A YWAM Ships outreach team was able to bring comfort to families that were victims of a fire that ravaged a slum neighborhood in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The team, which was part of the Justice Discipleship Training School that started at Port YWAM Kona in January, was staying at a hostel mere yards away from the blaze, which took place the beginning of May.
Dima Yarmolenko, a 23-year-old student on the team, said his group sought to bring relief to families any way it could.
“We had a translator so we had the opportunity to just go and encourage the families, pray for them and tell them about Jesus and show the kids a movie just to get their minds off of things that happened,” said Yarmolenko, of Washington state.
Tyler Belan, who co-led the outreach, said he is thankful that his team was in the neighborhood at the time of the fire to offer support to those affected.
“The situation was terrible but we were there at the right time and that became a huge ministry for us. We were able to raise funds a little bit and bring rice to them,” said Belan, 25, of Washington state.
It appears that the incident was caused by candles starting a fire near a propane tank, members of the outreach team said. One person — who is believed to have accidentally started the fire — died in the incident. The slum that was destroyed was populated by about 30 families — 80 people total — near a school and a Buddhist temple. The victims are mostly immigrants from neighboring Myanmar and Laos. Following the fire, the Thai government provided the families with meager shelters and mats to sleep on. The team was able to work among the victims for two weeks in partnership with the local ministry Lighthouse in Action and another outreach team that was already working there.
Yarmolenko said prayer was one of the primary services his team was able to offer to the victims, which they appeared to appreciate. He said he became friends with a Burmese man who lost his business and his moped in the fire. Belan said his team’s primary goal in its service to the victims was to show compassion.
“It was an opportunity to sit with the people, show them we cared and love them. So, we did what we could to just be with them.”