A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand
In July I met with a Payap linguistics student who was in town finishing up her dissertation. She brought me two excellent books, Whispers of My Abba and The Truth About Lies and Lies About Truth, both by David Takle. The first is the clearest, most practical book I’ve read on listening prayer—the what, why, and how. Using it has taken my conversations with God to a new level. One morning I was acknowledging a little wall in my heart that has been a barrier between Rob and me. As I brought it to Jesus I became aware of an old “rule” in my mind against noticing negative stuff in others. I’m supposed to be nice and “loving” toward everyone. I discovered permission to notice the good, the bad, and the ugly—a freedom to feel what I feel about others—including Rob. And I sensed that Jesus said, “Let me introduce you to Rob—the Rob whom I made, the real Rob—I guarantee you will like him a lot.” That sounded good to me. Just a few days later we were having a family night and playing a complex card game called Killer Bunnies—yes, we do live in a strange world—and the game was a true challenge to Rob, who with any ordinary card game is brilliant. But throughout the evening Rob kept making little silly funny comments that got everyone laughing and that wove a lovely joyful feeling among us and knit our hearts together. I noticed. And I felt like Jesus was highlighting this precious part of Rob for me to notice and enjoy. It’s fun to follow Jesus, and even after 30 years of marriage get a bit more heart-tweaking for freedom to know and love my precious partner better.
Rob and I had a fantastic time at the New Wilmington Mission Conference (NWMC) in Pennsylvania at the end of July. We were especially blessed by Bible study taught by Ken Bailey, who gave us a preview of his new book on 1 Corinthians—check it out when it comes out. What a brilliant, loving, humble man. What a gift to hear him teach. The worship and food were great and Ozzie Crocco was a superb emissary to promote our Christian Volunteers program at Payap. Ozzie was our first volunteer, spent two years with us, and now is at Harvard doing a degree in human development. (Check out his note on his time in Thailand http://whitworth10.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/a-taste-of-whitworth-in-thailand/). He hung out with the young folks, and I hope we get a recruit or two from his good talks with folks. We’re glad too that Thailand will host the NWMC Summer Service Project in 2012. Sharon Bryant, new mission co-worker to Thailand, who is starting the new Christian Volunteers in Thailand project, will be the primary host. We are excited about eight young people coming to live and learn mission for six weeks. The icing on the cake was that my parents were able to join us for the whole time as well. And to top it all off we also visited Christ Church in Canton, where I got to preach and meet lots of old friends. AND we saw our gorgeous grandson Christian Collins—a hefty lad with a great appetite in the finest Collins tradition!
During Spiritual Renewal Week at Payap in August Dr. “Patricia” told her story to me and Joan and Allan Eubank, our good friends who started the Christian Communications Institute (CCI). As a child, Patricia attended Dara Academy, the Christian girls’ school in Chiang Mai, and enjoyed watching CCI come every year for Spiritual Renewal Week. Patricia was from a Buddhist background but appreciated the Christian ethics she learned at school. She got a doctorate in her field, married a divorced man with a child, and enjoyed her teaching and her life. She’s always had everything under control and had no need for God. But marrying into having a son has been more challenge than she bargained for. She hit a dead end in trying to control her husband and teenage son. In June I had shared in a teachers’ cell group about my own struggle with forgiveness, several teachers shared their struggles, and we prayed for one another. Patricia was there and God started working in her heart. By August she had found the freedom to love her new family that she hadn’t known she needed. Her eyes and face were full of joy as she told us of her awe at God’s goodness and grace that helps us love ourselves and others.
During August and September we inaugurated our eM-Powering Payap Peace-leaders (MP3—get it?) program with our students for “Assembly,” which is required chapel. Payap’s board approved five core principles for Payap’s ministry last year and charged my office with instilling them into the Payap community. (You can check them out on my Facebook notes@ http://www.facebook.com/esther.p.wakeman?sk=notes.) We do half-day workshops full of fun activities and teaching. This month we’ll do full-day workshops with staff. This kind of program is always most challenging with our international students—they come from such diverse backgrounds. But we started the afternoon with ice cream sundaes—they were delicious and a great draw. The Christian Volunteers came up with videos that helped communicate concepts and games that applied them to our lives, and the atmosphere throughout the afternoon was joyful and open. We ended with a game called Commonalities and Uniquities. First in smaller groups, each group had to find something everyone had in common and then each person had to share something unique about him- or herself with the group. For the finale we got everyone in a big group (about 50—not all the students, but all who were there that day) and everyone shared something unique about him- or herself. The love in the room was palpable. Several students wrote on the evaluations, "Best assembly ever." I thought so too.
There’s so much more to share, but no more space. Please keep praying for Payap University students and staff. Pray that God’s empowering love and peace will fill our community more and more—that we’ll all grow in love and joy from the inside out. We’re still facing great challenges in residential life and especially appreciate your prayers for wisdom in shaping a joyful, healing community there.
Thanks for your ongoing interest, prayers, and support.
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 133
The 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 183