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Nation Builders: The River.Asia: Reaching the ASEAN Region

Oct 12 2017

Erik and Mariaana Klar have lived in Thailand for 24 years, pioneering The River.Asia. Prior to moving to Thailand, they were a part of Hillsong Brisbane Central Campus, where their children are currently a key part of the team on staff in the Kids Team and studying at Hillsong College.

We asked Erik and Mariaana some questions to find out more about their work in Thailand and across the ASEAN region (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).


Where do you live?

We currently live in Thailand, spending time between Hangdong (Chiangmai), Bangkok (Capital) and Sungai Kolok (South).

What’s your ‘day job’/profession? 

Before becoming the Senior Pastors and leaders of The River.Asia, Erik was a Civil Engineer and Builder and Mariaana a small business owner and manager. Now we lead The River.Asia team of Thai and international members and volunteers, serving communities across Thailand through the Foundation (First Priority Development Foundation Thailand) and The River.Asia Church.

The main centre is in Hangdong, Bangkok, Sungai Kolok (Thai Malaysian Border) and in Huei Hia on the mountain area of Mae Sariang (Thai Myanmar border).

What does your day-to-day look like? 

We carry the main load of making known the vision of The River.Asia as well as sharing about the opportunities for people to give, volunteer, and pray for the calling of The River.Asia.

We are involved in daily training and mentoring of the team. We work on sharpening the vision and creatively connecting and building relationship with people, assisting them to find their place of increasing effectiveness as they come to know Jesus and discover their place to express their unique talents and gifts in His body, His Church.

We travel to all of our locations with a passion to build and release others. We also travel throughout ASEAN countries, especially Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, to train and network with national leadership.

We oversee our annual The River.Asia Partners conference, The River.Asia Boot Camp for the ASEAN, The River.Asia Sisterhood Conference, as well as many other intensives provided throughout the year.

We are always looking to identify new opportunities for expansion of the work God has called us to do!

How long have you had a connection to Hillsong Church and Nation Builders?

We have been part of Hillsong and Nation Builders since Garden City Christian Church – our home and sending church – became Hillsong nine years ago.

Why did you leave home and ‘go into all the world’? 

We were both brought up in families who were committed to sowing finance, prayer and service in to missions. This commitment has also been foundational in our marriage. The calling to point the way to Jesus and to raise a team, which serves in communities as Jesus modeled, became very clear since our early years of married life. Although at the time we were still building our businesses, we also volunteered at church and did ministry studies at Garden City Church School of Ministries and World Harvest Institute for Missions. Our applications for overseas missionary service were approved at ACC International (formerly known as AOG World Missions) and thus began our journey to Thailand as full-time missionaries in February 1993.

What does the preaching the Gospel look like in your context and what role do you play? 

We connect with communities by first meeting the leaders and decision-makers of the community in order to start building relationship and understand the felt needs of the given context. Through this we are able to link up with their lives as carriers of Jesus’ life in us and take opportunities to facilitate the transformation of communities to line up with His Kingdom purposes. On a practical level this involves running regular home care visitation teams, kids and youth clubs, Life Skills activities in schools, Connect Groups, weekend Church services and much more. Every activity is designed to meeting the four deepest needs of people: the need for support, stability, self-expression and significance.

Why do you do what you do? 

Every human life is infinitely valuable, the price of the Blood of our Saviour.

What is the most challenging thing about what you do? 

Keeping our focus and the team’s focus on the vision God has called us to fulfill.

What is the most rewarding thing about what you do? 

Seeing our team – paid and unpaid – serving Jesus as the greatest privilege and opportunity of their lives, seeing people coming to know our Lord Jesus as their Saviour King, and seeing lives transformed by Christ!

Is there a story you can share of a life impacted with the Good News of Jesus?  

There is a young man whose broken and drug-fuelled upbringing had lead him into a life of crime and imprisonment. He found a new opportunity for life though The River.Asia Church embracing him and leading him to find forgiveness in Jesus and an effective place of ministry in his Body.

Do you speak another language/s? 

We speak English, Finnish and Thai fluently and also some Swedish.

How do you relax and unwind? 

Walking; watching a classic comedy whodunit film.

What is your favourite food? 

Thai food!

What is your favourite Bible verse?

Romans 10:14 “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

Anything else you’d like to share? 

We are so thankful to have Nation Builders, that is all of you, giving so sacrificially to our common cause. Thank you for your part in what God is doing through our lives and The.River Asia. May God richly bless you all.


Nation Builders supports the Klars and other families and ministries who are all about spreading the Good News of Jesus and building His Church.

“…how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14

You can give to Nation Builders using the Hillsong app.

For more information on Nation Builders visit