All the Good Gifts

A letter from Esther Wakeman, serving in Thailand

April 2020

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Dear friends,

On February 24, 2020, I had to write an email to the Chaplain of Keisen University in Japan telling her that we had to cancel our joint service camp scheduled for March 13-24. Uncertainties about travel, and the risk of students or villagers up in the mountains becoming infected, were too great. We were so sad because last year only a small group of students attended. This year each school had recruited 23 students to participate, and we had done lots of preparation. We were very excited about the good time we were planning on having together.

On March 8, I wrote an email to many friends and supporters saying I still hoped to be able to travel to the U.S. from April 17 through June 27. Many churches had requested me to visit, and I was looking forward to seeing many of my family and friends. On March 12, I had decided a trip was not a good idea, and the next day received permission from our Presbyterian headquarters to postpone my visit indefinitely. By now, we have all learned so much about this virus. It is a pandemic. How swiftly and drastically life on this planet can change! My prayer is that ultimately much good will come out of this danger. Romans 8:2 promises us, “God is working for good in all things for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes.”

After only a few days of staying at home with my beloved husband of almost 40 years, I’m deeply grateful to have human company, but also aware that we still have some “rough edges.”  Will it be possible to work more on these things during this intensive “retreat” together? I hope so. We had hoped to travel to Prince Edward Island to visit “Anne of Green Gables” country (he’s read the whole series about 4 times!!) to celebrate our anniversary. Still, maybe instead we are being given a special anniversary present of this stay-at-home time, to slow down and enjoy life together. For the past few years, we have eaten most of our meals out because you can get delicious, healthful food at local restaurants for very little money, and eating out is cheaper than cooking at home. But now we get to both make and enjoy our meals together. It is good.

Payap University had just finished second-semester finals when things really heated up. It is the hot season here, so things were already slowing down. Payap University decided to stay open but to delay the start of summer school by a week. All teachers have been required to shift to online teaching. This is something we have puttered around about for a long time. Now we are being forced to act. I hope this is a good thing in the long term. I have a huge learning curve in front of me. Please pray for wisdom and creativity. Much of what I teach is about relationships and the fundamental importance of face-to-face joyful interaction. Hmmm. How is this going to work?

Payap is asking staff to work from home as much as possible, and I’ve transferred our weekly international staff and student discussion group and prayer time to Zoom. It works!! We have new leadership in the area of international relations and international staff and student care. We had a wonderful meeting through Zoom yesterday. I’m so grateful for these tools that seem well designed for a time when we need physical distance but must have social interaction.

I also enjoyed a Zoom meeting with a General Presbyter in Ohio who had hoped to promote my visit in his presbytery. As we talked, I realized that perhaps I can still visit some of you virtually. But we can see how things unfold. Adjusting to these new ways of living requires a lot of emotional energy. It may be as much as we can manage to simply deal with the basics, and not add a virtual visit into the mix. But let me know.

Thank you for your prayers and support. May we receive all the good gifts our good Shepherd has in mind for us during this time.


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