We were hopeful of completing the new floor and wall for the slum home of a poor elderly couple. But it was not to be. The amount of work exceeded our estimation. It could have been completed if we had better skills and tools. We had no lack of hands. We lacked skills and confidence. Nevertheless the team learned quickly by observing how Steve did things. He was amazing to watch. In fact it was fun to see how he handled different challenges and problems in the course of construction.
The floor boards were made of some kind of composite of concrete and fibre. They were heavy and even five of us urbanites could not lift them. However two of their locals easily lifted and carried all of them for us to the house.
I was not of much help to the construction, and sort of fell into the role of “unofficial” photographer and storyteller. So today I focused on taking good photos and on telling the story. I became more serious about camera angles, and interviewed the initiator and leader of the Ruth Center. I spent an hour talking to Noi the diminutive “giant” who ministered among the elderly poor. This story will require a post in itself.
So at the end of the day, we finished 90% of the floor and 70% of the walls and decided to call it a day as it was over 5pm. Then we had to give away “Cold Storage” school bags to the poor school children of the slums.
By the time we were in the van, it was 6pm. This was risky. And our anxiety was proven true for we got stuck in the Bangkok peak traffic jam at Sukhumvit. The van was stationary for close to 10 minutes. Nothing moved. So when we saw the Rembrandt Hotel through the van window, we decided unanimously to take a walk. We reached the hotel in 15minutes! I think by the time we entered the hotel, the van might have moved a mere 100 metres.
We were learning when to be patient and when to be decisive.
Ruth Center was formed from YWAM Thailand’s outreach among the elderly living in the slum communities. We met Noi, the leader of this center, a dimunitive but wonderful Thai lady who loves the elderly and has been working among them for about a decade already. She shared with us how the center started, and how three of the staff would visit the elderly in the slum communities daily, and how the elderly were given craftwork to do so that they could earn some money. While she was briefing us some of the guys were helping Steve repair some tools to be used during the construction work.
We walked to the home of the elderly. The tasks were to remove the rotted floorboards and replace them with concrete composite ones; replace the rotted plywood walls with better wall material; and make a pavement just outside their door. We found we could only start the demolishing and removal work but could not complete the floor or the walls. Thankfully they would stay elsewhere with friends. We hope to finish the tasks the next day so they could live there.
We had our lectio divine at 7.15am at the bar. It has become our hallowed place. Far enough from the view of prying hotel guests to give us the privacy we needed. This morning the phrase “the God of Jacob protect you” stayed with me. And indeed during the course of work there were four incidents but no accidents, thank God, but mere abrasions or getting wet with swampy slum water. The Lord was there to protect us from harm.
Steve was the key guy who ran the construction program which usually does a project a month. Without him we could literally do nothing. But with him the building project became possible.
This was a tiring day. We urbanites were not used to carrying heavy stuff, stooping down to remove rotted plywood and nails, and using construction tools. However some of us were pretty skilled, and what they lacked in experience, they overcame with enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn.
At the end of the day we downed our tools, packed up for the day, and left before the rain fell and the Bangkok notorious traffic hampered us as we neared Sukhomvit.
All we wanted was to get clean and to search for our dinner. We all ended up in Terminal 21.
We used the farthest corner of the bar. The staff gave us permission to use it on this the Lord’s Day for a brief devotion. We spent time quieting down our hearts and turning towards God by meditating on Psalms 92:13-15. I particularly liked verse 14: “They will bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and gr”. There is no ageism in the Bible. It is so positive about ageing. Praise the Lord. Full of sap; and green too, in your sixties, seventies and eighties!
After that we set off to a local floating market called Bangnamphung. We took a train to Udom Suk and there we met Baby my sister in law who guided us on a “tour”. It took a cab, a ferry and riding pillion on a motorbike to get to the local market. It would have been impossible without her!
The weather was humid and hot and the “floating market” which opens only on weekends was filled with local people selling their wares and locals buying stuff and just enjoying a day out. We ate interesting cooked foods, desserts, and cut fruits along the way. A few of us bought a S$2.60 T-shirts, kitchen ware, and locally grown garlic. Everything was inexpensive compared to Singapore. The colours, the sounds and the smells and movements all around combine with the humidity to make this an intoxicating and fun four hours.
Miraculously we prayed and the Lord was gracious to provide the twelve of us with a convenient transport on the way back. We were praising God.
In the afternoon, Zach, who is the person in charge of this Mission trip, and myself, met up with Noi the lady in charge of the Ruth Center. We had a good useful discussion of the project for this week. We were to build a concrete sidewalk, replace a section of rotted wood siding of a grandfather’s house, and replace a section of rotted wood flooring with waterproof floor material. The grandfather had a stroke and his left side is paralysed, and the breadwinner, his wife earns 150 baht a day helping out in a school canteen. The Ruth Center is helping this family, and we volunteers from the church are helping out with manpower and materials. May God bless the work of our hands.
Tomorrow we leave the hotel by 7.30 am to try to avoid the traffic jam of Sukhumvit. This means breakfast at 6am. Who cares if Germany plays a World Cup match with Mexico? I had better sleep early tonight.