“Come and see our baby brother.” Two young children pleaded with Charmaine Trendell as she returned with her husband Bob to their car after a meal out in Mae Sot, northern Thailand, where they serve as BMS mission workers. It was late at night and they had spotted the children with their mother who was pushing a heavy cart of recyclable items.
The children, a girl aged six and a boy aged three, took Charmaine’s hand and led her to the cart. Charmaine peered inside and saw a box no bigger than a shoe box tucked into a small space and surrounded by the bottles, cans and cardboard the mother had collected from nearby dustbins. In the box swaddled in a ragged cloth was the tiniest baby Charmaine had ever seen.
“Our hearts broke at the sight of this tiny little one born into such poverty,” says Charmaine, “especially as we had not long left our own beautiful grandsons born into comfort, safety and indeed privilege back in the UK. How were such extremes possible? The unfairness made us feel so impotent and angry.”
What was even more shocking was the age of the baby. The mother said that he was ten days old; he was certainly tiny enough for that to be true, but Charmaine and Bob were later to find out that he was actually one month old.
When asked, the children said they hadn’t eaten, so Bob and Charmaine bought food for the family and they then followed them back to where they were living in the grounds of a Chinese temple.
The mother told Bob and Charmaine that her husband was not well and was unable to work. They were planning to return to Burma and were saving up to do so. Scouring the dust bins was the only way the mother could provide for her family. “Her dignity in the face of such dire need was awe inspiring,” says Charmaine.
Bob, Charmaine and their colleagues at BMS partner Compasio did all they could to help the family. They gave the father noodles to build up his strength so he could help his wife. The mother had stopped breastfeeding her baby as she had a cold and didn’t want to pass it onto her son, so they explained that this was putting the baby in huge danger and helped her overcome a breastfeeding problem so it was easier for her to feed her tiny son.
“We wanted to help this family to find a place to live as they literally had nothing; no shelter, no pots to cook with, no bedding and no blankets,” says Bob. “The nights were still pretty chilly even if the days were getting hotter. In fact the baby had bad sunburn from being pushed around in the heat of the day.”
The parents, however, were adamant that they wanted to go back to Burma and therefore said no to being resettled into another community in Mae Sot. They seemed unwilling to receive help, except the little they did accept from Compasio. As far as Bob and Charmaine know, the family have now returned to Burma.
“Sometimes we can make a difference in the lives of people and sometimes all we are asked to do is come alongside the poor and needy and give them whatever help they want,” says Charmaine. “In this situation it was not as much as we would like to have been able to, but they have the right to choose and we have to learn to allow them the freedom of that choice. This is so much harder to do.
“Sometimes all we can do is pray, and we do; we pray for their future in Burma which will undoubtedly be precarious, but we pray that they may look back and remember our love and concern for them.”
Pray for the work of Bob, Charmaine and those at Compasio, supported by BMS, serving the poor and sharing God’s love with them in Mae Sot, Thailand.