Last year the Headspace team had the privilege of having Wijit join us as an intern. Wijit is 24, lives in Thailand, and is originally from Burma. He has had continued contact with Headspace for many years, first through his school that Headspace visits, then through joining the team as a translator once a year and in 2017 for the full trip. He has shared with us his story, which so beautifully displays the direction and provision of God over the years of his life.
Born in Burma, Wijit is the older sibling to two younger brothers, Messi and Goku. He lived with his grandparents for most of his childhood but was forced to become a monk when his grandfather passed away, leaving his grandmother unable to care for him and all of his cousins alone. He moved out of his grandparents’ home and learnt from the monks until he was twelve, when his parents took him and his brothers to Thailand, with the intention of moving into the Mae La Refugee camp. However, because they did not have a UN card, they weren’t able to stay in the camp and instead landed in Noh Bo, a small village on the Thai side of the Thai/Myanma) border. Leaving Wijit, along with his brothers in the village, his parents headed towards Bangkok to find work to support their family.
In the village, the brothers had plans to study at the Thai school, but once again due to a lack of the correct documents, this plan was thrown off and instead they enrolled at Noh Bo Academy School. The academy is run by a Christian organisation but has mostly Buddhist students who are simply there to learn English from volunteers. Wijit was one of these students. He arrived at Noh Bo a Buddhist, with little and relatively skewed knowledge of Jesus. His understanding of Jesus was that when Jesus was young, he went to study with a monk who taught him about Buddhist things, told Jesus not to teach about Buddhist things, but that Jesus loved his people so much that he went out and taught them Buddhist things anyway! Alongside his interesting information, Wijit laughs when he remembers why his friends told him to beware of Christians. They told him Christians were smart people who would trick you with snacks to convince you to go to church. Because of his understanding of Jesus and Christians, Noh Bo was a frustrating place for Wijit to begin with. In his eyes their saving grace were their English volunteers.
Having native English speakers was undeniably useful to someone wanting to improve their English. It was here that Wijit first crossed paths with Headspace, befriending them for their usefulness in improving his English. Although he wasn’t really interested in Christianity, he was intrigued as to why they brought teams back year after year. For Wijit, Grade 10 was a turning point, he made the decision to believe in Jesus and started attending church. For the rest of his time at Noh Bo he struggled with this new belief as everyone around him was Buddhist, including his parents who he was afraid to ell of his newfound belief. Wijit explains that in the village around three quarters of people are Buddhist and so he chose not o fully commit to his new belief so as not to alienate himself from his friends there. It was in his last year of school, three years after deciding to believe in Jesus, that he began to pray. He prayed hard about what he was going to do when he left Noh Bo. It was then that he met a volunteer who supported him to go to university in Chiang Mai. It was the first time he had heard about university and he could only imagine that it would be so much bigger than anything he had ever come across. With no clue what to study he chose the subject he already knew best, English.
His move to Chiang Mai was a big and exciting development. He was the only one out of thirteen students to go to university, most of the others still live along the border. He moved to the city by himself, trusting God to guide him as he went. The very night before he moved, a group of students from Chiang Mai came to run an English Camp at Noh Bo for a couple of days. They chatted with him and upon learning of his plans invited him to come along to their church and meet their pastor who ended up helping Wijit study the Bible in his first months in Chiang Mai. In this church he found a home and a community of supportive and loving friends. Here he decided to get baptised, a huge decision for him as it meant talking to his parents about his faith. This conversation forced Wijit to stand up for his decision and explain that it was in fact his decision and not something forced upon him by white people who were supporting him to go to uni. This wasn’t his only struggle in his time in Chiang Mai. University itself was never easy. He was studying English in a Thai environment, when his first language was actually Karen. Nevertheless, he succeeded, graduating and becoming the first person in his entire family to do so.
It was of course, our great privilege to have Wijit join us as an intern the year following his graduation. Wijit talks about this past year as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Of course, it wasn’t easy living fully immersed in a new culture, including studying with Pathways and being a part of our Headspace leadership team. He speaks of how this year has altered his worldview, how it has grown in him an understanding of how God has been looking after his life and how this has grown in him a desire to want to help others. Now, as he returns to Thailand, he is not afraid of not getting a job, but is happy to leave the outcome in God’s hands, to see what mix of his English, Thai and Bible skills will help people.
We hope that you will join with us in thanking God for all He has done in and through Wijit’s life and all he will continue to do!
Melanie Crosbie | Headspace Youth Director Assistant