A variety of thoughts raced through the mind of Kriangsak Takham (“Yo”) as he saw his tiny, 85-year-old friend Gaew (GA-oh) (pictured above) walking back and forth across the tile floor of her village home.
“I was afraid,” he admits. “I didn’t want her to collapse.”
Only minutes earlier, after sharing a Bible story with Gaew in her mother tongue of Northern Thai, the 39-year-old Thai evangelist had laid his hands on Gaew’s deformed legs, asking Jesus to heal her so she could walk.
“The story of the lady with the bleeding problems came into my head,” explains Yo of the healing recorded in the gospels. He told Gaew that for 12 years the desperate woman had spent her lifesavings on physicians, trying to find relief for her suffering—but no one could heal her. However, when she touched Jesus’ robe she was instantly healed.
“Now God can heal you too,” he told Gaew, after praying for her. “God will give you strength.”
When Yo placed his hands on her legs that day, Gaew says her pain left and she felt lighter and stronger. After Yo left the room to use the washroom, she tested her strength, lifting herself off her bed where she was sitting, and began to walk.
When Yo returned, he was surprised and in disbelief.
“Is this real?” he asked Gaew, as he recorded her on his cellphone camera.
“Yes,” she insisted, telling Yo she had been unable to walk for the past 14 years.
“Oh, thank God that He sent you to me so I could hear the story and now know that God is holy and can heal,” Gaew said.
To carefully verify Gaew’s story, Yo showed neighbours the video he recorded of her walking.
“Yes, that’s the old lady that couldn’t walk,” they told him.
Yo realized that she was indeed telling the truth and that Jesus truly does heal.
Video: Gaew walks in her village home after Yo prayed for her for the first time.
Building a Relationship
Gaew first met Yo when he came to her home village near Chiang Mai, Thailand, looking to share the gospel through a style of Bible storytelling called oral storying that he learned from a workshop held by the Wycliffe Thai Foundation. Finding Gaew and four others in the area who were interested in learning more about Jesus and the Bible, he returned regularly.
During each visit, Yo gradually introduced Gaew to the Christian message—from creation to Christ—through short, two-minute Bible-based stories. Yo memorized and told each story in everyday language.
Afterward, Yo asked Gaew questions: What did she like about the story? What did it teach her about humanity and God? With each story, Gaew became more amazed with Jesus and began to read for herself in the Bible the stories that Yo had shared with her. She has since finished reading the entire New Testament, despite limited eyesight that requires her to hold the Bible inches from her face in order to read.
“At the beginning she was still going to the Buddhist temple,” explains Yo. “I couldn’t explain right away that she couldn’t go to the temple. That would have stopped everything. I wouldn’t have been able to come to her house and share stories of Christ and God with her.”
Yo believes that sharing the gospel through stories is more natural in the Thai culture than “just taking out the Bible and opening it.
“You’re just praying that God will open their hearts and then you find a time that you can share a story that is relevant to their lives,’ he says. “I think that’s very powerful.”
After being healed, Gaew walked around the village, telling her family and neighbours that Jesus healed her. She even went to the village’s Buddhist temple to tell the congregation about Jesus, sharing stories about His restoring power. Her neighbours, though, didn’t take too kindly to her boldness, telling her that Thailand’s religion is Buddhism, not Christianity.
“They said they worship the Buddha,” Gaew explains, as she sits on the clean tile floor of her village home. “I’m not angry or mad at them . . . that’s what God teaches us to do: to not get angry, but to love them and share with them about Jesus.”
The head of the village doesn’t like her evangelistic spirit either. The leader blamed Yo for bringing a foreign religion to the village, believing that he came to take advantage of her.
“Gaew said to him that I didn’t come to rip her off,” says Yo. “She explained to the head of the village that I am like a representative of God and that I came to share the gospel with her.”
Despite Gaew’s miraculous story, she remains the only believer in her family and her entire village. Her friends and family say they are happy that her God healed her, but also believe that local shamans heal the sick.
“Miracles are very normal,” explains Yo. He says animist gods—or what he believes are fallen angels—often do miracles, and signs and wonders. One man, who Yo recently led to Christ, explained to him that when he was a shaman, those in his community would often bring him people who were possessed by evil spirits and he would cast them out.
“Jesus cast out demons. He (the former shaman) said he used to do it too,” explains Yo. “Fallen angels, they work very well to deceive people as a team.”
Lost and Afraid
Shortly after Jesus healed Gaew’s legs, she had a vivid dream. In it she was lost in a village late at night and couldn’t find her way back home. All around her were strange people whose directions confused and disoriented her.
As she searched for her way home, she approached a group of people, who strangely gave her only a cold look. She kept walking and approached a group of children jumping rope. Asking them where to go, they pointed ahead—into the hollow darkness. When she followed their directions, she was overcome and lost. Scared, she put her palms together and prayed to Jesus for help. Suddenly a bright light formed a narrow path ahead of her to walk home safely. Then she woke up in her bed in the darkness, feeling her heart beating after the vividness of the dream. She gave thanks to God, happy to be awake and alive.
Gaew believes that this strange village in her dream was the land of the dead, which is where Buddhists believe they go when they die.
Despite Gaew’s developing faith in Christ, she still has many Buddhist beliefs as well. But as Yo and Gaew visit in her home, she shares how her beliefs about the old religion are changing. She tells him that when we pass away we will be with God in heaven.
“God prepares everything for us there already,” she explains. “I don’t have to worry about the old belief that if somebody dies in the community, they have to sacrifice food, water or belongings.”
She tells Yo that God already provided the sacrifice.
Yo is back at Gaew’s home for another visit. She can no longer walk. Four months after she was healed, she slipped in the mud while working in her garden, snapping her Achilles tendon in one of her legs. Despite the setback, she exudes a calm joy as she hosts her guests.
Sharing a passage from her New Testament, she struggles to make out the words. Needing more light, she slides herself toward the doorway and continues without any trouble.
“He healed the sick and even called the dead to life,” she exclaims after she finishes her reading. “Jesus is God, He’s the only Son and helps many people in this world to wash away their sins.”
After a leisurely visit, it’s time for Yo to leave. But first, he prays again for the healing of her legs.
Like before, the prayers cause her to rise to her feet. With a hand from Yo, her deformed legs slide with difficulty across the floor. Appearing like her legs could collapse, she takes about four steps and then stops. She is tired.
Comfortably seated, Gaew has a peace about her. She realizes that her legs may fail her again, but also that Jesus has given her something much greater; He’s given her spiritual healing that is eternal.
Christ is alive in her soul. ***