On a humid Saturday, the wind blew softly, bringing thick, hot air – the kind of weather before refreshing rain – through the windows of homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The quiet afternoon invited most residents to relax at home, doing laundry or watching television.
In contrast to this, children at Grace Place Child Development Center skipped up and down, shouting joyfully when a staff member announced it was time to line up to receive their very first Bibles.
The children looked longingly at the colorful stacks in front of them and could hardly wait to lay their hands on one. The noises gradually fell to soft whispers when the first name was called out.
Nisakorn “Nueng” waited in line. She could feel her heart pounding against her chest; she was too excited to think of anything else but her Bible. Neung twirled her hair while inching forward to the front of the class, thinking of the times she would indulge herself poring over her Bible.
Neung’s family is like many other migrant laborer families. Her father is a Karen, and her mother, Akha. Both moved to Chiang Mai when they were in their teens to seek better lives. They met and married when Neung’s mother was only 17.
Life has not been easy for them. With only a sixth-grade education, Neung’s parents struggle to find jobs that pay enough to cover their basic needs. Their days are filled with long hours of work in rusted factories or cheap noodle restaurants with next-to-nothing pay.
Their small one-story cement home is tucked away in a hidden alley, within a tight-knit community in the hustle-bustle of Chiang Mai. Both of Neung’s parents were spirit worshipers, following the Karen’s animistic religious code.
In order for a child to achieve the spiritual outcome of our Child Sponsorship Program, the child must learn about God’s Word. Within one year of registration, every child enrolled receives an age-appropriate Bible to learn, and each will grow by reading and studying the Word.
Due to her family’s religious background, Neung did not open up her heart at first. But filled with curiosity and childlike faith, she tried to glean as much knowledge about God as possible during Bible classes at Sunday school. That was why she was so thrilled when the center staff handed her the Bible.
“My favorite story is about God’s creation. My biblical hero is David. These stories never get old.”
Not long after Neung received the Bible, God won her heart.
Her mom, having watched her daughter grow in faith, says with a chuckle,
“She adored her Bible. Every day when she came home, she would read it out loud to us although we told her that we did not believe in God. She loved to sing and recite the Bible scriptures. Her dad was annoyed at her sometimes.”
Neung matured in her faith as she spent time studying the Word and talking to God in prayer. She dreamed that everyone in her family would come to Christ.
After experiencing a meaningful getaway with the church family camp, Neung felt compelled to bring her mom to the camp. But her mom could not go because she didn’t have the money to pay her own way. So Neung began saving up for her mom.
“I saved 10 to 20 Baht of my pocket money each day for over a month to cover both of our registration fees. I also saved an extra amount just to buy a camp shirt for mom as a surprise.”
Then, at the next church family camp, Neung’s mom walked hand-in-hand with her daughter to profess that Jesus Christ is the Lord.
“A big part of the reason I came to the Lord was because of Neung. She never stopped inviting me to come to church and sharing God’s Word with me. In Romans 10:17, Paul says, ‘Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ’ (NIV).”
Neung, despite her young age, has matured in her spirituality through the Word of God and through the Bible study and fellowship at her church. She has become an agent of change, bringing the Word of God, ever present and powerful, to touch the heart of her mom. Undoubtedly, she also will touch the hearts of many in the world.