THE REV SOMPHAN SANGKHEN comes from the remote village of Huey Paraai in the beautiful hill country, an hour’s drive west of Chiangmai, Thailand.
About 20 years ago, his parents sent his older brother and himself to Chiangmai to get an education as there was no school in their village. It was an extremely tough time for both of them. His older brother ran home after only a few months because he could not take the hardship, leaving him to fend for himself. He made his own shelter from discarded construction materials. He was miserable, but somehow he survived.
His story is not unique. Each year, hundreds of children from remote mountain villages make the same journey to nearby cities in order to go to school. ey live in the open – by the fences of schools or deserted forest clearings in makeshift shelters. They rely on donations for food. Most of them are malnourished.
Nine years ago, he took over from his father the role of Pastor of Genesis Methodist Church. With consistent help from Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church, Singapore and an international relief NGO called Heifer, he worked hard to improve the economic and social wellbeing of his community. Ang Mo Kio MC pastors and members who visited him regularly through the years brought back encouraging reports of the increase of the number of cattle, pigs, poultry and fish – not to mention solar panels, motorcycles, trucks, satellite dishes and TV sets.
The Rev Somphan decided that his church must do something to help the many children sleeping rough in the open as once he himself had to. They may not be able to help all of them – but they certainly could help a few.
His church gave them food and clothing whenever they could. Three years ago, they approached Heifer who helped them purchase a piece of land. Together with some parents, they built shelters made of bamboo and hay. They also asked the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) to buy rice fields to provide a regular supply of rice for the children.
At the beginning of this year, another NGO, the Bridge of Life, built beautiful permanent structures so that they can now house up to 80 children. They even put in a computer room with 10 computers. Now, 80 children have a proper place to live in but the Rev Somphan still has to raise money every month to buy food and uniforms and provide transportation to and from school.
The MMS partners with many responsible leaders like the Rev Somphan to bring hope to more than 700 children living in extremely diﬃcult situations. Just S$30 a month will ensure that a child receives adequate shelter, an education and enough food. If you would like to help these children, please send your gift to the “Methodist Missions Society”, 70 Barker Rd #06-01 Singapore or contact me at 6478-4818 for more details.
The Rev Dr Norman Wong is the Executive Director of the Methodist Missions Society.
‘Fireproof’ warms moviegoers
BEDOK METHODIST CHURCH (BMC) booked the Cathay cineplex for the hit movie, “Fireproof”, that screened to two fully filled cinema halls on July 3, 2009.
BMC’s Family Life Committee brought the evangelistic movie to couples in the community, both to help bring home marriage values, as well as to serve as an evangelistic tool to non-believer couples.
An initial hall capacity of 130 was oversold on the first day of ticket sales, and a second hall was booked to bring the capacity to 300 over two screening times. Even then, BMC had to turn away some people who asked for tickets later on.
In addition to the movie, a book table was set up in the public foyer with books and DVDs on relationships, as well as a publicity table for e Marriage Course and e Alpha Course.
Seventy per cent of the audience were guests of BMC members, and many reported having been touched by the movie. Some made the decision to strengthen their marriages, and others were prompted to ask more about Christianity. Some non-Christian couples asked for further screening times, and wanted to bring their friends along for the next screening.
All were given goodie bags, which were re-usable grocery bags with a printed reminder of the movie on them, so that the memory would continue to be in their minds every time they went grocery shopping. Inside were materials about BMC’s various resources for couples, The Alpha Course and gifts from Our Daily Bread and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. Each couple was also given a bag of popcorn and two soft drinks.
Dr Anthony Goh, Head of the MCS WebTeam, is a member of Bedok Methodist Church.