Years ago, in rural northern Thailand, a couple planted a church amidst the rice paddies and orchards and dedicated their lives to making God known to their non-believing neighbours.
That couple had a young son called Nong, who today leads the church his parents began.
Pastor Nong has great rapport with the local temple’s head monk, who recognises his good works, even to the point of defending him when there is religious contention within the village.
One day, Pastor Nong noticed a group of teenaged boys who loved to play football. As he watched them play, he wondered how he could connect with them. Soon after, he crossed paths with Sports Friends and heard about the power and potential of using sport to connect with young people.
Pastor Nong attended a Sports Friend training course and was fascinated by the model of making disciples through sport. He became increasingly excited and then had a vivid dream of chopping down all the fruit trees in the church’s garden and creating a football field they could invite the villager boys to come and play on.
Upon his return, Pastor Nong called the church elders together and they listened with scepticism to his “crazy” idea of leveling the orchard. Who had ever heard of building a football field to draw village youth near to Christ?
However, Pastor Nong persevered and invited SIM UK’s Jill Ireland, who is the Sports Friends Regional Coordinator for South East Asia, to come and share with the church about his vision to use sport as a bridge into the community.
Jill and some of the Sports Friends Thailand team spent a Sunday with Pastor Nong and the church family, listening to their concerns and sharing more about the vision of sports ministry as a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship. By the end of their visit, the elders were filled with enthusiasm and began to think creatively about the birth of their very own church-centred sports ministry.
Just a couple of months ago, that “crazy” plan went into action. Old and young church members arrived in the church garden with tools and purpose in their hope-driven hearts. They chopped down all of those old, dried-up fruit trees and levelled the orchard to prepare the way for the Lord to meet with young Thais in a new way.
As they continue the work toward a small-sided football field, Pastor Nong’s people continue to pray with great anticipation. They press on, busily sowing faith through the work of their hands and hungry to see a new kind of fruit come forth on those garden grounds.
Jill Ireland says: “Pastor Nong and his church want to use this field to share not only sport, fun and friendship, but to share the gospel as well. They long to see these young people’s lives transformed and maybe those of their parents and families as they love them, care for them and share their lives in Christ with them.
“And we’re hopeful too with Pastor Nong and also the hundreds of Sports Friends-trained coaches all around the world that God will use them to share the gospel with those who are living and dying without Jesus.”
By Mary Fichtinger, Sports Friends writer
- For Pastor Nong and his congregation to build bridges and deepen relationships with their community.
- Give thanks that Sports Friends coaches have been distributing care packages during the pandemic and many, moved by the practical love of Christ, have turned to him.
- Give thanks the number of young people desiring to be part of Sports Friends teams has increased in many locations.