Pastor Nong’s ‘crazy’ plan kicks off

Northern Thailand

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, 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 at the Sports Friends conference

Nong attended a Sports Friend training course and was fascinated by the model of making disciples through sport. He became increasingly excited and later, 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, Nong called the church elders together and they listened with scepticism to his “crazy” idea of levelling the orchard. Who had ever heard of building a football field to draw village youth near to Christ?

However, 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 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.

Not long after, that “crazy” plan went into action and old and young church members arrived in the church garden with tools and purpose in their hope-driven hearts. They chopped down all the 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.

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

Find out more about Sports Friends: and watch a video to see how God is at work around the world through this ministry.

Please pray

  • God will work in the hearts of the young people Pastor Nong coaches to understand the hope of the gospel.
  • For church leaders and pastors around the world that Sports Friends partners with.
  • Praise God for Pastor Nong and pray that he would persevere in his ministry.

This was posted on 22 June 2022 in Ministry stories and Youth ministry.
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