Leading Thais to Christ One Goal at a Time

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Most sports enthusiasts would agree that Brazil's soccer players are some of the best in the world. The country's team is now hoping to win another World Cup in South Africa.

So why would a professional Brazilian player spend his time competing with neighborhood soccer teams in Thailand? The answer goes beyond soccer.

Adriano de Araujo was an up-and-coming soccer player in Brazil when a knee injury ended his professional soccer career. Now, he spends his time helping kids in Thailand develop their soccer skills and much more.

"As a foreigner, we have some barriers to build relationships with the Thais because we have different things that we like to do," Araujo said. "But we have seen that football (soccer) here in Thailand is something that the Thai people like and they love to do it."

Araujo and his Christian friends formed a team to develop friendships with neighborhood athletes. Players like James were excited to compete against the international team, sponsored by OMF International, a Christian ministry working in east Asia.

"When I finally got to play with them I saw that they were very kind, smiled a lot, and played fairly," James said. "After they finished playing football, they came together as a team and talked about Jesus Christ, which made me think, 'Who is God?' I wanted to find out more."

The curiosity of Thai players led to many conversations off the field. Competition soon turned into friendship.

"This is the point where we can invite them to come to church. We can invite them to come to Christian activities," Araujo explained. "And they are able to listen about God. They are open. They're not scared to listen."

Local pastors also work closely with the OMF sponsored athletes.

"Many people have come to know God through the football ministry. James is one person in our church who has come to Jesus through it," Thai pastor Ajarn Jarern said. "Thank God that Thai people are interested in football, especially international football."

"OMF is bringing foreign football players and we can build lasting relationships through the football ministry," he added.

James said he wants to start his own sports ministry to involve his friends and family, just as Araujo drew him to Christ.

"I want them to be saved," he said. "Just like me."

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Stan Jeter

Stan Jeter

CBN News Senior Producer

CBN News Senior Producer Stan Jeter specializes in Christian news and Latin American coverage.  He has lived and worked for many years in South and Central America, most recently developing the Spanish Christian news program, Mundo Cristiano.  Follow Stan on Twitter @StanJeterNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/StanJeterCBN.