After dear friends sent money to send Taem to see Taylor Swift, I was all prepared to tell her of my scheme to take her to Bangkok to see her star. First, she absolutely refused, then once I’d explained the situation, she gave in to ask her parents. I later received this text:
The next morning, sweet Collin had to navigate the absurd Thai ticket site for me, but to no avail. I received the sad news Saturday afternoon.
Which led to this:
However, Sunday, things turned around.
I was in Chiang Mai, en route to Pai where I am working for the month doing videography for the Burmese Refugee Program.
I knew Taem had told me that her sister lived in Chiang Mai so I was put in contact with her (the precious Facebook message is in the blog post preceding this one)
Annie and I were all set to meet Sunday morning for church.
Annie’s parent’s drove 30 minutes out of the way to find me at some hotel on a road I couldn’t pronounce. I insisted I take a cab, but that was no option for 15 year old Annie.
I hear an excited scream across the street, “Teacher Lyndsey!!”
It’s Annie. We meet in a large embrace during which I hear Annie exhale, “Oh, Praise you Daddy. Praise God.”
Annie grabs my hand (something I’m getting used to) and leads me to her car.
Like all Thai cars I’ve ever been into, the back seat is stocked with tissue boxes in knit coverings and more animated character pillows than could fit passengers to make use of.
Also very common, I’m unable to properly thank her parents for driving so far out of their way, because they don’t understand English and it would be rude to try to communicate with them and embarrass them, so thus starts a long car conversation with Annie, while she explains her life story.
“These are my parents. That’s my mom. She’s sick. She has cancer. We found out in August, her
birthday month.” Annie shoots out information rapid fire.
I then notice her mother’s lack of hair and frail frame.
I’m at a loss of words and look to Annie for some way to respond.
“It’s very sad. I pray though and I know it’s God’s plan. Everything is God’s plan.”
Annie would later tell me that she prayed over her mother’s tumors, though it must have been a forced event, as her mother is Buddhist. Annie said once she prayed, the tumors stopped enumerating and they decreased rapidly. Then her mother believed that Jesus truly was healer, and began to go to church with her 15 year old daughter. Annie’s father remains devout in his Buddhist faith, little Buddha figurines draping his life, filling his dashboard and hanging from his mirror. However, he happily drives the two to church and waits outside for two hours every Sunday.
Annie continues to tell me the plight of her family. Her brother once believed that Jesus was God but she said he doesn’t really care anymore. Annie is 15 and more alone in her faith than I could have understood in America, a country so evangelized, “Christians” are most often the gospel’s worst enemy.
Annie tells me that she prays every day and that when she is sad and cries about her family she just trusts God and He has given her friends to pray with as well.
“Oh do not forget to pray for my family.” She says quickly as she moves on to the next topic.
I will not forget, Annie.
Someone told Annie about Jesus when she was 13 and she studied and prayed and knew Jesus was king by the way her heart changed after she began to pray to him and read the Bible.
“I asked my mom and dad, I want to be Christian. Can I be Christian? And they say ‘up to you!’” Annie said with the most satisfied grin, as if she’d just bragged about an incredible test score…but she was bragging about her God.
“Oh, I love when I pray to him and he makes me so happy. He makes my heart never alone. He is such an adorable God. I love my daddy. Jesus is so full and lovely.” Annie goes on and on. “When I talk about him, I have to cry!”
This girl is powerful.
I’ve known this little girl for 10 minutes, I’m riding in the car with her mother, whose health is deteriorating and whose father is lost in a religion Annie felt the full emptiness of. Meanwhile, she is tearing up talking about her adorable savior, Jesus Christ.
Annie isn’t remarkable in everything she talks about, by every standard she is still an 8th grader. She complains about how hard school is and how much she has to study, but her complaining is entirely different. It’s littered with “but God has a plan.” And “praise God.”
I kept attempting to chime in an encouragement and give her scripture responses, knowing she’d hold onto them, but she would just hold my hand tighter, give me a knowing look and continue to the next topic, and I just wanted to keep my mouth shut to hear what she’d say next.
“I think I want to be a doctor, I thought. But it so very very hard. You have a test in Thailand you must study three years before. That is right now. So hard, so crazy.”
Annie goes on about her dilemma in school, and common to girls her age, the confusion about what she wants to be in the future.
“So I ask daddy, okay, I trust you, I have faith in you so you tell me what you want me to be and I will do that. Show me that way you want me to go.”
She mimics her prayer stance as she tells me the story.
“And you know what. He told me He wants me to be a missionary.”
I could tell her confusion by the way she told me the story. It was obviously something she hadn’t figured out the possibility of in her head. After her Buddhist parents had paid exorbitant amounts of money to put her through private school, was she to end after university, not an option, and somehow find a way to be a missionary? Through what organization? With what qualification? What if she doesn’t feel equipped? What if she won’t want to do it?
I could see the questions in her eyes. Simultaneously, I saw the most amazing expression of trust as she almost physically laid it aside and said “but I trust God.”
Church was overwhelming, when we finally made it to “New Wine Skins Church.”
I couldn’t hold it together as I watched people worshipping Jesus so full heartedly, and dear Annie jumping and fist pumping at random during the very off-key worship time led by her 15 year old friend. Annie could hardly contain herself the whole time.
Annie translated the entire service for me and others were so sweet to welcome me, they were wiling to be humbled and talk to me through Annie, though an elder would normally never do such a patronizing act in Thailand.
Every now and then during the service I could tell Annie was summing up the message for me and asking me application questions to make sure the point was well received.
“So, God is our father. He made Noah make the arc for so long but he kept his promise. So faith. We must always have faith. Faith in God is another way to worship Him. You see?”
One of the female leaders came to me at the end and asked me exactly what God had said to me during the service. After introducing her children Joy and Bible to me (said Bibun…because Thais don’t see a difference between L and N sometimes) she wrapped her arms around me and Annie followed. She then began to pray over me mightily as Annie rapidly translated the prayer with much enthusiasm. Then she kissed my face a few times and was done with it.
I think I’m missing a few “Praise God”s but the joy has been captured I’m sure.
They forced a bit of food down my throat as I was trying to leave, and I somehow ended up with two boxes of rice and chicken to go and Annie and her parents dropped me off in the middle of Chiang Mai. Annie gave me a huge hug and told me she would send me a message every day and that she would see me soon.
And that was it.
Even as I type I’m at a loss of words as to how I will wrap up the events. The story of a 15 year old girl who brought another one of my dear 16 year old students to Jesus. The same girl who accidentally gave me a sermon in the back of her parent’s car as Buddha hanged from the rear view mirror in false gold glory. And the same girl who doesn’t see how God could make her a missionary.
It’s a lesson for me and at least someone willing to read four pages of my rambling. God didn’t prepare David to save the tribe of Israel by making him stronger and more intelligent. He gave David a heart that yearned for Him and seemingly unceasing joy.
Praise our adorable Jesus, indeed, Annie.