Worst of Thai flooding effects yet to come

By October 31, 2011

Thailand (MNN) — The atmosphere in Thailand is tense, to say the least. Some are fleeing their homes, others are staying put out of necessity for farming or because they simply have nowhere to go.

Those remaining in their homes are living in water-filled houses, most swimming in sewage.

Vehicles are backed up for miles on exit ramps, most resting vacant, abandoned by their hopeful owners attempting to keep their cars away from water damage.

It's nearly impossible for most to get to work. Kids can't get to school. Water in the nation's old capital, Ayutthaya, is neck-high.

The flooding has been getting worse in most areas since August. It's slowly been creeping into Bangkok, forcing the government to manipulate water ways so that flooding affects smaller villages rather than larger cities.

The water damage is so widespread that many rural areas have yet to receive assistance of any kind. Villagers wait patiently, most confident that their government is trying, but they are frustrated over the devastation and loss of livelihood.

Thailand's current state of crisis is already messy, and estimates say without anywhere for excess water to go, flood waters will remain high for at least another month. But disheveled Thais unfortunately have more damage ahead of them that's, in some ways, even more substantial than homelessness.

"Where a lot of the flooding has been is prime rice farming fields," notes Caroline Anderson, an International Mission Board journalist living in Thailand. "Much of Thailand's production of rice comes from this central area, and Thailand also exports a lot of rice throughout the world."

Flooding has destroyed a substantial number of rice crops already. According to Reuters, the Thai government estimates the nation may lose a quarter of the main rice crop to flood waters.

It's bad for local hunger needs, but worse is the effect this could have on international trade. Already Indonesia is looking to other sources for their rice, Reuters reports. Devastation could spread years even down the road if enough paddy seed isn't recovered.

"Many Thais are also worried about tourism–one of Thailand's main industries," adds Anderson. Although tourists were still wandering throughout Bangkok as of Friday, future tourists are being warned to cancel their plans.

The long-term effects will be brutal, but already Christians have been able to provide hope in the midst of a dark time. Even believers who are suffering from flooding themselves have joined relief teams. Various missionary groups and local church groups have gotten on board for relief efforts and are boldly explaining to other Thais why they are doing what they are doing.

It's a huge open doorway for Christians. "It's commonly said, ‘To be Thai is to be Buddhist,'" says Anderson. Thus, when Thais convert to Christianity, they can often have a difficult time maintaining relationships with family and friends who view their decision as a betrayal of cultural identity.

Pray that this disaster would allow Christians opportunities to speak back into the lives of those they may have been distanced from in the past. Pray that many Thais will cling to Christ in this desperate time, that this awful situation might be used for eternal good.

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