True conversion story of Amornrat Charnhiran
Compiled by Vachiravan Vanlaeiad
More than 10 years ago, while living in Los Angeles, California, I had always visited a Thai Buddhist Temple located in North Holywood. During Songkran Festival (Water Festival), it seemed the whole Thai Buddhist community in this city of angels had gathered together to celebrate the festival and to have a great time at the temple fair. At that time I had lived in this city for more than 10 years and every time I visited the temple during the fair, I would be very excited and could not help myself inviting other Thais to make merits. One day I had told a Thai woman named Joom to go to the temple with me, but she refused, saying, “I’m a Christian.” I then asked her many questions about her Christianity and she told me briefly about her conversion and testimony. She told me that God had healed her of an incurable illness so she had become a Christian. Even though I did not understand what she said but her last words had since instilled in my memory: “If you want to know Jesus – my God, try praying to Him. You can ask Him to solve any problems you have, especially your sickness.” My mouth said “yes” to her but my heart did not believe her words since from birth till then I had never been inflicted with any sickness except migraine headaches.
Not long after that, I had found a small tumor at my neck. I then rushed to a small clinic belonging to a Vietnamese doctor who had made low-fee charge for Asian patients, to check whether it was a tumor or fat mass. After 2 blood tests, the doctor told me I had thyrotoxicosis and referred me to a hospital or health center for more detailed examination. I then went to an Asian health center (which is much cheaper than the government hospital) set up for helping Asians. The exam results showed that I had hyperthyroidism. The center also referred me to a famous government hospital in Los Angeles which was expensive and very crowded. I had to start the exam process all over again and it took a long time before my first operation of taking the tumor out occurred and its post-operative symptoms had rendered the most extreme pains and sufferings I had ever experienced. During all these times I prayed to numerous gods and sacred beings I had worshiped all of my life to appeal to them to alleviate my pains and deliver me from my sufferings, and even from death! Due to the haemorrhage caused by my severely damaged surgical wound, my symptoms were so serious that the doctors and nurses wanted to operate on me one more time and made me sign a consent form for operation. Strangely enough, at that time I had thought back to Joom and recalled her parting words: “If you want to know Jesus – my God, try praying to Him. You can ask Him to solve any problems you have, especially your sickness.”
I then started to pray for the first time to Joom’s God, “If Jesus – Joom’s God is real, please deliver me from death. And if I am healed and discharged from the hospital, I will be a Christian. Or if I have to die, please grant me a peaceful death with no more pain and suffering.” After that I was unconscious.
Upon regaining consciousness, I recalled that I had been through the second operation without difficulties and was still alive. When I thought that Joom’s God surely helped me make it through this operation, I cried. Moreover, the doctor told me that the operation was successful so there would be no more operations. However, I had to be given a large amount of blood to replace the one I had lost. After 3 more days I was discharged from the hospital.
A few days after I was home, the hospital called and summoned me to urgently see the doctor. I was diagnosed with cancer! This made me think about dying and death for the first time in my life: Am I going to die of cancer? How many months would I live? Whom would I tell that I’m going to die? What would I do before I die? Where should I die (in Los Angeles or in Thailand)? So at five a.m. the next morning I went to have my third surgery to remove all cancerous tissues from the thyroid gland to prevent cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Again the doctor told me and made me sign a consent form after relaying to me that this operation would be much more difficult than the previous two and that the post-operative results would possibly be serious, ranging from loss of voice for a long time to hemiparesis (especially on one of my arms), etc. This time the doctor had tremendously assured me that he would do his best. I remember that I started to pray to Joom’s God since I had acknowledged and accepted the doctor’s words and signed the consent form, and then I became unconscious.
This operation was a successful one and I had not suffered any post-operative symptoms like my first operation (being allergic to medication, dizziness, etc.). Also the number of hospital admission days is less than after the first operation. After being discharged from the hospital, I had recuperated at my home and during that time many Christian friends of Joom came to visit me almost every day. Not only they brought foods to me, but they also prayed for me to be healed of my sickness. I wondered, at that time, why these total strangers were so kindhearted and generous to me. I would never forget their answer to my wonder, “We love you because of God’s love.” At first I was astonished, however, I was unexplainably very impressed and intended that one day I would be like them: helping others with love and without expecting something in return.
These Christians had also taken me to a church nearby my residence. While sitting listening their singing praises to God at church, the lyrics had always made me cry. Anyway, I could not sit long due to my weaknesses; I thus had scarcely listened to the Pastor’s preaching. Despite these hindrances, I had acknowledged more of God’s story and known that being a complete Christian; I must receive water baptism and abandon all my gods. The first one was OK but the latter was unacceptable and always made me furious, especially during the time people at church rebuked me about my wearing necklace with Buddha images hanging on it. I sarcastically answered them that I would make thorough pondering about this and would tell them my decision later!
