House after house passed by. There were shops with signs like “Coffee Today”. But no one was serving coffee today in the Coffee Today shop. And no one was living in the houses.
We were floating down a flooded street in northern Bangkok. Our team of volunteers was being towed about 5 miles to a Student Center and church. Thousands of dollars worth of furniture and equipment was submerged in 5 feet of water. If we got them out soon, they could be salvaged and cleaned. Otherwise, they would be rusted junk.
These were the inflatable boats that several MinistryNet conferees had purchased and brought as baggage to Thailand. When we arranged the purchase of the boats, we never imagined that we would get to use them to help with flood relief.
Yesterday, 10 of us took the day to join in the flood relief efforts. We drove through Bangkok traffic about 2 hours to the far north of Bangkok City, to the place where the flood waters from the north have surged past the levees and flood gates designed to protect Bangkok.
We were part of iServe, the opportunity sponsored by Cru to serve the people of Bangkok during this crisis. We served by meeting boatloads of evacuees as they reached dry land. We would help them out of boats. We would carry their loads with them to where taxis and other transport could take them to live with relatives or to evacuation centers.
The evacuees were so kind and appreciative. They were the ones who could only bring a few of their possessions. And they were appreciative of us.
Later in the day, we inflated the boats and climbed in. We were joined by several others who wanted to help. We roped ourselves into a caravan of inflatables. Two boats with gasoline engines towed us. For an hour and a half, we passed flooded houses, submerged vehicles, and swamped businesses.
It was a sobering experience. We passed people in creative, homemade “boats”. Pieces of styrofoam lashed together with plywood on top carried several people. Ice chests sealed shut and taped together supported two people. Inner tubes with a plywood deck were piled with personal possessions. Some walked through waist-deep water with a small bag of groceries held high–food to feed their family who was living on the second floor of their flooded house.
Thailand is known as the land of smiles, and this flood has not stopped them from smiling. All along the way, Thais greeted us with smiles and waves.
We spent several hours carrying furniture through chest-deep water, upstairs, and onto the second floor. The water is not expected to reach the second floor. Since there was not a third floor, we did the best we could.
Tired, wet, and out of time before darkness fell, we journeyed back over an hour to our vehicles. We would be able to go to a nice hotel, take a warm shower, sleep in a comfortable bed and wake up to a MinistryNet conference. The Thais we met would try to find a place to sleep and wake up tomorrow to begin again trying to find a way to make life work for them in the midst of this flood.
My prayer was that the God of all mercy and compassion would flood Thailand with his mercy. I prayed that God would make known his name among this nation. I was glad that we were able to have a very small part in providing inflatable boats, in helping people carry their loads, and helping one of only 4,000 churches in this country save some of their furniture. As I stacked soaked chairs, I prayed for those who would sit in the chairs in the coming months.