IN LATE SEPTEMBER 2011, many countries across Asia encountered severe flooding. This coincided with high tides in mid-October. In just a few days, many provinces in Thailand and Cambodia were inundated, causing loss of many lives and severe damage to property and farmland.
It was a catastrophe caused by an inordinate amount of rain which exceeded the 30-year monthly average by as much as 190 per cent. Within a few days, Rangsit Methodist Church (RMC) in Thailand and its surrounding areas were inundated, with the waters inching up every day and threatening to engulf the sanctuary.
Immediately, the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) used its “Pray for MMS in 60 seconds” network to issue a call to pray for the affected people and institutions in Northern Thailand (Chiangmai), Isaan District (Bangkok) and Cambodia, along with an appeal for funds.
Under the direction of Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, the MMS issued instructions to its national leaders in Thailand and Cambodia to form a crisis relief task force in each country, to plan and provide immediate crisis relief assistance using small groups in motorised boats to those affected by the flood. The immediate needs were to provide warm food, drinking water, medicines, rain shelters, torches and other supplies.
The Bishop, who is also the presiding bishop of the Methodist Mission Conference in Cambodian, directed the Crisis Relief Task Force in Cambodia under the Rev Song Jin Sup, the Mission Superintendent of the Conference, to conduct the operations in two stages: Firstly, immediate relief works; and secondly, repair and reconstruction works. For the latter to be effective, the gathering of information, prioritising of needs and communication of plans were critical. The Bishop also advised the task forces, led by the Rev Song in Cambodia and the Rev Prasert Pornkiratikul with the Rev Henry Yeo in Thailand, to learn and gain valuable experiences as well as to work closely with MMS leaders who would be coordinating response from The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS).
Here in Singapore, the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) Crisis Relief Committee and the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) Crisis Relief Committee swung into action. The CAC donated $5,000 and TRAC mobilised its “quick response teams” to fly to Chiangmai and later Bangkok to render assistance in distributing $2,500 in cash and food donations.
Donations from individuals like Dr Seet Ai Mee from Aldersgate Methodist Church and her friends came in the form of 300 Hyflux water purifiers and cash donations of $16,000 for Cambodia. The MMS purchased another 100 purifier units for Thailand. In total, cash pledges amounting to $20,000 were received from individuals through the MMS and distributed to Thailand and Cambodia via the MMS field staff and Task Force Committees.
The Task Force under the Methodist Church in Cambodia (MCC) distributed relief supplies and food to more than 3,000 families in many provinces, with cash assistance from the Methodist churches and communities in Malaysia and South Korea. The Task Force is awaiting response from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR, USA) before carrying out the extensive reconstruction works.
In Vietnam, the International Christian Fellowship helped raise funds for relief works in the country, which suffered less severely than in Thailand and Cambodia.
MMS representatives on the ground in Thailand and Cambodia were in the thick of action alongside the national pastors and co-workers, forming small groups to bring relief to affected families. In RMC, some families whose homes were inundated by flood waters were allowed to stay at the second floor of the church building with daily provision of warm food. Practically every day, Ms Carol Loh, Assistant Country Director for Cambodia, the Rev Yeo, District Superintendent for Northern Thailand, and the Rev Prasert, District Superintendent for Central and Isaan District, together with volunteers from Singapore and national churches, made their rounds distributing food and basic relief to thousands of families affected by the flood in several provinces. They were taking heed of Jesus’ teaching that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me” (Matt 25:40).
The national pastors took the lead in identifying villages and prioritising food supply. They had to cram themselves into small motorised dingy boats to deliver staples and bottled water. The relief workers had to battle fatigue and cold weather to bring warmth to affected families.
The General Conference (GC) of the MCS approved a sum of $7,850 from the GC Crisis Relief Fund to allow the Northern District (Chiangmai) to conduct repair and reconstruction work in order to help the poor farmers affected by the severe flooding to restore their lands and homes.
Col (Retd) Quek Koh Eng is an Area Director and Director of Operations of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS). David Khew is the Assistant Director for Church Relations in the MMS.