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Soccer and Salvation in Thailand's Largest Slum

Soccer and Salvation in Thailand's Largest Slum

How Australia native Ash Barker is seeking stability in one incredibly instable Bangkok slum.

The Barkers have also been deeply involved in creating economic opportunities for the gifts and skills they found among their neighbors. One neighbor named Poo loved to cook, and the Barkers have worked with her to offer Thai cooking seminars to tourists, through which up to 200 students are now taught each month. They have also worked with Poo to publish a cookbook, Cooking with Poo, which has sold over 7,000 copies and has garnered media attention for its tongue-in-cheek title.

The Barkers have also started a handicraft business in which women of Klong Toey make jewelry and other crafts and are paid double the minimum wage for their work. This business now employs over 60 women and in 2011 exceeded $300,000 in sales. The profits have been rolled back into starting other businesses in Klong Toey, including coffee carts and Poo's cooking school.

A particular challenge to ministering in slums is their inherent lack of stability. In the West, we have our own instabilities, but they are largely conscious choices. "Stability in slums," notes Barker in Slum Life Rising, "can be undermined by many factors in inherent to slums, [which] can include infectious diseases that cause ill-health; turnover of residents seeking more secure housing; demolition or threat of demolition; regular fires and floods." Even the typical institutions that give order to healthy societies, such as schools, businesses, and medical and emergency services, he says, "are [in slums] often established outside of official channels and face a vulnerability that those in regular neighborhoods do not." Christians who choose to move to the slums and who are vulnerable to many of the forces that cause instability bear incarnational witness to the love and compassion of Jesus.

In Slum Life Rising, Barker tells the story of "Jim," a Klong Toey neighbor who was attacked by the mafia and had his arm broken so badly that he couldn't work. Through the friendship of some of Barker's co-workers, who moved with Jim and his family outside the mafia's threat zone, Jim encountered Jesus in a powerful way, and his arm was healed. Jim's family eventually moved back to their old neighborhood, and now host their own house church and provide care to large numbers of young children.


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Displaying 2–6 of 6 comments

John H Quinley Jr

June 11, 2012  3:25am

Started with the old scripture song just now, as I feel really it is all our greatest need in this issue. Agape love is the reason any of us are doing any of these current activities. Yes, John 13:34-35 pretty well wraps it for us all. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Look forward to praying together more on all this, in Klong Toey, around Bangkok, across Thailand, and spanning the globe. , Mercy Center-Father Joe, UNOH-Ash, Baan Chewit Mai, Jai Samarn Church, Vineyard Church- Pastor Sukit, Ta Rua Church- Pastor Suwat we are by God's grace: brothers and sisters and one.


June 11, 2012  3:07am



June 09, 2012  9:48pm

God bless you, "concerned". And God bless Anji and Ash. A small paraphrase of Philippians 1:18 seems apposite here. "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether [through this approach or that approach], Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice." Seems like Christ is being incarnated in different ways through those from outside Thailand who choose to lose their lives in Klong Toey and incarnated in the Thai people who find their lives in Klong Toey.

Filled with Hope

June 09, 2012  9:45pm

Dear concerned, perhaps you are unaware that UNOH and the Barkers actually have significant partnership with the local Thai church in Klong Toey, as well as having Thai people in positions of leadership in their various ministries and projects. Having had the opportunity to walk the narrow alleys of Klong Toey slum alongside the Barkers, it is evident that they have intentionally developed deep relationships with Thais in their slum community. The "Thai" perspective and voice is first sought after and held with the highest regard, while always examined in light of Biblical scripture. Personally, the UNOH community, and their Thai fellow believers, feels very much like the "first century" Acts church community. Additionally, a Thai house church has organically evolved in the slum, with Thai Christians in postions of leadership, as a result of Barkers enfleshing of the Gospel in their neighborhood.


June 09, 2012  5:02am

I too work in Bangkok alongside an established Thai church that is struggling to reach out to the Klong Toey slum community. The problem with people like the Barker's is that they need to be the heroes and are not willing to take the effort to help engage the church that God has already established here to understand the mission that God calls them to in these communities. The Barkers are doing some great things, but they would be greater still if they were done by Thai Christians who far better understand the culture and the context here.


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