"I first got leprosy when I was three or four years old. I had red patches on my arms. When I was six or seven years old a missionary found me and took me to a hospital in central Thailand near my hometown. This missionary was very kind to me. She brought me sweets and pictures and told me about Jesus. She used to send blankets to me at the hospital.
While I was at this hospital I got leprosy reaction. So I was sent to McKean (TLM's partner in Thailand). I was a real mess. I couldn’t walk. I had lumps all over my body and bad nerve pain. So I spent months in the hospital receiving treatment. When I was well enough to leave the ward I moved into the boys' hostel at McKean. It was here that I first started school.
I had to stay at McKean because the community in my home town wouldn’t accept me. Even as a little child I had to stay hidden in my house because people wouldn’t accept me. My parents wanted to protect me so they kept me hidden. They also worried about being rejected themselves because of me. I remember going on a train ride once and having to stand with my face hidden so people wouldn’t know I had leprosy.
After I came to McKean my family didn’t come to visit me. They knew I was well looked after and receiving treatment. In those days if you had leprosy you went away and lived separately from others.
But the kind missionary lady kept visiting me and showing me great kindness. She taught me about what Jesus had done for me. So I have had faith in Jesus since I was a child.
When I left school I learnt wood carving and went to live in a cottage for people affected by leprosy (at McKean) – one of the other patients at McKean taught me wood carving.
Eventually I moved to a “rehabilitation” village in the community that McKean had set up to help people affected by leprosy reintegrate into normal society. There was lots of good wood around there so I was able to earn a living through my wood carving. I married a girl from the village who didn’t have leprosy. After two years we moved down to Bangkok to do some construction work with my brother. But because of loss of sensation I kept injuring my hands. So I came back to McKean and started to work in the craft department.
I took a loan from McKean to buy a home and then I was able to pay off the loan through the income I earned from wood carving. My wife and I had a son but he died when he was 19. He was swimming and he drowned.
Eventually I became a shoe-maker at McKean. I made moulded shoes for people affected by leprosy until I retired about five years ago.
I still face some discrimination because of leprosy, but much less than I used to. It is in patches now rather than widespread. The younger generation don’t discriminate but older people sometimes do. I’m still reminded of the discrimination I faced as a child so even now I feel anxiety when I enter a village, though I know it doesn’t really make sense.
I want to give thanks, if it wasn’t through the help of God through this hospital, I would’ve been lost.
I’ve kept going on my wood carving. I’m not motivated by payment, just by doing the best art-work I can do. But I don’t have as much time to do carving these days. My wife needs to have dialysis so I need to take her to a government hospital three times a week.
I love that other people are meeting God or receiving from God through the artwork that I have done."
Photos © Daniel Christiansz Photography