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A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand

July 2009

Dear Friends,

Four months have flown by since my last online letter—four months full of blessings and challenges hard to capture in one little letter. My responsibilities at Payap University have shifted a bit to focus on spiritual and community life. Staff members have been added who are contributing wonderfully to the quality of life at Payap—an answer to prayer for more workers for God’s harvest.

Photo of a group of eight young people wearing either black or red tee shirts. They're engaged in some kind of game. They're smiling and focused on something in the center of the group.

Ozzie (on left) tangled with his team on Freshy Quest Camp.

Ozzie Crocco arrived at Payap in mid-May to join Kane Khantee as the first residential life assistants at our international dorm (Paradornparb International House). Ozzie graduated from Whitworth University a year ago and spent the year living in a small “new monastic” community practicing being a human being rather than a human doing. He challenged me and about 100 of our international college students at a recent assembly by saying that there is no future and no past—only the now we are living at this moment. He invited us to be in this moment—in each moment; he reminded me that God loves me just because he does; he encouraged me in my practice of the presence of Christ in each moment of each day. That is my primary goal these days—to stay mindful of Christ with me, in me, loving, leading, strengthening, enjoying. I’m not terribly successful, but when I am, it is wonderful.

Photo of two young people putting vases of flowers on a glass tabletop. The hands of an unseen person wearing a purple robe are receiving the flowers.

Two international students join in the "Honoring the Teachers Ceremony" by bringing flowers and promising to be good students.

Kane Khantee just graduated from McGilvary College of Divinity at Payap with an international M.Div. She is part of our faculty development program and plans to attend graduate school to learn counseling. She’s working with us this year to clarify her call and develop her background and skills in counseling. There are plenty of opportunities to counsel in her work in the dorm—180 students come with lots of need to be loved and listened to. Two more residential life assistants s are joining Ozzie and Kane: Tai from Chiang Mai and Shanna from Canada. These four are led by Tang Up-Ngern, the residential life director. They are working with a team of eight student assistants to develop an outstanding residential life program that we hope will continue to be used when Payap opens new dorms next school year (June 2010) for 1,500 first-year students!

“Prime Time” every evening is one innovation that holds great promise—an hour or so of simple fun together—anything from shaky face photos to cultural-foods night or coloring (like you did as a kid)—creates a place to genuinely be with our students in the now.

Photograph of a group of about 30 people in the shade of a large structure, perhaps a bus station or train station. They're holding a bright yellow banner with Thai script in red and blue letters. The people seem to be cheering and waving at the camera.

At the Christian Student Retreat—a small group—we got to know each other and decided to give our hearts to God as God asked.

Jessica Loh (from Canada) has been at Payap working in our Thai studies program for three years. She’s a cheerful, loving, people person with brilliant organizational skills. She heads a new office called International Campus Life that provides support and services for the international staff and students of Payap. Community is being strengthened through fun learning activities—an “Amazing Race” through Chiang Mai to do and find all kinds of weird stuff, bowling, “Quest Camp” for first-year students (check out the video “Truly International” on youtube.com that we made at this camp), assemblies and professional development seminars. With the assistance of Kru Gai, a Payap grad who loves traipsing around the mountains with student groups and who is a brilliant Thai teacher, this office will also work to improve communication and better incorporate our international community into the Payap community. I wish you could meet these two: they have a couple of the most sparkly smiles on the planet.

Jib Wongtrakunlek has moved over from the Christian Communications Institute to head the administrative tasks of our office. She’s helping with the abundant work and paperwork of our planning, organizing, budgeting, evaluating, developing, and quality controlling everything. These tasks have been my albatross ever since I began working at Payap nine years ago. I’m so grateful for Jib’s competence and care in these crucial tasks. She does the people part of the work well too, joining in our activities with enthusiasm and energy.

The chaplain’s office staff are working faithfully—Kung and Ed welcomed 80 first-year Christian students to our orientation , and this past weekend we held a retreat for  Christian students at Blessings Forest Camp. I especially loved meeting Gaan, the grandson and son of ministers. He transferred to Payap from the local government university this year and will be a student worker in our student ministry office. He’s an excellent musician and soccer player and is passionate to serve God and show his friends that there’s a lot more to life than getting drunk (an issue here like it is in the United States).

Thank you for your prayers. God is bringing more workers for the harvest, for which I’m grateful. Pray for hearts knit together in love for each other and for our precious students.

Esther Wakeman

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