Disaster Relief, Journals
Posted on February 15, 2021 IM responds to fire in Karen refugee camp in Thailand
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King of Prussia, PA, February 2021

A fire roared through the Mae La Refugee Camp, located close to the Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College (KKBBSC) in Thailand, on February 9. More than 50 homes and several offices were completely destroyed. The fire, which started in a thatched home in the middle of the camp, spread quickly to other structures in the camp.  Prior to the arrival of the fire department, residents formed a bucket brigade to throw water onto the leaf rooftops of bamboo homes.  Fortunately, there were no casualties. However, the lives of hundreds of refugees have been affected by this fire.

The Mae La Refugee Camp, located near the Thai-Myanmar border, houses approximately 39,000 Karen refugees who have fled from Myanmar. It is the largest such camp in Thailand.  This refugee community has already been adversely affected economically by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fire is an additional, huge setback to this vulnerable community. It is compounded by the fact that aid to refugees continues to decrease even as numbers increase globally. Area Director Leslie Turley says, “The damage from this fire adds more stress to this refugee community. But I am confident that the resilience of the Karen people, and the hope that many have in our Lord Jesus Christ, will sustain them through this time of trial.”


IM seeks to respond to this crisis with relief funds to help displaced villagers rebuild their homes and lives, and to help the community rebuild the offices that are necessary to its continued existence. Please pray for the families in the Mae La Refugee Camp, and consider a financial gift to help with emergency food aid and supplies as well as reestablishment and reconstruction efforts.

IM global servants Eric and Yuree Lembke plan to serve in this camp after they raise their support and build their mission partnership network. Eric says, “Our hearts were saddened to hear that a fire broke out in section C of the Mae La refugee camp. Already displaced from their homes, those affected in this fire find themselves reliving events of their past. As we join together and lift them up in prayer, we rejoice that our partner school, although close to the fire, was not involved in the devastation.”

More information about refugee camps in Thailand, and this fire in particular, can be found in major media outlets. IM’s home office is in continuous contact with IM international partners which serve near the camp in Thailand. Along with your prayer and financial support, we will continue to identify ways in which we can help the reconstruction effort.

Persons wishing to support relief efforts can do so through their American Baptist church, or through giving online, or by sending checks directly to International Ministries. Please designate your contributions “OGHS–Thailand Mae La Camp” in the memo line of your check.

Checks sent directly to International Ministries should be made payable to International Ministries and mailed to:
International Ministries
Attn: Gifts Processing
1003 W 9th Avenue, Ste A
King of Prussia, PA 19406

Thank you for your prayers and financial support to help this community.

One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The Committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work, and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing the distribution of the annual OGHS offering received by churches.

International Ministries, also known as the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, works cross-culturally to invite people to become disciples of Jesus Christ and to proclaim, through both word and deed, God’s reign of justice, peace and abundant life for all creation.