Stop, look, listen:

restoring community through exercise

Mending rusted exercise bikes might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ways to bring back a sense of community. But in Thailand, it’s working.

Listening to people and responding to their needs can be an extremely powerful way of demonstrating Christ’s love. In a rural village in Thailand, this is exactly what BMS World Mission workers are doing.

Helen and Wit Boondeekhun moved to Wang Daeng village in the Thai province of Uttaradit with the long-term goal of planting a church. With no Christians or churches in the village of five hundred families, the locals didn’t know what Christianity looked like. Instead of engaging in a battle of words with the majority Buddhist population, Helen and Wit decided to take a different approach. They listened. Upon arrival, they carried out a survey of the village, asking what the main concerns and needs in the area were. One of the biggest issues identified was the state of the gym.

The state of the gym when the Boondeekhun's arrived in Wang Daeng village
What the gym equipment looked like before its renovation
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In times past by, Wang Daeng’s small open air gym gave people a sense of community. It was a place for the youth to go instead of engaging in drink and party culture. But it fell into disrepair. It lay there, dilapidated. A rusted exercise bike, a broken step machine and corroded weight lifting gear, spread out in a row, neglected and unused.

After hearing the results of the survey and seeing the gym for themselves, Helen and Wit believed that restoring the exercise equipment would bring back a sense of community to the village. After applying for a BMS grant, they were able to employ a local worker to restore the gym. He got to work fixing, painting and rebuilding the old exercise bikes and other machines. A roof was built to protect the equipment from rain and people from the sun when exercising. Lights were also added, meaning the villagers could exercise any time of the day.

Mr Charn, the local worker who restored the gym
Mr Charn, the local worker who restored the gym

Once the gym was restored, a grand re-opening ceremony took place. A local government representative came to unveil a plaque and give a speech. Leaders from all over the area arrived, ready to celebrate. Many people from the village rushed to try out the newly oiled and bright green exercise bike. Since then, the gym has consistently been used by the people of Wang Daeng, helping to restore a sense of community once more. “The village were really excited about the revived gym,” said Helen. “It’s been a great way for us to serve, and we hope God will continue to use it to bring people together.”

Helen and Wit are just getting started with BMS in Wang Daeng, having been there for only a year. But, by listening to the needs of the community and acting upon them, they’ve demonstrated the love of a God who hears, and who wants to bring people into community. Your support is helping them show their faith in a village with no Christians. We believe God is at work in Wang Daeng and can’t wait to tell you what he does next.

Unveiling of the plaque at the re-opening ceremony
Unveiling of the plaque at the re-opening ceremony
One of the locals trying out a newly renovated exercise bike
One of the locals trying out the newly renovated gym

Watch the videos below to find out more about Helen and Wit and what they’re up to.

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