After arriving home from church that day, I felt uncomfortable about my thinking and answering in that manner. Then that night I had a dream. In the dream, I had walked into a Chinese shrine with all these sacred beings standing in a row and in order: sacred city pillar, a Buddha image, and a statue-like man with long hair and white robes (even in my dream, I knew for sure that the statue was Jesus’ because it looked like the one I had seen on many paintings). Suddenly there was a sound coming out of nowhere asking me, “What god or sacred being would you worship?” In my dream I had walked past the city pillar (which was the one I had respected more than any other gods because I was instilled with this from many adults since childhood). I also walked past that Buddha image to the statue of Jesus and bowed down to it. Then I saw the statue smiling at me. Oddly enough that I had the same dream for many nights and every time I would wake up upon seeing Jesus smile at me. I could not contain my amazement and excitement that I had to relay my dreams to a Christian living nearby my place. She told me that God loved me and He surely called me to be His children. She also told me to receive water baptism and told me everything I needed to know and do if I wanted to convert to Christianity. However, I still hesitated and was confused, not saying yes to her. Despite my hesitation, I had tried to console myself that being a Christian was like believing one more god or adding another one into my collection of sacred images. The true reason is I was afraid of having to get rid of all my idols and images I had revered for all of my life.
That day I had been, as usual, sitting thinking and worrying about my decision. Before going to bed that night I made one more prayer, “Which God is real: Buddha, Jesus, or any other Sacred Being? May the real God appear in my dream tonight. And not only just a dream, but please make anything to confirm that the God in my dream is real.”
That night, I had a dream that I walked in a very wide field which I did not know where. Then I saw a very old couple sitting on a wooden bench in the middle of the field. They were lifting up their faces to the sky. When I walked toward them, I heard the old man say, “God is coming soon!” I asked them how God was coming. No sooner than my question ended, I heard a great sound of tremor coming from the sky. I then lifted up my eyes and saw a very big white pigeon flying down upon me and then it slowly changed itself into an image with great brightness which looked like Jesus (like I used to see in my previous dreams) floating down and hit my face with a great sound, “I am God. I’ve already come.” Suddenly I felt like being hit with electricity that my whole body was jerking. However, my jerking long existed even after I woke up. At first I thought I had a cramp. But after pondering about this for a long time, I was shocked that my symptoms after waking up in the middle of the night, were like the ones I had received in my dream. I thus had to raise my two palms together in the gesture of a wai, telling this God that I was afraid and had already believed that He was God. And not long after that I was relieved from the cramp and then I realized that it was not only just a dream but reality also.
All through that night I was sleepless, waiting until morning so that I could remove all my gilded Buddha images and amulets which I had brought from Thailand, and have them burned (with the help of my Christian neighbor). We had also cast away even the gold survived the fire burning.
The next day I went to the church and felt an urgency (since I did not know when I would die and I wanted to go back to Thailand to die there) to ask the Pastor to perform water baptism for me. Thank God that despite my not taking the weeks-long preliminary course of Christianity prior to baptism, I was baptized together with other new converts (after being shortly and thoroughly explained about Christian things by the Pastor) at Thai Outreach Church Pasadena, California.
Three weeks after baptism I returned to Thailand and went to worship God at a church in Trad Province (an eastern province of Thailand) which was my birthplace. The church’s Pastor happened to be my elder brother’s friend. At that time I was the only Christian in my family. The Pastor’s wife was my mentor. Not long after that I met one of my old friends who had not been in contact with me for 15 years! He later became my husband and then a Christian. And within one month after arriving home, God had also provided one of the best physicians specializing in Thyroid and used to study and be trained at the government hospital at which my cancer was diagnosed.
At present, I am a patient in Chulalongkorn Hospital. I have to make my blood test every 4-6 months to have my medication changed. And every 1-2 years, I have to take part in the Total Body Scan Program to check and detect cancer which may spread from my thyroid root to other parts of the body. Having this root with me is like Paul having a thorn in his flesh, “To keep me from becoming conceited…, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Praise the Lord that for 6 years until now that I have been in this program, my check result is always OK.
During walking with God, I have been taught by Him not to be desirous of and satisfied with miracles or blessings only. He wants me to seek His kingdom and righteousness (His face and sovereignty) by repenting and completely changing my life: my mind, my habits and behaviors, etc. as well as my spiritual life: faith, trust, loyalty, etc., in order to live a life pleasing and glorifying God in every aspect. Therefore, at 49 years of age, I have enrolled as a student at a Bible institute in Chiangmai. Please pray for my health, my study as well as my works for God in the future.