Sudaphorn was born in poor family along the Thailand/Burma border. She had to drop out of school in 2002 for a job working as a housemaid in Bangkok.
Three years later she moved north to her husband’s hometown of Lahu village. The town is in the mountains in Chiang Rai, and is surrounded by hills, trees and blue sky.
Supaphorn felt like a complete stranger in Lahu village. She could not communicate with other villagers, not even with her husband’s family because they only spoke their tribal language. Their cultural traditions were different from hers, making her afraid she might do something wrong.
“I felt so lonely in this village. I did not know anyone in the village and I did not have any friends due to the language barrier. My family who I can count on is in another country, so they could not help me. I was so hopeless.
“I felt like Ruth in the Bible who lives in a country that is not her own with her husband’s family and faces hardships.”
Sudaphorn did not have Thai citizenship, so she could not travel out of town. She could only travel to places near her village. She also had conflicts with her husband’s family.
“After I moved here for six months, my mother-in-law started to say harsh words to me. Even though I could not understand the meaning I saw it on her face and expression. She was not pleased that I could not help them working in a field like other daughters-in-law. I knew that I could not do as she expected me to do as a daughter-in-law, but I did my best to please her and hoped she would gave me a chance to prove myself.
“I felt discouraged every time they chased me away. I wanted to run away from this place to go home to my mother but could not. I was stuck here. There was no one to help me through this situation.
“When I gave a birth, no one from my family, not even my husband, was beside me. I had to do everything on my own, such as doing laundry, raising my baby and cooking. I did not even have money to buy my baby just a pair of socks to keep her warm. I felt sorry and pitied myself that I did not have a chance like others.”
Sudaphorn could not read or understand the articles the health center provided regarding care for her baby. Even worse, her husband did not trust or listen to her, but believed instead everything his mother said.
When the Child Survival Program began in 2008, Sudaphorn was the only one who was not a local and could not speak the local language. The staff knew that it would be difficult for Sudaphorn, so they decided to register her so she and her daughter could receive benefits.
The staff conducted activities every week using Lahu language in teaching. At the beginning when Sudaphorn attended the program, the staff ensured that she understood the messages by talking to her after the class in Thai.
After Sudaphorn attended for a few months, she made friends with the mothers in the class, who helped her learn Lahu and translated for her when she did not understand the lesson.
Even though Sudaphorn did not fully understand Lahu, she loved going to the program. The staff taught her many useful lessons about her child’s development, provided supplementary food, taught her how to feed her baby girl, and encouraged her, which made her happy during this crisis period in her life. But Sudaphorn’s favorite time was Bible time.
The staff told stories of women in the Bible to the mothers each week. They wanted to teach and emphasize that the women in the Bible lived their lives differently, and that some were poor, some were not accepted by society, some lived a shameful life, some lost their beloved, but that they all had one thing in common: They trusted and obeyed God.
Even though the women faced hardship, God helped them thought the darkest times of their lives. The staff hoped that these mothers could learn and look up to the women in the Bible.
“It is very important to share the Gospel with the mothers in this village. More than half of the mothers consider themselves as a Christian but they don’t really understand about Christianity. Their forefathers were Christian, so they have a belief according to their ancestors. My heart cried out to bring those mothers to salvation,” says Wanreedee, the Child Survival Program coordinator.
Sudaphorn was an animist and had never heard a story about God or the Bible. This was the first time she learned about God. Sudaphorn began to understand Lahu. She listened with sparkling eyes, and she had interesting questions, asking staff about the women’s lives.
When the staff taught the mothers about Ruth, Wanreedee noticed in Sudaphorn a look of sadness, and her eyes were brimming with tears.
“I want to be like Ruth, but I cannot,” Sudaphorn said to Wanreedee after the class.
Wanreedee challenged Sudaphorn and told her that God was the only one who changed Ruth’s heart and that He could change hers. Aug. 19, 2009, was the day Sudaphorn opened her heart to Jesus Christ to come and change her heart.
After Sudaphorn attended church and learned the Bible with a pastor’s wife who spoke Burmese, God softened Sudaphorn’s heart. She opened her eyes to see His enduring love she longed for.
“In the past Sudaphorn had a root of bitterness with her mother-in-law, she was deeply hurt. After she had a personal relationship with God, she was able to forgive what her mother-in-law did to her. Sudaphorn has more patience with her family, and she is very enthusiastic learning the Bible,” says Nati, the pastor’s wife and Sudaphorn’s mentor.
“We spent time every day at my house, learning the Bible and singing songs. I am so happy that God has changed her life. Sudaphorn is like a daughter to me.”
Sudaphorn wants to emulate Ruth, saying, “One more way I want to be like her is to love and obey my mother-in-law.”
Says Wanreedee, “Sudaphorn has turned from a mournful to a cheerful person. The happiness is shown on her face. She now has many friends at the church because she is friendly, generous, and thoughtful.”
“God is so amazing,” Sudaphorn says. “He blesses me with many wonderful things and he answered all my prayers. God gave me a house where I live only with my husband and my baby. My husband begins to listen and understand me. My daughter is healthy and I gain some income by selling my embroidery I learn from Nati. I am very peaceful and happy.
“I would like to thank God for his love every day. His love is so great that I can love and pray for my husband’s family.”