor racing is, this ended disastrously when an out-of-control opponent involved him in a frightening crash. He survived uninjured, offering special thanks for “assistance from above.” He resumed Fujitsu racing and expects to be on the grid at Bathurst this October.
This year, Fisher continues with the V8 Utes Series where he is currently hovering in the top 10, although at the time of writing (in August 2009) he hadn't claimed a victory in the fiercelycontested category.
As this dedicated driver's profile increased track-wise, so too has interest in his eye-catching “Jesus” Ute and the message it carries. He says he's always being asked questions like, “Why have you got ‘Jesus' on your ute?” This, of course, is exactly the hoped for response he's looking for.
“It opened up a whole new world of witness for the Gospel,” explains the friendly, cheerful character.
Soon, the courage of his convictions was in demand and he was being invited to speak at schools, churches, youth groups and juvenile detention centres both in Australia and overseas, including India, where he visited underprivileged and disadvantaged children in Calcutta.
Fisher is helping spread the word about Compassion, an organisation that works as an “international Christian child development and child advocacy ministry” operating in partnership with local churches.
“As a Christian, I find it very difficult to sit here and to not go and do something,” says Fisher, an eager ambassador for his cause.
“We try to help these poor kids by providing education, feeding and encouraging them to move forward in life.”
With much enthusiasm, Fisher explains how he'd met some of the children who'd previously benefited from the Compassion program. “Some have gone on to university, so we saw firsthand what Compassion has achieved in a country such as India.”
For his local visits throughout Australia— which in 2009 amount to some 120 appearances—Fisher drives a replica ute (or show-car), always a big hit with impressionable school children who dream of one day driving a racing car. This unique form of ministry enables him to spread the Word and, in some way, connect with people who otherwise might not hear about the love of Jesus and His promise of a better life. While a scepticism has developed with formalised churches and religion, promoting Jesus in this way, he says, appears to be readily accepted.
Not being shy when it comes to talking about Jesus and his love for life, Fisher has given numerous interviews on radio and television, and the famous “Jesus Ute” has made a guest appearance on the popular Top Gear TV show.
Fisher's JAAL sponsorship and his devoted, personal input into the Bible Society's promotion has made a positive impact on many people from differing cultures and communities across Australia.
Based on John 10:10 (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”), the Bible Society's aim is to motivate what it calls “quiet” Christians to speak more freely about their faith at home, in the workplace, a sporting field, or, in Andrew “Fishtail” Fisher's case, on the racetrack.
Life hasn't been all smooth sailing (or driving) for this kind-hearted Christian role model and his equally supportive wife. While he's weathered the expected on-track crashes, the couple faced their own, personal real-life crisis with eightyear- old daughter, Lily (younger sister to Harry), who was born with no left ventricle in her heart. They decided to re-locate from Sydney to Melbourne so Lily could undergo the ensuing 23 operations and three open-heart surgeries to fix the problem, and as Dad Fisher explained: “The most anxious moment in my life was when Lily had her first open-heart operation at just four days old.”
She, too, is a remarkably courageous young person, who, like her dad, has an extremely positive approach to life and “gives everything a go,” with an amazing amount of support, help and brotherly love from Harry.
Juggling motor racing, a business and Bible Society commitments and associated committees is all part of Andrew's chosen lifestyle—to promote Jesus. As could be expected, this larger-than-life character is a clean-living sportsman who hopes also to convey the antidrugs, anti-gambling message to any and all who'll listen.
Andrew Fisher is a genuine, committed person who declares the smartest thing he ever did was becoming a Christian. He also acknowledges he couldn't live without God in his life, and hopes, by setting a good example, that others might follow him, emulating both his lifestyle and accepting his belief in Jesus as Saviour.
To join Andrew Fisher's 300/600 Club, go to www.jesusracing.com.au.