A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand
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This year’s Spiritual Renewal Week at Payap University (Chiang Mai, Thailand)—where I am University Chaplain—was fruitful—thank you for your prayers. The Christian Communications Institute (CCI) whom many of you have seen and hosted, presented a different play each day around the theme of ‘Reconciliation and Restoration.’ Small teams of our student ministry network along with a group from Payap Church were welcomed into classrooms to share the good news of God’s love in Jesus. Each day included words of challenge and reminders of God’s love and great grace on our behalf. Many students were touched—especially in our Faculty of Nursing and in the Faculty of Accountancy, Finance and Banking. Almost 200 students responded to an invitation to begin a relationship with Jesus through prayer. Our network of student cell groups began follow-up immediately. And twin sisters in our Law Faculty are eager to start a new cell group in their faculty to follow up and encourage their friends who are interested in Jesus.
I enjoyed being involved in the planning and details of the week. My “new” role as University Chaplain is actually a return to my beginning at Payap 15 years ago, when I was invited to be chaplain. I have the opportunity now to serve with more experience and understanding, and hopefully with more humility and love. I was sharing this with a new friend of mine, Dr. Usaneeporn, whose nickname is Ooy, director of McCormick Hospital—another ministry of the Church of Christ in Thailand, our PC(USA) partner church. She had worked at the hospital about 10 years ago but with some unrecognized pride and judgment in her heart. Her ministry lacked fruit. Recently God has brought her back into a leadership position at the hospital, and she feels she has more love for the staff, greater patience with the organizational culture, and a deep desire to let the Lord lead her in ministry. She has the most amazing gift of evangelism I’ve ever seen. The most surprising story was when two women came to see her, threatening to sue the hospital. She listened to them and apologized for what had happened, and before they left her office they both began a relationship with Jesus through prayer. I hope that Jesus will bless my ministry in a similar way. Please pray that I will daily be in sync with God’s Spirit following His lead in all that I do and say. That’s how Jesus lived his life, and it is how I want to live mine.
Recently I enjoyed the challenge of putting together a training on the Life Model and Immanuel Prayer, a program that teaches the importance of JOY—being delighted in—for emotional health, and how to bring our hurting hearts to Jesus so that he has the opportunity to renew our minds as he shares his mind with us. As the students practiced Immanuel journaling—talking to God about old hurts and listening for his heart—most of them were blessed with new understandings and feelings about God’s perspective on their lives. I love this kind of work.
I was also asked by First Church of Chiang Mai (literally the first church in Chiang Mai, founded by Presbyterian missionaries in 1867) to provide mentoring for a woman trained in counseling who is helping to care for new believers with emotional needs. Many of these people have come to faith through a ministry of Dr. Ooy that she does as a member of First Church. She opened a room for seekers to come with their questions after worship services. In the past two years over 100 people have come to faith through her sharing with them. Many have significant emotional needs. Dr. Ooy would appreciate my input in this area. Please pray that God will make clear how I can be most helpful.
The Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia (ACUCA) held a conference in Indonesia in October. I was asked to give a presentation on “Dialogue Among Religions in Values Education in Multicultural Asia” and was able to share how we attempt to teach basic Christian values through our eM-Powering Payap Peace-leaders (MP3) program. Preparing gave me an opportunity to reflect back on 15 years at Payap University and all I have learned. Several people expressed appreciation for my talk. I was greatly encouraged in my work, too. One of the speakers shared a framework for values education that will be useful in improving what we’ve been doing—especially in planning better how to inspire student learning and to measure outcomes. It was also a joy to be with university educators from all over Asia where Christians are such a small minority—and to hear how God is using university education to communicate his love to young people at a critical time in their development. We have the opportunity to deeply influence young people who will become leaders in business, law, health care, and the church.
A new role I’m enjoying is chairing the board of Chiang Mai International School, from which all our children graduated. The school is 60 years old, and we are seeking God’s vision for our future. At our board retreat our consultant challenged us to define what we are as a “Christian” school. We don’t have a Bible-based curriculum, nor are all our staff and students Christian—so what constitutes our “Christianness”? What a great question! We have begun a process to clarify this for ourselves. Interestingly, at the ACUCA conference a Buddhist colleague of mine went to a presentation that asked the same question—What is a Christian university? After the session she told me she’s worked at Payap University for 30 years but couldn’t answer that question. She thinks that if we clarify and communicate our answer, it will significantly increase staff engagement. I welcome the challenge of this question and your prayers that as we clarify this, it will help us do a better job of being what God is calling us to be.
I am so grateful for your support through prayers and finances. I’ve been recently notified of the funding level of the sending and support for my position in 2015. Unfortunately, even at this late date my ministry hasn’t been fully funded for this year. Will you please pray about this situation? If possible, will you increase your gift for this year? Would you consider advocating for this ministry with neighboring congregations to see if they would join us? I would so appreciate your help in these ways.
This is not a fun challenge, but a good time to trust more deeply in God’s goodness and provision for all He is calling us to do. I appreciate your support that keeps me in Thailand serving with our partners in mission.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 235
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