Man on a Mission
Mel Baker’s extraordinary journey delivering food and hope to the forgotten half way 'round the world
Mel Baker with children of the Kairos refugee camp/orphanage in Thailand during a mission trip this past August.  Mel spoke to Coon Rapids Rotary on November 27, 2017 about the trip.  (All photos courtesy of Mel Baker)
Mel Baker started planning his recent mission trip to Thailand about a year ago.  An argument could be made that the idea was hatched a little earlier.  On a cold December day a couple of years back, the editor heard the distinctive laugh of Mel Baker during a Toys for Joy event at the Anoka Armory.  Several Coon Rapids Rotarians had volunteered that day.  At one point, the editor (relatively new to the club) struck up a conversation with Mel in the kitchen of the armory amidst the toys, the people and the bustle of the afternoon.  Among the topics was Mel’s desire to become a philanthropist.  He paused for a moment and said at the time, “I don’t know what it is I’m going to do, but I want to help others less fortunate…and I want to do something big.”  The statement made quite an impression.  He had a quiet confidence, a sense of purpose and determination – you could say he was a man on a mission.
This past August, Mel traveled to a children’s refugee camp in Thailand, one of several established by public and private groups to handle an influx of people displaced by decades of civil war in nearby Burma (now known as Myanmar).  Mel’s primary goal was to deliver food packaged by Coon Rapids-based Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) to kids living in orphanages.  He spoke to the club this past Monday about his journey, known affectionately as Mel’s Mission Possible.  But the trip to Thailand started several months before, when Mel began planning a bike ride from Coon Rapids to Duluth to raise funds for the trip.  In July, Mel and 19 others embarked on the ride from the Twin Cities to Duluth and completed the 162 mile trip in 2 days.  Mel along with members of his church raised $20,500 and used the proceeds to deliver the food to Thailand.  The Manna Packs from FMSC were packed by a volunteer group based on Arizona.  A group of 12 church members eventually joined Mel on the mission trip.
The camp that Mel visited in Thailand houses over 1,000 children, many of whom lost parents in their homeland of Burma.  Due to decades of civil war and conflict between various factions within Burma, most of the kids arrived without identity papers and as a result have no legal status under international law.  “It’s as if the kids don’t exist”, Mel said during his presentation.  But for a few days this past August, these children did have status in the eyes of at least one man, who was on a very important mission.  Thanks to Mel Baker and all who supported his trip to Thailand.  Well done!