The last time I saw my mom, she tried to sell me. The man was old, and disgusting, and I took off running. I never went back.

I spent years living on the streets of Bangkok and Mae Sot. As a Burmese living in Thailand, I was a non-person: no identification from either country, no rights at all. I learned fast to trust no one, and to always be ready to defend myself. Perhaps I should thank my mother. In some ways, the violence and abuse in our home when I was a child prepared me for this life.

I could take a man down with a single punch if he tried to hurt me.

There was a man who got close to me, once. I even let him be my boyfriend. Then he ended up in jail, and I was alone again. When he finally got out, he told me a strange story.

“In my cell, there was a man named Danai,” my boyfriend told me. “They arrested him because his visa was expired. He was different from the other prisoners. He kept reading a book; he called it a Bible.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked my boyfriend, but he just shrugged. It sounded strange, and I wanted to know more. So we found Danai, his ex-cellmate, who started talking about the love of Christ, who died to rescue us. No one ever loved me like that. I thought, this Jesus must be God! And I decided to put my faith in Jesus. My boyfriend was very angry. “You can’t do that!” he yelled. “We are Buddhist, and our country is Buddhist!” He is big, and he tried to threaten me. “If you believe in Jesus, I’m leaving you!”

But I wasn’t afraid of his anger. I could have punched him, but instead I just said, “Fine with me. Goodbye! I am following Jesus now!”

Later, Danai took me to a man called Pastor Isaiah. He is very kind and loving; like Jesus, I think. He has brought me to live with foreigners named Dave and Louise, in Yangon. They are Christians, too, and every day they teach me more. I love to help them with cooking and cleaning the house, and I am learning to read and write and do mathematics. They say I am like their daughter, and it feels strange, because I never had this kind of love from my own parents.

Sometimes I am so happy, I just have to sing. They say that I have a beautiful voice. I did not know that.

A young woman’s testimony, as told to Louise Sinclair-Peters