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A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand

December 17, 2009

Dear Friends,

We were finishing up a superb Thanksgiving dinner with six turkeys for over 200 staff, students and friends from Thailand, China, Canada, India, Vietnam, Japan, Burma, the United States, etc. at our international dorm. After dinner a student leader, Mark, told me with lots of warmth in his eyes, “I like your parties.” Mark grew up in a Christian family, and since retiring after 20 years of “adventures” in the U.S. Army, is at Payap to get a degree and change direction. Mark has rejected the faith he grew up with, but he loves Payap. He contributes by encouraging younger students not to make all the mistakes he did, and I wonder if he’s also with us to get some new experiences with Christians who love to party. I think Jesus likes our parties too.

Thank you! The Christian Communication Institute’s 2009 U.S. tour by our Thai dance and drama troupe was a fun party, too. Rob says it was the best yet. Our grandsons, Christopher and Jonathan, were the stars, and their parents, Andy (Rob’s son, who is a CCI videographer) and Ellen learned all about how these tours are done as they organized and led most of it. Performances at Princeton and Pittsburgh seminaries were highlights along with sightseeing in Washington, D.C., and Orlando. The team appreciates so many expressions of care and love from all our hosts — free entry to Disneyworld was awesome! Showing off CCI to my aunts, uncles and cousins in Florida was special. Thanks to our supporters for your generosity in friendship and funds!

PC(USA)’s World Mission Challenge 2009 was a party that had me pooped and pumped! In four weeks, I spoke in more than 30 venues in four presbyteries in southern California. The first highlight was at the orientation for us mission speakers: I loved watching my dear friend Terri Bate in two minutes inspire me and a roomful of missionaries to tell our stories and give people the opportunity to support our work. Terri is heading up a revolution in funding for mission in the PC(USA). So far this year I’ve received about $10,000 toward the $75,000 it costs on average to send and support a mission co-worker. Please prayerfully consider becoming a part of my support team for ministry in Thailand, which means prayer, communication and financial support. By the grace of God, I’ll be in touch with supporters regularly, and Rob and I will pray for your needs as we hear of them.

The second highlight was when my good friend Ron Oglesbee, a retired Presbyterian pastor, surprised me with a tale of a real revival of the Holy Spirit that a little church he served in Pennsylvania experienced a few years back. My immediate thought (I admit it was not the most loving thought) was: if revival can happen at a Presbyterian church, it can happen at Payap! It gave me faith to pray for real revival at Payap. Please pray with me for this kind of joyful and powerful Jesus party and for lives deeply transformed by the grace, love and power of Jesus.

Photo of about 20 young people wearing blue T-shirts and gathered outside on a small stage. The backdrop on the stage seems to be made up of the flags of many countries.

International Day 7 was put together by this fantastic crew — mostly International Student Union members — including Mark, in the hat in the back.

We’d been in the van for hours going up to Chiang Rai, seeing an amazing Opium Museum near the Golden Triangle, visiting the Burma border and retreating with my staff and our new resident assistants. On the way home, Ozzie, a Whitworth University graduate working in our international dorm, had a song running through his head and started singing, “Everybody Dance Now.” I love that song — an invitation to party hearty with your whole body! I told him and the three other RAs of my dream to lip sync a song and dance with some back-up singers for one of our Payap community events. They were on it immediately, and we performed at the International Day festival. People said we stole the show. Students could not believe that their funky old missionary teacher was boogying like she was. What a fun job! You can check out the video at Vimeo and see some photos on my Facebook page (search for Esther Wakeman).

We’re eagerly anticipating Christmas when daughter Anna and fiancé Dominik Baer will be here to plan a weeklong party for their wedding in Chiang Mai in August 2010. Both are wonderful artists and musicians and are finishing teaching degrees. Nathan will also be here for Christmas after a semester of law school, which he’s enjoying. Paul’s tour business continues to thrive, and he’s being a loving grandson to my folks, who are staying with us for a couple months. They enjoy good food, good friends, Bible studies, concerts and warm weather. My cousin and his family and lots of Anna’s friends will also be here for Christmas. We’re hoping to enjoy the presence of Christ more than presents — his partying presence and his gentle healing and comforting presence.

Christmas parties at Payap abound — every group does something. My prayer is that this Christmas and throughout the coming year, all of us will experience the overwhelming love and joy of Christ’s presence more and more each day.

Thank you for your love and prayers.
Esther (for Rob too)

The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 110

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