Food for today, hope for tomorrow, Christ for eternity
EDITOR’S NOTE: August 28 was Global Hunger Sunday. Global Hunger Relief (GHR) is an initiative of the Southern Baptist Convention dedicated to combating hunger and sharing the Bread of Life.
Missions-focused GHR projects are carried out by Send Relief, a joint ministry of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. All GHR projects have an intentional spiritual strategy, work with Southern Baptist personnel, solicit local input and expertise, and have accountability measures. Read more about the impact of this initiative.
“I didn’t know what I was going to eat tomorrow, but you have brought me enough food for two weeks.”
Thai Baptist churches heard words similar to these voiced by multiple families who received food packages through Send Relief’s We Care COVID-19 Relief food distribution project.
During the project’s three-month run, IMB missionaries and Send Relief partners Stephen and Holly Wright said 22 Thai Baptist churches in the greater Bangkok area distributed We Care bags containing essential food items to 616 families.
More than a year into the pandemic, Thailand was still feeling the effects. The economy in Thailand relies heavily on tourism, and many people lost their jobs or experienced a dramatic decrease in their income.
“The number of COVID cases were in the tens of thousands and several hundred people per day were dying apart from Christ due to COVID,” Stephen said. “Many churches wanted to help those in their communities that were hurting but were only able to assist in small amounts.”
Money that Southern Baptists gave to Send Relief made it possible for Thai churches to put food on the tables of Thai men and women who were living meal-to-meal. Twenty-two Thai churches distributed 3,696 food packages. Each of the 616 families that received food, representing 2,101 people in 22 communities, heard the gospel for the first time through the faithfulness of Thai believers, and 191 people committed their lives to Christ. Four new Bible studies started, and as a result of the outreach, ministry opportunities opened in 14 new areas.
Participating churches gained the favor of community leaders who expressed appreciation for the generosity of donors.
“Most people only give food to a family once or twice, but you’re meeting their needs for three months!” leaders told the Christians.
Stephen said the project made a lasting impression on the community and opened many doors.
“Many pastors have said that now the community knows who to turn to in times of great need,” Stephen said.
Members from one church took food to the family of a Muslim woman who had visited their church. The woman’s 12-year-old daughter struggled for years with sleeplessness due to what she believed was demon possession. Church members prayed over the daughter and shared the gospel.
“The daughter shook at the name of Jesus,” a church member said.
The 12-year-old daughter decided to follow Jesus that same day. The mother wants to follow in her daughter’s footsteps but fears the persecution she will face from her family.
Thai church members and IMB missionaries pray she will choose to walk forward in faith.
Thai pastors said the We Care project was empowering for their congregations.
“For the first time ever in our church’s history, members, not just leaders, are participating in the ministry and actually sharing the gospel,” a pastor said.
“Our members felt confident to go and share the gospel because the We Care bags put something in their hands to give out. We haven’t seen a single person come to Christ in two years, but through the project, we have had five new people come to Christ and baptized,” the pastor continued.
He said the church had been praying for an unchurched area 60 kilometers from their church for more than two years.
“No one from the congregation has taken initiative to see something start there. But seeing people come to Christ through the We Care project stirred a passion for evangelism in our church. Now, five families, including one of our church leaders, have surrendered to the calling to move to this unchurched area,” he continued.
The church will begin their evangelism efforts in that area by starting their own We Care project.
Christians were also encouraged by the partnership that formed between their churches. Thai believers came together to pray for, challenge and encourage one another throughout the project. Stephen said churches expressed great appreciation for Send Relief and IMB.
Thai churches are now asking how they can partner together for next steps.
Join Stephen and Holly Wright by praying for these communities and churches.
• Pray churches will follow up well with the 616 families who received the food distribution bags.
• Pray for a heightened urgency among the Thai believers to reach their surrounding communities for Christ.
• Pray for continued excitement from the 22 local churches involved in the project to partner to fulfill the Great Commission in Bangkok.
Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB. Stephen Wright serves with the IMB in Bangkok, Thailand.