Hope and Harvest

Jun 15, 2021 | Sports Friends Thailand/SE Asia

Years ago in rural northern Thailand, a couple made a commitment that changed the trajectory of an entire village’s future. This couple had encountered the God who created those mountains they saw in the distance, and they dedicated their lives to make Him known to their non-believing neighbors. So there amidst the rice paddies and orchards that surrounded their village, they planted a church because they knew the law of the harvest: that whatever they sowed would grow. 

That couple cultivated the spiritual soil of their village, asking the Holy Spirit to open their neighbors’ hearts and minds to the gospel of Jesus. Every morning they walked the streets and prayed over each of the hundred-or-so homes and each family that dwelt there. Every day they watered the village with the loving presence and kindness of Christ. Their small church began to grow. 

That couple had a young son called Nong who grew, too. Now he is known as Ajaan (Pastor) Nong, and he tends to both the church and the whole community as the Village Deputy Leader. He has great rapport with the local temple’s Head Monk, who recognizes Pastor Nong’s pure intentions and good works, even to the point of defending him when there is religious contention within the community. 

One day, as Pastor Nong was about the village, he noticed a group of teenaged boys that loved to play football. He watched them and wondered how he could connect with them and effectively communicate with them about Jesus Christ. It seems that Jesus Himself had drawn his particular attention to those boys, because soon after that Pastor Nong crossed paths with Sports Friends. He was fascinated by the model of making disciples through sport, and promptly attended their sports ministry Basic Training. As Nong heard the testimonies about the power and potential of using sport to connect with young people, he became increasingly excited. Then he had a vivid dream of chopping down all the fruit trees in the church’s garden and creating a football field that they could invite those boys to come play on. He dreamt of coaching them into a new understanding of the Savior. 

Upon his return, Pastor Nong called the church elders together and they listened with skepticism to his “crazy” idea of leveling the orchard. They knew the trees growing there were old, a bit withered, and no longer very fruitful. Still, it seemed even less productive to invest so much work in a project that held such little promise. Who had ever heard of building a football field to draw village youth near to Christ? The pastor remained convinced by the vision. He invited Jill Ireland, Sports Friends Regional Coordinator for Southeast Asia, to come and share with the church about using sport as a bridge into the community. She 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-centered sports ministry. 

Just a couple of months ago, that “crazy” plan went into action. Believing men and women arrived in the church garden with tools in their weathered hands and purpose in their hope-driven hearts. They chopped down all of those old, dried-up fruit trees and leveled the orchard to prepare the way for the Lord to meet with young Thais in a new way. Old and young church members joined together with commitment to share their land and their lives with the youth around them. In this they will share the saving love of Christ. 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.  

We stand in expectation with Pastor Nong and his small congregation of minority believers. Together we are filled with hope and fueled by hope, that God, who began His work in this village decades ago, will carry it on to completion. As Pastor Nong has said,

We will start small, doing the small things we are able to do, because we believe and know that God is able to do great things with our small things, and He will lead us toward success and fruitfulness.”

Find out more about Sports Friends: www.sports-friends.org