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In Thailand, Christians minister to ‘the least of these’ after refugee camp fire

(A rough video of the refugee camp fire. Scroll to about 32 seconds to see the flames and devastation.)
Church of Christ members in Thailand collected and distributed thousands of dollars worth of relief supplies after a fire killed dozens of people in a refugee camp.

Three women who lost their homes in the Ban Mae Surin refugee camp fire. (Photo provided by Robert Reagan)

The blaze, likely the result of a cooking fire, devastated the remote Ban Mae Surin refugee camp Thailand’s northwestern Mae Hong Son province, near the country’s border with Myanmar. The camp, launched in 1992, houses thousands of refugees who fled ethnic conflict in Myanmar. The blaze claimed 32 lives, injured 100 people and left nearly 2,300 homeless, CNN reports. Most of the victims are members of the Karen ethnic group.
Robert Reagan, a member of a mission team in Chiang Mai, Thailand, help launch a fundraiser for the victims, which netted about $3,000. Reagan and Thai Christians bought clothing, detergent and toothpaste. The Chiang Mai University Pharmacy donated 40 first-aid kits and gave Reagan a discount on 90 more — the rest of their stock. The Christians also bought lots of Thai style noodles and cooking supplies. Then they traveled to the camp.

“This lady was rummaging through the debris trying to find a pan for cooking,” said Robert Reagan, left. (Photo provided)

“It was a little overwhelming at first – realizing that some families lost everything, even loved ones,” Reagan said in a recent blog post. “The refugee camp is divided into four sections. Two of the four sections burned. Most families lost everything they owned. I was pleased to see how those who lost their homes were being taken care of by the refugees from the two sections that didn’t burn.
“When I asked the local refugees about their current needs, they responded that their food and clothing needs had been taken care of. They said people are ready to help the areas that burned, but their school probably won’t get much help since it didn’t burn. … The main assembly hall has a dusty dirt floor, very few chairs and only a few tables.
“Now is a time of seeking clarification of how to help provide further assistance in a wise way. Lots of organizations will help with the rebuilding, but will anyone notice the school that didn’t burn? My heart feels drawn toward helping these refugees in a way that can be a long-term blessing to their kid’s education.”
Before he left the camp, Reagan joined a group of Christians in the camp for Sunday worship in the Karen language.
“The only word I understood was ‘Amen,'” he said, “but I felt like we were one in spirit, and several came up to thank me for joining their assembly when it was finished.”

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25: 37-40

The humble school building in the refugee camp. (Photo provided)

  • Feedback
    Robert, How can we help?
    Thomas Hayes
    April, 9 2013

    Thomas, I e-mailed Robert Reagan. Here’s his response:
    They can send checks payable to:
    <a href=”http://www.westover.org/” rel=”nofollow”>Westover Hills Church of Christ</a>
    Note at bottom of check: “Thailand – Refugee Fire”
    To this address:
    Westover Hills Church of Christ
    8332 Mesa Drive
    Austin, TX 78759
    Erik Tryggestad
    April, 11 2013

    Thanks – will do just that!
    Thomas Hayes
    April, 11 2013

Filed under: Breaking News News Extras Photos and Videos

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