One day, my Karen tribal friend, Grace, offered to take me to a kapok village. Jeannie, a young “Jesus People” girl, and Grace’s teenage son, Timothy, accompanied us, along with a dignified, elderly tribal woman, Thramu Tushi.
We traveled several hours by bus, then by tuk-tuk, and at last arrived at a kapok plantation with hundreds of tall straight trees planted in rows. Awaiting shipment were gunny sacks of fluffy seed pods scattered between the trees. I’d never thought much about kapok. It was used to stuff mattresses and teddy bears before the invention of polyester, but I’d never wondered how it originated.
Thramu Tushi brought us to a house belonging to her friend. It was teak with no furniture, which was normal for that village. At the Bible study conducted by Thramu Tushi that night, a swarthy young Thai man kept staring at me. A whole jewelry store’s worth of amulets–statues of Buddha, elephants, tigers, and of revered monks, hung around his neck. (Thais often wear amulets as good luck charms to ward off evil spirits.)
Why was he staring at me?
Finally, I whispered to Grace, “Why is he staring? He’s making me uncomfortable.”
Grace smiled. “He says you’re not wearing any amulets,” she whispered back.
So that was it! “Tell him I don’t need amulets. My God protects me.”
We meet the snake.
The following evening, we were coming back from another house. Moonlight helped to brighten the path as Thramu Tushi led the way. Grace followed her, and then Jeannie. Timothy was fourth, carrying a flashlight (“Torch” in British-Karen parlance). He shined it ahead of him on the path. I followed behind. Suddenly, Timothy stopped.
“Auntie!” he whispered. “Snake!” He shined his flashlight just ahead of his feet onto a snake slowly slithering across the path. Stunned, we both watched it disappearing into the field at the side of the path. I don’t know how long it was; I never saw the end of it. The other three folks who were walking ahead of us never saw it.
We learn how deadly it was.
When we got “home,” Timothy told the waiting group, “Big snake. On the path.”
“About this big around,” I added, circling my thumbs and fingers to show a circumference about like a softball.
“A snake?” Jeannie shouted. “I didn’t see a snake!”
“What snake?” asked Grace.
“It was Cream-colored,” said Timothy.
“With red-splotches,” I added.
Our host was shocked. “Oh, that snake very bad! We say, that snake bite you, you look down, then look up, you already dead!”
The amulet man was there again that evening. I figured it was lesson time. I said, “Grace, tell him, my God protected me!”
God is very good at show-and-tell.
I thought about what had happened and said in a soft voice to Timothy, “That snake was moving so slowly! It had to be in the path when your mother and Thramu Tushi and Jeannie went by. They must have stepped over it. Their shoes never touched it, and they never looked down.”
“Good thing,” Timothy giggled. “Mother so afraid of snakes, if she see it, she faint. We carry her home!” I think God let Timothy and me see the snake so we could tell people about the miracle.
I don’t know if the amulet man ever had the courage to accept protection from Jesus and take off his amulets, but I do know one thing: I’m thankful that God protected ME. That night we really celebrated.
(Adapted from my book, WHAT THE WITCH DOCTOR TAUGHT ME.)