Interview by Emily N. Roach / Article by Mikayla P.
Jaco and Philipa Booyens are partners in the fight against human trafficking, but also in life. In our latest issue, we sat down with Philipa to get the inside scoop on her job, but we also wanted to know how this perfect pair met. Here is the story of love at first… phone call, told from Philipa’s point of view.
Okay, this is a really fun story, and it’s briefer if I tell it. So, Jaco is from South Africa, he played professional rugby there, but he moved to the United States and played professional football. He moved in 2001 and signed with my mother’s agency; he acted and modeled in addition to playing football.
I was a college athlete on scholarship at the University of North Carolina, but I was injured the whole time. Jaco has a Sports Medicine degree, and I couldn’t get healthy, so my mother had gotten Jaco to coach my younger brother, Hunting, in football things. This was a very hard and difficult part of my life; I’m a people pleaser, and track has been my identity. I can’t perform and they were trying to take away my scholarship, put me on a medical leave... it was very, very stressful. My mother was like, “I have no idea what to do for you; will you please just talk to this guy; he’s a professional athlete, he has a sports degree.” And I’m like “I’m not going to talk to some strange guy.” She gives him my number anyway, because my mother is kind of like Jaco, and he calls me, I don’t answer, I get mad at her. She says, “Philippa, just talk to him, call him back,” and we have this forty-minute conversation, mostly Jaco talking. At this point, I’m just bawling. He is genuinely asking me what did I want to do and what would make me happy. He knew what was going on, the pressure I was dealing with, and the collegiate scholarship situation where you don’t really feel like people care about you. It’s about the points, and I definitely wasn’t scoring points. At that time in my life, I don’t remember anyone asking me, “What do you want to do, what would make you happy,” and it just kind of broke me.
I remember my roomates walking around, because I don’t cry in front of people, and they were just like “What is going on?” He said “Well, you’re coming back from summer break, let me go check out your foot,” which was the current injury at the time, and I’m just sobbing saying “Yeah, okay.” I get off the phone, he gets off the phone, and tells his sister in L.A, “I think I met the girl I’m going to marry.” We didn’t talk about it at all, it literally was track and injury, and what do you want to do. I got off the phone and I told my mother he wants to marry me. She thought that was interesting because she had several mentors in her life tell her Phillipa is about to meet the man she is going to marry, and what he looks like, and what he does, so she was looking. So, he invites himself over the next week to look at my foot, and we hadn’t seen each other, my family knew who he was.
I remember my mom telling me when she signed him, but we had never personally met. So, when I met him I felt God tell me, “This is the man you’re going to marry,” so we got engaged within a month and a half, and we were married within five and a half months, and we have been married for ten and a half years. It was really cool because God showed us the people we have been praying our whole lives for. I told Jaco later, “You have no idea how many prayers went into you,” and he told me about how many times they were robbed at gunpoint in South Africa, and how he got hit by a bus at 13 and should have died, but he walked away. Prayer works, so much prayer went into him and I am very grateful that God brought us together. I had a hard time in my life, but it was a very important thing.
We love a romance story that tugs on your heartstrings. Don’t forget to check out Philipa’s interview with Expressions. Buy your copy today!
Cover photo courtesy of IMDb