Toiling The Fields

By Alan Yeo . 24 December 2011



His hands were calloused from working the fields from early morning till late afternoon. Samuel Lam never imagined that he would be treading on agricultural paths. In the 80s, his smooth-sailing career as a regional consultant engineer kept him busy, traversing different parts of the globe. However, his life took a turn, when he started hearing the persistent calls of “Samuel, go to Mennark” that disrupted his sleep. Troubled by it, he consulted his mentor, a retired American Missionary and realized that God was calling him to Mennark in Thailand. Samuel’s mentor also wisely directed him to learn the ropes of agricultural farming and he was immersed in it for 6 months with his hands full of cow manure instead of machinery.


Baffled by the exact location of Mennark, Samuel would hang out at the Thai bus interchange and see if any passer-bys would be familiar with the whereabouts of Mennark. Three months later in 1987, Samuel found his way to Mennark, a remote mountainous village, some 3 hours drive from Chiang Mai. There is no public transport to Mennark and it was only accessible by a mini-truck. Upon arrival, he was astonished to meet a pastor of a Chinese Church whom he was not acquainted with. The pastor was waiting for him and had prepared lunch and even a room for him. This church became his base. At that time, the congregants were just a handful of Chinese families and they had no interaction with the tribal community in their midst.


There are 13 tribal villages in Mennark. Despite the folklores on witch-doctors and the unknown, Samuel courageously ventured into the tribal village. He had no clue as to what God had in mind for him. However, when he tripped on a flat plain and felt physical pain that God spoke to him about feeling the pain of the people around him. What further caught his attention was a hut in a state of dilapidation and he decided to chop down bamboos to help to mend the hut.


The community of Mennark is made up of mainly poor refugees who resettled from Myanmar and they are dependent on farming and natural resources for their livelihood. Initially, when the people in Mennark had news of a Singaporean living in their midst, they thought he was crazy but the tribal community gradually began to approach him to help them in various matters and he would avail himself throughout the week. However, Sunday remains a Sabbath for Samuel where he intentionally rested from work to be in church. This draws the curiosity of the people and Samuel would invite them to church.


Samuel has a great compassion and love for the people in Mennark. Most would have opted for the comforts and convenience of city life but he is willing to rough it out and be an example of what it means to follow Christ. He looks out for the widows and the orphans. He would fork out money to help children to continue with their education when their parents could no longer afford to send them to school, and also rescued young girls from being sold into prostitution. One of the children whom he had mentored went to Bible School and is now reaching out to his own people, sharing the good news in “Lahu” (a Burmese tribal language). Samuel’s harvest of crops – rice, corn and vegetables also provide sustenance for himself and those whom he is helping. As much as he wants to help families and orphans, he recognized that his resources are very much limited.


The second half of 2011 was a tough year not only for Mennark but most parts of Thailand. With the arrival of the monsoon season in June, flood waters inundated more than two-thirds of Thailand and it was the worst flooding in 50 years. Rice fields were submerged, factories were shut down, people were displaced and homes were damaged. In Mennark, the floods had wiped out the harvest of crops that the community had depended on and it was a grim situation. With news of the flood disaster not only in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Evangel Family Church who had been helping the poor and marginalized around the world had intentionally donated to the Singapore Red Cross to aid the flood disaster in South East Asia. A donation was also made to aid Samuel with his work affected by the flood disaster. With the donation, Samuel was able to purchase blankets and rice to help the needy community of the “Kong Pak Ping Lahu” hill tribe. Together with his wife and daughter, they delivered a pack of 5kg rice and a blanket to each individual of a needy household affected by the flood disaster.  


Samuel hopes for a day where he could own a farm where he could raise livestock such as pigs and chickens and generate income for the sustenance of the community. Meanwhile, he looks forward to celebrating Christmas with the community and sharing with them the good news and the true meaning of Christmas.