y family and I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, when I was seven years old and just starting the second grade. God called us there to plant new churches all around the city. About 69 million people live in Thailand today, and only 14,000 are Seventh-day Adventist. That’s less than 1 percent of the total population! In the city of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, there are 17.4 million people and only 1,700 Seventh-day Adventists.
During our six years serving in Bangkok, we led out or participated in various outreach activities around the city. Bangkok is built on a swamp, so the city has a big problem with flooding. This problem becomes quite obvious in the city’s many slum communities. Open sewers and trash are everywhere, and people often don’t have enough to eat.
We partnered with one of our local Seventh-day Adventist schools, Ekamai International School (EIS), in giving to these poorer neighborhoods. The school had been collecting rice for a couple of months, and we were going to pass out the rice in a local slum community. On the designated Sabbath afternoon, we all met at the school. The trucks were already loaded to the brim with rice bags and other donations for the people.
When we arrived, we started setting up in a big space outdoors that looked like a parking lot, and we waited for people to arrive. The whole community came, several hundred people. Volunteers who spoke Thai taught the people about healthy living and about the Ten Commandments. We also had a program for the kids in which we sang, told stories, and played games. The children enjoyed the program, and so did their parents.
When we started passing out the rice, we gave each family one 5-kilogram (11-pound) bag. We also distributed baby formula to the mothers with young children and prayer cards and other literature to everyone.
After we distributed the rice, we put the leftover bags into wheelbarrows and walked through the slum. We stopped at the homes of the elderly and disabled people who couldn’t make it to the giveaway location. As we gave out the rice, we sang songs and prayed with the residents.
I remember one woman’s house we went to that was off the main concrete sidewalk. We had to walk on rocks or on wooden planks that had been laid down on concrete blocks to create a makeshift walkway over the dirty water. The water was a greenish color and had stuff floating in it, and the aroma attacked my nose. The rickety, wooden sidewalk was maybe one foot wide, so you had to be careful not to lose your balance because you’d be in for a very unpleasant swim. I wondered how some of these elderly or disabled people managed to get around such obstacles to travel to and from their homes each day.
When we went into the woman’s house, our eyes had to adjust to the dimness of the room. It was a one-room house with no bathroom, no electricity, and barely any furniture. We gave her a bag of rice, and the pastor prayed for her. She was very grateful for what we were doing for her and her community, and she asked us to come back. This experience made me want to do more for missions and help those who are in need and who need to know Jesus.
We went back to that community several times. The sweet woman who lived in the one-room house was baptized and became a missionary to her neighbors. Now, there’s also a church plant in her community, so they can all find the joy she found.
I Want This City
I Want This City is a 13-part television series that offers an unflinching look at the correlation between mission offerings and what happens on the front lines of mission. The reality-style show follows Doug Venn, director of Global Mission’s Urban Mission Center, for nine months around Bangkok, Thailand, one of the most unreached cities in the world. Watch the series at IWantThisCity.com, where you can also come with Hannah to this slum in episode 4, “Service Is the Link.”