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From lost to found


Bualean Bootbangyang
Bualean digs a hole to help build a fence for Living Water Church.

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Bualean Bootbangyang 2
Bualean in front of her home

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February 15, 2008
- Pat Houmphan and Phillip Houmphan

BORABU, Thailand — Bualean Bootbangyang’s troubled life was transformed by Jesus, the man in white who appeared in her dreams.

Bualean was born and raised in Nongchit, a village 5 km 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 Bualean's half brother, whom she favoured.

Deprived of parental love and with a strong desire to escape her circumstances, Bualean moved to Bangkok at the age of 18.  Several years later, Bualean was 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 Bualean, 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 Bualean about his condition.   Shortly after his death, she discovered the truth and learned that he had passed the virus on to her. 

Bualean 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, Bualean dreamed of a man dressed in white who spoke of a “way out”, but she did not understand what it meant.

Miraculously, we met Bualean two months later while visiting Nongchit village to preach the gospel.   We told her of the way out provided through Jesus Christ, and Bualean realized that Jesus was the man in her dreams.  Shortly afterward, Bualean decided to follow Jesus.

Today Bualean is a different person.  She has learned to accept her problems and can now be seen laughing and smiling in our services at the Living Water Church.  Although she is still poor, she is generous with what she does have.  Bualean 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. 

Bualean has found a way to face her problems with God’s help.  Because of that, we don`t have to grieve with her over her losses.  We can instead celebrate what she has found.  As Bualean herself said, “I used to be a slave, 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.