I was 12 years old when my sister announced that she was moving to Thailand. I don't really remember my family's reaction, but I was devastated.

Ann had done things like this before. When she was still in college, she went to the Philippines with her boyfriend. Over the summer of 1986 they were missionaries for a nondenominational Christian group.

My sister, originally a Catholic, became a Baptist because of her boyfriend, who became her husband after a six-year courtship.

Now they were going on another missionary adventure, this time farther away and for a longer period of time.

Not only were they leaving, but they were taking their 2-year-old son with them.

Josh had changed my life. I had never liked kids. I always told my mom that I was never going to have any. They cost too much money and they were too much work. They were always crying, and if they weren't crying, they were eating or sleeping.

When Josh was born, I stayed with my sister for a week. I was supposed to be helping her, but most of the time I just played with Josh.

He would cry all night, and I couldn't sleep, but I didn't care. I loved Josh more than anything in the world. That's why it killed me inside to know that he was moving.

I tried for a long time to think of a way that they would stay in the country. I remember asking Ann what she would do if someone in our family died, if they would still go. She said that they would probably stay in America for a little longer, but they would still move to Thailand.

It turned out that my sister didn't want to live in a third-world country. It was all Ken's idea: She was being an obedient wife. My perception of both their trip and their relationship changed.

Ken was never my favorite guy. He's the kind who, when you are in a swimming pool, and you aren't that good of a swimmer, and you can't hold your breath underwater without plugging your nose, he'll throw you in the deep end.

Then as you scream for help, gasping for air, he'll stand at the side of the pool and laugh. When you finally struggle to the side of the pool, he makes fun of you for not being able to swim and throws you in again.

What is mind-boggling is that my sister married this guy. And now she was ready to tramp around the world with him. Whatever he wanted she would do.

Their stay in Thailand was supposed to last three years. Three years seemed so long to me; I would be driving when they returned. I knew a lot was going to change between us all.

Things would never be the same.

It's been five years since they left, and they are not even thinking of moving back. They have four kids now, and I've only seen them once. My sister sends pictures all the time and writes notes about the cute stuff they've done or said.

I used to write them religiously, almost every day, but I ran out of things to say. You can only write "I Miss You" on a card so many times before you don't even remember what it's like to be together, and it doesn't really mean anything anymore.

I'm not really sure how long it's been since I last wrote them. I can't even bring myself to send them Christmas presents anymore. I feel like I'd be supporting their decision to live there if I bought them presents, even though I know that the kids have no choice.

My sister still writes me. She tells me what Josh and all the kids are up to, but I can't read a single word without starting to cry.

Maybe I'm just being selfish. What I do know is that no matter how much my sister denies it, we've all grown apart, and things will never be the same again.