BORABU, Thailand (Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Church Canada Witness) — Bualean Bootbangyang’s troubled life was transformed by Jesus, the man in white who appeared in her dreams.
Bootbangyang was a widow furious at her late husband who infected her with HIV/AIDS before dying, setting her and their daughter apart from the other villagers. Alone and frustrated, she first met Christ in a dream and found hope after a meeting with mission workers.
Bootbangyang was born and raised in Nongchit, a village about three miles east of Borabu, Thailand. She grew up in poverty and was forced to drop out of school after grade six to help her parents with farm work. As a teenager, she was sexually abused by her half-brother. She told her mother about the problem, but her mother sided with Bootbangyang's half brother, whom she favoured.
Deprived of parental love and with a strong desire to escape her circumstances, Bootbangyang moved to Bangkok at the age of 18. Several years later, Bootbangyang married. With a man to support her, the future looked bright, and she dreamed of raising a family of her own. In 1995, the couple moved back to Nongchit. Their daughter was born later that year.
Unfortunately for Bootbangyang, after just five years of marriage, her husband became promiscuous. In 2001, he was infected with HIV/AIDS. He died two years later, without ever having told Bootbangyang about his condition. Shortly after his death, she discovered the truth and learned that he had passed the virus on to her.
Bootbangyang was angry at her husband and angry with life. She worried about what would happen to her daughter if she were to die. Out of fear, fellow villagers distanced themselves from her, leaving Bualean feeling ashamed of her condition.
After three years of grieving, Bootbangyang dreamed of a man dressed in white who spoke of a “way out,” but she did not understand what it meant.
Pat and Rad Houmphan, workers in Borabu through Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness, met Bootbangyang two months later while visiting Nongchit village to preach the gospel. When Bootbangyang heard of the way out provided through Jesus Christ, she realized that Jesus was the man in her dreams. Shortly afterward, Bootbangyang decided to follow Jesus.
Today, Bootbangyang is a different person. She has learned to accept her problems and can now be seen laughing and smiling in services at the Living Water Church. Although she is still poor, she is generous with what she does have. Bootbangyang often helps out in the church garden, planting and harvesting crops like tapiocas and peanuts to generate income to support the church. She says that she no longer fears death or what her death might mean for her daughter; God will take care of it all.
Bootbangyang has found a way to face her problems with God’s help. As Bootbangyang herself said, “I used to be a slave,” she said, “but I am now set free and have new life in Christ.”
Pat Houmphan and his wife, Rad, are Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Northeastern Thailand. They pastor the Living Water Church in Borabu. Co-author Phillip Houmphan is their son.