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A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand

March 2012

Dear friends and supporters,

I feel like I’ve been writing and talking about residential life at Payap University for a long time, but at this point I finally think we are on the cusp of something with great potential for great good in many lives.

The past several weeks are among the richest and most satisfying of my decade or so at Payap University. We interviewed about 40 students for student assistant positions in the dorms for the coming school year (June–March); about 30 will be working with us. Many of them are eager to help their families financially through this work (they get a free room), and all of them want to help us improve residential life by creating community and helping with stricter enforcement of rules.

“The wheels spun freely; the brakes went out”—

I took our new residential life staff (six adults) up to my favorite mountain retreat, and we spent a couple of days listening to each other's stories. What were meant to be 20-30-minute sharing times turned into 45-60-minute stories. To be listened to without interruption is a rare and wonderful thing. Deep hurts and great joys were shared; tears of grief and laughter flowed. As one of them said, “The wheels spun freely; the brakes went out”—she didn’t think she’d share that deeply, but her story just came out—even the bit about when her mother and brother came after her and showed her deep love after she’d been making some dreadful choices. We learned a lot about each other. Good foundations for our future work together were laid. We’ve all done some foolish things, and we know that people can be loved into better choices. That’s our hope for residential life.

We built on that foundation last week when our student residential life assistants stayed for a week after their final exams for orientation to the revamped residential life program of Payap University. Every day from 9 to 5 we went over everything from the Christian foundations of Payap to how to use a fire extinguisher! We are more prepared than ever to greet over a thousand first year students, come June.  And the team has already made a Facebook group so they can stay in touch and exchange information for mutual support and collegiality!

We still need lots of prayer. We have a new manager, new chaplain, and almost an entirely new residential life staff for the coming year. We have many details to figure out and systems to organize. Please pray that God will knit together a caring community full of his love, grace, and wisdom that will serve our students and nurture them in a joy-filled learning community that will help them know how precious they are and how significant are the lives they were made to live.

The Christian Communications Institute (CCI—Thai Dance and Drama) is planning two tour opportunities that you might be interested in. The Thai Mission Tour will be about 10 days (late January to early February 2013) in Thailand, learning about how God has worked through CCI and Payap University to bring many to become followers of Jesus. The second is a U.S.A. Tour by CCI in late March and early April 2013. If you or your church are interested in either opportunity let me know as soon as possible so we can begin making firm plans.

Rob and I are grateful for a wonderful family time at Christmas in Ohio and Oregon. We celebrated my mom’s life (she passed away in November) and saw Anna and Dom for the first time since they were married in August 2010. Rob is using this Thailand summer to get a knee joint replaced, and I’m going to Israel/Jordan for a week with some Payap friends. We are so grateful for your friendship and your support in many ways.

Let us know how you are doing.

Esther Wakeman

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 183
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