A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand
Greetings from the U.S.A.—
I’m on tour with my husband, Rob Collins, and performers from the Christian Communications Institute (CCI) of Payap University, sharing our ministry in seven states in six weeks. This gifted group usually travels to schools and churches all over Thailand sharing the good news of God’s love using traditional and modern Thai performing arts. We love sharing their talent, the beauty of Thai culture, and the goodness of God’s love with audiences in the U.S.A. too.
CCI also shares the gospel within our own team; many of our performers are not Christians when they start working with this outreach ministry. Waraporn, whose nickname is Fon, is with us on the tour, her second trip to the U.S. She grew up in a northern village, in Chiang Rai Province, and has loved Thai dance since she was little and joined every club and dance activity available. In 10th grade she began studies at the Chiang Mai School of Performing Arts and studied for eight years, completing both high school and a bachelor’s degree in teaching dance. Fon wanted to work in the city; she was Buddhist and knew CCI’s ministry was teaching about Jesus, but she was glad for a job that meant she wouldn’t have to go back to the village.
CCI travels to schools of the PC(USA)’s partner church, the Church of Christ in Thailand, spending a week in each school performing plays and singing songs that address real-life issues and encourage over 30,000 students each year with a message of hope and God’s love. Fon was hired as the team was preparing for a new school year. Each morning the team begins with devotions and everything is about Jesus. Fon wasn’t enthusiastic, but everyone participated, so to be part of the team she endured.
During the second school visit Fon learned that her mother was quite ill and in ICU. Due to the nature of CCI’s work, Fon knew she couldn’t leave to be with her mother and, desperate, decided to turn to God for help. She started praying, with tears. As she prayed Fon sensed she wasn’t alone, she had someone to depend on; she felt her worry leaving her heart. The whole team prayed for her mother every day—some even fasted as they prayed. Her mother improved and was released from ICU in about a week; after a year she was completely healed. This experience changed Fon’s attitude: she was now deeply motivated to work for God wholeheartedly because she was beginning to know and love God.
At the same time Fon felt more burdened for her family’s economic needs and CCI’s salary wasn’t much. She felt pulled to a karaoke restaurant job in Japan that would pay a lot but be full of alcohol and other dangers. We urged Fon to stay with CCI. Now when she looks back on that time, she is also full of gratitude that she was spared what could have destroyed her life.
On the final day of each school visit, CCI invites older students interested in following Jesus to walk forward and pray. During her third year on the team Fon walked forward. She wanted to openly show her desire to join the Christian community. Fon asked her mom what she would think if Fon became Christian; her mother asked if Fon could be both Christian and Buddhist, Fon didn’t answer but is praying for her mother. Recently Fon was baptized during a CCI outreach on the Burma border.
Recently Fon heard of a position at a Christian school near her mother’s home and she eagerly applied. The whole process was remarkably smooth. On the way to the U.S., Fon heard that she was hired. We are rejoicing with her that she will start teaching what she loves in the context of a Christian community that is also closer to home. We are sad to be losing her from CCI, but feel sure that God is blessing her with a job that fits the passion and ability that He put into her when she was made.
We also rejoice that she’ll still be a part of the CCI family because she and another CCI member, Aniwat, are planning to be married sometime in the next two years. Fon marvels at the life that God has given her. We love being able to watch God draw precious young ones to himself not only through this ministry in schools and churches, but through evangelizing within CCI itself. Fon would appreciate your prayers for her mother and that God will use her wonderfully in the young lives she will be teaching at Rangsee School.
Maybe God is calling you to teach in Thailand too! English teachers are needed to help Thailand prepare for the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Economic Community scheduled for 2015, in which Thailand will be competing with the other ASEAN nations in areas of medical care, education, and tourism. Thai people need better English skills to compete effectively. Thailand is now a YAV site (Young Adult Volunteer program) of the PC(USA)—help us recruit! Or consider the CVT (Christian Volunteers in Thailand—volunteers of any age) program, or send a mission team to teach for a week or three at Payap’s new Summer English Immersion Camp—which we hope to pilot this July.
I love being a part of what God is doing at Payap University and sharing God’s love here in many ways. Thank you for your interest and support—through letters, prayers, and for many of you, your financial contributions. Please continue, and prayerfully consider increasing your involvement in one of these ways or through recruiting volunteers or coming yourself!
Gifts can be sent through the PC(USA) mission connections website using the "Give" link below.
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 224
Read more about Esther Wakeman's ministry