Suzy Triplett, Servant Partners staff in Bangkok, Thailand, shares how God is providing spiritual and communal nourishment during COVID-19 difficulties through a series of community kitchens
“I never thought I’d start a soup kitchen,” Suzy reflects. Suzy Triplett is the Servant Partners staff in Bangkok, Thailand. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown descended on Bangkok, Suzy has been involved in starting four community kitchens to feed many of those affected—and inspiring nearly 40 more throughout Bangkok. She shares her experience here.
One Thursday afternoon, soon after the lockdown went into effect, every household in our community received a “survival pack” donation of rice, noodles, and eggs. Where we live, people are more afraid of starving than of catching the virus—so the survival pack seemed quite substantial.
When walking through the neighborhood the next day, I found P’ Biak, a community leader and friend of mine, and another leader stirring an enormous pot of curry next to several stacked bags of rice, noodles, and eggs.
“Families have returned their survival packs to me,” P’ Biak explained.
“What? Why?” I asked in disbelief.
“They don’t have enough money to pay for gas and electricity to cook their food, so it’s no good to them,” She said. “They returned it to me and I’m going to use the community gas and electricity to cook it for them.” This was P’ Biak's first day of cooking for the community. It was unplanned, unadvertised, and unsupported by anyone.
That day, P’ Biak and I resolved to start a soup kitchen to feed our needy neighbors in this crisis. We needed to produce about 200 meals every day to ensure that everyone was fed—but we were only expecting enough money for about 10 days of food.
It immediately felt overwhelming. We soon realized that the pandemic would go on for months, not weeks. Internally, I kept thinking, “What would we do after the 10 days?” But I swallowed my doubts and just sheepishly told P’Biak: “I can’t cook.”
“No worries,” she said. “I’ve got that covered.”
P’ Biak was undaunted by the task of
starting a soup kitchen. When donations from the Servant Partners’ COVID-19 Response Fund arrived, we began to cook and feed hundreds of people each day. And each day, we had 8 to 10 volunteers from nearby Newsong Church and from within the community. I still don’t understand how, but our 10-day supply of food was stretched into one month through the random and unexpected generosity of others.
Amid the bustle of cooking and feeding, we received a visit from a community organizing group who arrived to assess our needs. But rather than leaving with a list of ways to help, they left with a video of the community kitchen. The community organizing group took the video to the local government, saying, “We found a model that is working. You should fund this and you should reproduce it in other places. You need to decentralize and empower community leaders.”
And they did. On the second to last day of food distribution, we received a visit from the Inspector General of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, who approved funding to support the Suan Plu Community Kitchen for 20 more days. She also approved the funding of similar kitchens throughout Bangkok—39 in total! We also trained two additional communities to plan and manage a kitchen. To support adjacent communities, our own kitchen began producing 500 meals per day and distributing meals to three other communities.
As we received government support for 20 more days of food, many celebrated! But P’ Biak was silent. We chopped carrots when she spontaneously exclaimed to me: “What do we do at the end of these 20 days?”
Her question was precisely my question weeks earlier, when we only had 10 days of food.
“You know,” I said. “We started with 15 bags of rice and money for 10 days of food. That was over one month ago. But God provided. And now we have enough money for 20 days of food. At the end of 20 days, God will provide.”
P’ Biak’s face lit up. “You’re right. God will provide. God has blessed us so much, that we can help others.”
P’ Biak, a Buddhist, gets it. She is beginning to understand the source of all our blessings—and trust the Giver of those blessings.
As of today, we’ve distributed a total of 349 survival packs and 13,100 homemade meals, directly impacting 10 communities. We’ve had over 50 volunteers donating 5,910 hours to our relief efforts. Many people have been deeply touched by the community kitchen at Suan Plu—like Cherry, a volunteer who offered her first public prayer over the food.
I feel so blessed to watch what God is doing in this community as he offers hope—hot and ready—for all who need it.