A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand
“Let’s do this every year!” is what I heard on the day (and many times since) when we held our first all-staff Payap University Christmas Sports Community Celebration Day here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. All staff (from the interim president to security and housekeeping) were divided into six teams for a classic Thai school sports day. Each team has a designated color and creates a dazzling parade, including a drum major, and then sits in a cheering section, yelling support for their teams’ competitors throughout the day—and the competition ends with a contest for the best cheering section. The traditional sports were great fun, including a burlap sack race, a 5-person, 6-legs race, rolling a tire with a stick, and having to help a blindfolded teammate run to and hit an object. Throughout the event names were drawn for prizes, which included bicycles, microwaves, a tent, and two strands of gold (of great interest to everyone). The whole day was a blast. One attendee proclaimed the day the best event he’s ever attended at Payap. It was full of smiles, laughter, fun, relaxing, and enjoying one another immensely.
I believe that God was working through your prayers and ours during our November month of prayer to make the day possible and to fill it with such joy and love. The past year and a half has been tough in the absence of a president (we have an excellent interim, but need a strong, capable leader for this time of challenge). Many commented on how much we needed such a day to increase our affection for one another and for our school. Thank you for your prayers. Concluding the day with a creative rendition of the nativity (including dances from 4 of the 10 ASEAN nations) presented by about 60 students (most of whom are not Christian!) from many of our faculties for our Christmas worship service in a packed chapel was another blessing. Payap offers these kinds of creative ways to share the story of God’s love with our students. After worship we honored Thailand’s King Bhumipol Adulyadej on the occasion of his majesty’s 86th birthday by releasing 86 small hot-air “kom loy,” and then hundreds of students, staff and their families enjoyed a feast of yummy food and desserts. Students and staff children also had a chance to play some games and win prizes (including warm blankets for our cold nights this season). We hope they absorb the joy and generosity of God’s love through this celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Please continue to pray that Payap’s leadership will have clarity and courage for the changes we need to make to fulfill God’s purposes for us at this time. Thailand is suffering deep political tension, and we are called to develop leaders for real peacemaking and for strengthening civil society for the rigors of responsible political participation. Also pray for our new Board of Trustees in their search for our new president. The job is huge.
What a perfect gift we have been given in Christ. May we experience more deeply the reality of Immanuel, God with us, during this season and throughout the coming year. Thank you for your part in what God is doing at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Please prayerfully consider a year-end gift to this ministry that is changing lives. Your support not only provides inspiration to my own work, it is also the fuel that enables this work to continue. Thank you for all you do.