In January, a team went out from our church to Mae Sot, a growing city located on the Burmese border, 500 km Northwest of Bangkok. Our daughter Emma was among them.
Mae Sot serves as the main gateway between Thailand and Burma and has a regular flood of Burmese refugees who come over seeking safety and a better life. In recent years the ongoing refugee situation has prompted NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) and international aid agencies to establish programmes in the town and surrounding area to help with the ongoing refugee needs.
One of those agencies is called Compasio. Two years ago, Jim and Nitika Ennion, a young couple in our church, sensed the call of God to work with Compasio. Nitika’s job was to set up an early childhood development centre and Jim, who has a law degree, was to insure Compasio’s work met government requirements. They also help train the locals and assist in rescuing at-risk children and teens who are living on the streets or city dumps. When we contacted the Ennion’s and asked if they would like to have a team from our church come and work with them, they were overjoyed.
The team – a mixture of married couples, young adults and teens, were reasonably well-prepared. They had done their homework, studied up on local customs, had the necessary vaccinations, and even learned some basic Thai language. It was still a shock for them: People in poverty – without a home and without much hope. Kids living on the streets, alone and at risk. Families with no income, living under make-shift huts in the city dump.
It was a wake-up call for them all, to go from such wealth to such poverty; from such abundance to such need. Here were people – hundreds of thousands of people, not only in need of food and shelter and medicine and jobs. They are in need of Jesus. And the only way they were going to see that was if someone explained the way to them. That would take time and patience (as well as language learning) coupled with loving acts of compassion. For the gospel must not only be heard; it must be seen in action.
It wasn’t something the team could do in two weeks. But they could see what was required and learn from the experience. They definitely came back changed – we could all see that. They are all the better for it. And perhaps – just perhaps, one or two of them might answer the call of God in their own lives someday, and leave the comforts of home – letting goods and kindred go, so that others may also come to know the Saviour, to their eternal joy.