Child soldier for Burma to follower of Christ
A story from our Radical Grace outreach in Thailand. The Radical Grace team works to implement HIV prevention strategies, and also provides holistic care and support for people living with HIV.
YooTaa* remembers the day God saved his life.
He was hiding in the roof space of a village home in Burma, hunted as a deserter from the army. As the soldiers searched the house, the bayonets of their guns slicing through the roof's bamboo and grass, YooTaa had a vision of God's presence helping him stay silent as the bayonets cut him and helping him remain undetected. He still bears those scars today.
YooTaa was 13 years old when he was drafted to fight in Burma's civil war. It felt like his life of violence and conflict would never end; as the years wore on, he found himself fighting, sometimes for different people, but always fighting. First for an insurgent army, then a resistance army, and then the Burmese military.
He has a different life now in the neighboring country of Thailand. He committed to trust his life to Jesus at Radical Grace's family camp last year. He was married a year ago as well, and works as a gardener and groundskeeper to provide for his family. He and his wife attend church regularly.
It is a quieter life now, a more peaceful one, especially after years of upheaval and violence. But YooTaa is still fighting — to be a legal presence in Thailand, to overcome the stigma of being a person living with HIV, and to thrive in the life he has now.
He's an unregistered migrant in Thailand, and the possibility of being deported hovers over him. YooTaa and the Radical Grace team are hoping that the Thai government will open up the registration processes that will allow YooTaa to verify his nationality and register to live in Thailand. The Thai government has previously, and intermittently, opened the registration processes, but the registration checkpoints have been closed since April of this year.
Even if YooTaa is still fighting, he's not in it alone. God has connected him with the Radical Grace holistic care and support team, who visit YooTaa once a week to support him and his family in physical, practical and spiritual ways.
Recently, YooTaa was unexpectedly provided health insurance for his HIV medication, as well as care through a local hospital. It was like that day, hiding from the soldiers — God was protecting and helping him, and he still is today.
Find more information about SIM's HIV/AIDS ministries in Thailand on Radical Grace Thailand's page.