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Hunger loses battle in remote Thai village

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Oct. 9 is World Hunger Sunday for Southern Baptist churches across North America. Since 1974, Southern Baptists have fought the problem of hunger through their World Hunger Fund. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the fund is used to provide food to undernourished people all over the world -- 80 percent through the International Mission Board and 20 percent through the North American Mission Board. For more information on the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, including resources for promotion of World Hunger Sunday in your church, go to worldhungerfund.com.

BAN CAM, Thailand (BP) -- As our motorcycle neared the wooden bridge, we heard the worrisome sound of rushing water. Heavy rain had swollen the creek and made the path very muddy. Jaidee Yodsuwan,* my guide and driver, accelerated through the mud. The back wheel slid sideways, causing Yodsuwan to lose control of the bike. We headed straight for the cliff. I breathed a quick prayer.

At the last moment, Yodsuwan recovered and our bike crossed the bridge to safety.

Our adventure started on a treacherous, muddy path. But our story in this remote Thai village began six years earlier -- when the medical clinic closed and a community development organization supported by the Southern Baptist Convention's World Hunger Fund took its place.

My father was one of the last doctors to work at this clinic in Thailand. I was excited to see how things had changed and how the staff I remembered from childhood now reached out to their Northern Hill Tribe neighbors through the Thai Peoples' Welfare Foundation.

We loaded down motorcycles with supplies and rode up into the hills on a narrow, muddy walking path. Our team of six Thai Life Development Center workers and International Mission Board missionary Joanie Snyder* headed to a village the Thai government deemed as being in great need -- Ban Cam.


Yodsuwan and another pastor originally visited this village a few years ago. The community development workers found the people very isolated and living in their old ways: abject poverty, no electricity, no decent bathrooms and wooden homes with thatch roofs. The village had no building specifically for their children to attend school.

As he surveyed the conditions, Yodsuwan gained a vision for how the team could serve the village and build relationships to share the love of Jesus by meeting physical and spiritual needs.

Yodsuwan said the first night his team stayed in the village, no one invited them into their home. Then, as the team began making up beds in a deserted house, one old man invited them to stay with him. This "man of peace" started the relationship that allowed the team to work in the village.

Three years later, the relationships and trust continue to grow, providing access to other villages even more isolated in these hills.

Yodsuwan and his team make this treacherous trip into the hills each week -- rain or shine. This week, the rain poured down. But with joy and rain gear, we rumbled on toward the village. Yodsuwan said it is important to make this trek each week, the village needs the encouragement and is a launching point for further community development in the area.


"In your precious name, stop the rain," I heard Snyder pray. Then turning to me she said, "Though I don't always go with them, I feel responsible for the team's safety, so I'm always praying for them. I have to trust in the Lord, and pray."

I learned more about why she was concerned for the team's safety as we continued up the trail. I started out driving one of the motorcycles, but after falling off four times, I rode on the back of Yodsuwan's motorcycle.

As we rode along, the path became very narrow. On the left was steep hillside, on the right, the steep drop-off of the cliff. We had only a one-foot margin of error on either side. On several occasions, I got off and walked as Yodsuwan gunned the motorcycle up the rough mountain trail, bouncing back and forth. Like Snyder, I found myself praying the whole trip. Who knew our World Hunger Fund projects made it to places as remote and rough as this?

Even though the trip was difficult, the team ran to serve the people when we arrived. Community development projects have taken hold here gradually. Villagers have learned about proper nutrition and how to grow their own vegetables. Proper toilets have also been dug, keeping their water supply clean.

You can tell the difference the World Hunger Fund has made in this village simply by listening to the laughter and singing of children playing soccer with two community development workers. Now the children are healthy and beginning to thrive.


The homes also were full of smiling women, as team members Fern Yodsuwan* and May Srisai* taught them new life skills.

As evening approached, we made our way to the school building, which this team helped build, to spend the night. Jaidee Yodsuwan and the schoolteacher led in a time of prayer and song as we ended our day.

The following morning, the team gave math lessons and the sound of happy chatter and scraping chalk filled the school. Jaidee Yodsuwan cut hair and Joe Boonmee* prayed with the children as they studied. Through the team's teaching, each of the children has heard the story about Jesus' love at least once.

After I prayed for the village, we headed down the mountain -- back to electricity, real roads and nice homes.

Somehow, the ride back didn't seem quite as treacherous, as I rejoiced in seeing how God uses this passionate team to serve the poor and share the Good News of His love, no matter how difficult the journey.

With confidence one team member told me, "Though there is not a believer in the village now, one day someone will come to believe in Jesus."

Through your gifts to the World Hunger Fund, you are an active part of this team. You make it possible for them to physically help people in poverty while sharing Christ's compassion and love literally to the ends of the earth.


*Names changed. J. B. Shark is an intern serving in Southeast Asia. To see an interactive map of World Hunger Fund projects in Asia and take an on-line quiz about world hunger, visit www.asiastories.com. For information about promoting or donating to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, visit worldhungerfund.com.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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