WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
"We are all in this together." P' Thana is my landlord who lives behind me. Next to him is P' Chit. Across from her and next to me is Ying, whose family just moved in about 3 weeks ago. If all four of us were to walk out of our back doors at the same time, we would be about 3 feet away from each other. It's really difficult to maintain social distancing in a poor community in the inner city of Bangkok! Which is why we had the community meeting in March where our community leader repeated this phrase over and over again - "We are all in this together."
A sense of community and interdependence have always been the greatest strengths of poor neighborhoods in Bangkok. Early on, we all agreed to take all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and one another. First, you should know that we are 249 households surrounded by 4 walls with two gates. The thought was, if we can keep the virus out there, then we can have a more normal, less-restricted life in here. And so we made a covenant with one another. Those who could stay in the community agreed to stay in. Those who had to go out agreed to wear masks and wash their hands A LOT. Those who had extra hand gel donated it to our motorcycle taxi drivers who are at greatest risk. We all agreed to do our shopping and purchasing of street food inside of our community as much as possible - both to reduce our risk of exposure to the virus on the outside and to support our very own vendors who were about to face a huge financial crisis. Parents agreed to keep children in the community and not allow them to play outside our walls. Most notably, teenagers agreed to stay in for the sake of the elderly - talk about a miracle. And while we all agreed not to shut our two gates and keep others out completely, we also agreed to not invite any outsiders in. Because whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.
I know that ultimately it is God's grace and protection that will get us through this. But sometimes God works through the ordinary actions of ordinary people rather than through a miraculous event that defies human explanation. Our interdependence with one another has never been more glaringly obvious. If we succeed in loving our neighbor as ourself, our interdependence remains as one of our greatest strengths. If we fail in this task, our interdependence becomes our greatest detriment. Based on the past month, I feel really good about our community's chances of making it through this without one single person being infected and without one single family going hungry. And part of that has to do with you. Because whether you knew it or not, you are connected to us too.
The economic effects of Covid-19 are sinking in deeply. The urban poor living in crowded conditions are not only the most vulnerable for catching and spreading the virus, but they are also the first to be impacted by the slowing economy. Many of my neighbors will also be the last to benefit from the economic recovery, which has yet to even begin. But the good news is that these trials bring opportunities to show the faithfulness of a loving God.
Newsong Church Bangkok has been my family of worship for a little over a year now. About a year ago they moved into the red light district close to my community. During the pandemic, we are supporting 30 women from the red light district with unrestricted cash donations to help feed their families. While Newsong has never been involved in ministry to an urban slum, I thought they might be willing to help with the logistics of transferring some cash from the Servant Partners Covid-19 Community Fund to my community. The response from leadership was immediate. “Absolutely, how can we help?” The church has waived the admin fee, quickly cut through a lot of red tape, they are including a basic flier with a printed blessing on it for each family, and they’ve even created a short video to introduce themselves and explain that it is not only food, but also the love of Christ, that is being shared with this community. The pastor of the church even said, “You know, when this whole thing is over, maybe we can get a little more involved.”
The Servant Partners Covid-19 Community Fund has helped resource SP staff around the globe to help urban poor communities during this crisis. Over US$12,000 has been raised so far. Because of your generosity, food distribution takes place weekly in a slum in Manila. Because of your generosity, families in San Jose and immigrants in San Antonio are receiving help with essentials such as diapers, rice and beans. Because of your generosity, two different locations in the Middle East have been equipped with hospital gowns and face masks. Because of your generosity, 250 households in one urban poor community in Bangkok will receive about a 1-week supply of food. My prayer is that this will also be only the beginning of how the middle-class church in Bangkok will bless the poor. We are working to create another partnership with a local church and a slum community near them. The idea is to use funding from the church, create a matching donation with funds from Servant Partners, and utilize the church’s workforce to get some much needed help to a small community in the northern corner of Bangkok.
If you haven’t already, please consider giving to the Covid -19 Community Support Fund by clicking the link below. All donations are tax-deductible in the USA.
Thank you for being part of the story of bringing the good news to the poor!