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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.

This story, for Barker, epitomizes the new ways of Christian faithfulness that urban slum life demands. He writes:

Many aspects of the incarnational approach to transformation appear in this one story: Christian neighborliness; mutual sharing of life; authentic hospitality; openness to grasp opportunities; answered prayer and spiritual conversations; Bible reading with friends; varieties of people and personalities over time; participatory projects and an authentic approach to church. Not least was that Jim was able to meet people who made space in their lives to intentionally join, follow and participate with what God was doing in the slum. This included what God was doing in and through Jim.
None of these dimensions would have been possible to experience had they only been done instantly, individually or without risk. Jim's transformation in the Spirit involved lots of small, loving actions though Christ in community—these can create a kind of life-building momentum that is irresistible.

Indeed, our attentiveness to the virtues that Barker names here in our own contexts—urban or otherwise—will undoubtedly transform us as Jim has been transformed and as the Barker family continues to be transformed through their work in Klong Toey.

C. Christopher Smith is a member of Englewood Christian Church on Indy's Near Eastside and editor of The Englewood Review of Books. Author of the recently published eBook The Virtue of Dialogue (Patheos Press 2012), he is cowriting a book titled Slow Church (forthcoming IVP/Likewise). He has written for This Is Our City about Indianapolis and his church there.


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Displaying 3–6 of 6 comments


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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