Welcome to Thailand

Jan 6, 2021 | Sports Friends Thailand/SE Asia

The Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam, adorns Southeast Asia with rich beauty and expresses a blend of traditions both ancient and modern. More than 88% of the population practice Buddhism, often intertwined with ancestral worship and animistic beliefs. Family is highly valued in one’s identity and life choices, and respectful social interactions are core to all degrees of relationship. For more than 11 years, Sports Friends has been serving God’s beloved in Thailand, where sports ministers and coaches enjoy national religious freedom as an opportunity to boldly represent the nearness of Jesus in thousands of young people’s lives. We recently interviewed Ning, the country leader, to catch up on how God is on the move in Thailand.

What are some specific answers to prayer you’ve seen recently? We want to praise God with you.

Even though our time in quarantine was very challenging for the ministry, it was also an answer to prayer because it gave us time to catch up and update our training curriculum, as well as connect better with coaches. We also praise God for two new team members: Mee, who went to IT school, is very good with numbers and technology. She has to work a freelance job in order to serve with this ministry, but she is very humble with her skills and does it happily. Chai has also joined our team as a sports ministry coordinator and trainer. He used to serve as a pastor; he is a mature believer who takes responsibility and works hard. He is energetic, quick to learn, and is burdened for the ministry. We praise God for such good, qualified workers. 

What are some specific prayer requests for the work, staff, coaches, players? We want to gather the global Church around you and lift you up.

We had a large training in late August. Please pray for the coaches to excel in their work and continue to grow in their relationships with God, each other, and their teams. Pray for them to be able to apply what they have learned and see success.

What are three of the biggest struggles for youth in your region?

Most of the youth here do not have knowledge of Christ or the ways of God. They are having sexual relationships prior to marriage, and experiencing teenage pregnancy. We also see increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS. Young people think of their own happiness in this moment, without thought for the consequences. There is also a lot of drug use, and the work of drug lords and drug dealers. Even 11 or 12 year olds are coerced to carry illegal drugs across national borders, then the traffickers pay them with addictive drugs. There are also a lot of problems within the nuclear family; many people have lost their jobs due to COVID, and a lot more people are poor now. The Thai family is more stressed, and this results in family members using more alcohol and drugs, as well as more child abuse.

What are some of the particular challenges for your coaches?

Time is a significant challenge. The coaches typically have other jobs and social responsibilities, including family and church. It is difficult for them to find free time for sports ministry, even when they see its value. Some have lower wages and have to work more hours to provide for their families. Some had to stop ministry from March to July because of COVID, but as the situation improves we are trying to encourage them to come back and start again. Some are trying to return to ministry, but others had to move away because they lost their jobs.

What are the great barriers to the growth of the work in your country?

Often, a deep problem is the church itself. The church in Thailand cares about their members, but doesn’t always share the gospel outside of their own walls. There’s always a temptation to use the church’s money for the church’s own happiness instead of for outreach. There is also a barrier in the thinking that ministry is only for the pastor, not for the lay people. But God has called all of his children to serve others and shine His light in the dark places.

Praise God that He is using sports ministry to carry the Light of the World throughout the beautiful nation of Thailand. Please continue to pray for our Sports Friends Thailand staff, and the hundreds of coaches they are training and encouraging. Pray also for the young people they serve, that their eyes might be opened to the grace of Jesus, His hope in such uncertain times, and His invitation to a Kingdom that can never be shaken.