A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand
Write to Esther Wakeman
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Just two weeks before Easter Dr. Sompan Wongdee, our wonderful president of Payap University here in Chiang Mai, asked my office to organize a Good Friday–Easter worship service, which had not been done for decades! She said that Payap people understand a lot about Christmas because we celebrate it every year, but they know little about Easter because in the past it fell during our summer break. Now that our academic calendar has shifted so that Easter is in the middle of our second semester, we should celebrate it. She put the power of her office behind the preparations, my team stepped up to the plate, we planned it jointly with Payap Church, our campus congregation, and the service was wonderful. We had meditations on the seven words of Jesus on the cross, and after each a candle was lit. Then I read an Easter passage and briefly explained the meaning of Easter, and a team from our Christian Communication Institute (CCI) danced to a wonderful Easter song. The chapel was decorated simply and beautifully. The service was an excellent beginning to what we hope will become another Payap tradition that gives us a chance to share the good news of God’s love in Jesus with our mostly non-Christian community.
During the service Win, one of our strong Christian student leaders, who was just elected president of the Student Council of the School of Business Administration, was sitting next to Dr. Komkrit, his Dean. Dean Komkrit, who is not a Christian, gives strong support to all Payap activities and asked Win if Good Friday services always include the seven words and seven candles. Win is a rather new believer and wasn’t sure how to answer, so he suggested that Dr. Komkrit ask me more about it. The next day, during an administrators’ planning retreat, Dr. Komkrit talked with me more about the service. He seemed genuinely interested. Please pray for him and many others that God will work in their hearts making them hungry for and open to God’s love and forgiveness.
Win was one of the student leaders on our annual Keisen-Payap joint Service Camp this year. Twenty-one students from Japan joined twenty-one Payap students and spent five days in a Karen village about a three-hour drive outside of Chiang Mai up in the mountains. The Karen people—many of them refugees—live near the border with Myanmar. We poured the cement floor for the downstairs of a new big church building. The students had a great time, and morning and evening worship gave us opportunities to share. I was able to speak twice and as a result heard from several of the Japanese students about their interest in studying the Bible to learn more about God. I also was able to pray for inner healing with one of them, which was quite special. Several of the student staff leaders for Payap are Christians, and they are chatting incessantly with all the Payap students who went to the camp on a popular phone app here in Thailand called LINE. I’m in their chat group, and I’m glad to see them continuing to get together for fun and meals. Win is a winsome and capable leader. He became a Christian through the witness of a high school friend, Jum, a young woman whose mother is a part of CCI’s ministry—Yuriam or Esther in English—and whose father is a teacher in our College of Music. We all worship together at Payap Church. Please pray for Win that he will grow in his faith and be used by the Lord in wonderful ways to draw his friends to Jesus, as his friend, Jum, was used in his life.
In my last letter I shared my need for more financial support, and I’m delighted to report that my total support in 2015 increased 10 percent over 2014. That is definitely movement in the right direction, and I’m grateful. I’m glad that I will have the opportunity to thank many of you in person during my upcoming time in the U.S.A. (May 20-July 16). I will be in Washington, Oregon, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. I’m looking forward to good family time also and reconnecting with fellow mission co-workers at our Sharing Conference in July. As soon as I return to Chiang Mai, July 18, I will welcome 15-20 volunteers who will be helping us with English Camps in our McGilvary College of Divinity and our School of Accountancy, Finance, and Banking Faculty. Please pray for a great and useful time to be had by all.
Please also pray for the work of the chaplaincy staff during my two-month absence. They will have plenty of work to do preparing for a new strategic direction that Payap is pursuing as a key part of our three-year plan that begins in August—a coordinated community service outreach to seven municipalities around Payap. As a university we are expected to integrate research and community service. As a Christian university whose motto is Truth and Service we have committed to do at least 200,000 hours of community service by our staff, teachers, and students each year. I have been dreaming of this kind of coordinated effort for 10 years and I can hardly believe that the Kairos moment may have finally arrived. My staff will reach out to churches, temples, and mosques in these municipalities to find out more about community needs and how our staff and students can help meet them. Sometimes teamwork in Thailand is especially challenging—Thais will tell you that they do better in individual sports like boxing, than team sports like soccer. But Dr. Sompan is developing an amazing administrative team at the top who enjoy working together for the benefit of the whole. I think we are poised to begin a long-term commitment to make a lasting impact in the communities around us. Please pray that we will be a light on a hill, and that in the process of service we will strengthen our Payap community too.
Thank you for your prayers, your financial support and your friendship. Please prayerfully consider adding or increasing your support for this ministry. From now through April 30 your gifts for my sending and support will be matched one-to-one, up to a total of $76,000. The matching gift will go into the general sending and support fund benefiting all mission workers.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 235
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