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Gratitude

A letter from Esther Wakeman, serving in Thailand

September 2020

Write to Esther Wakeman

Individuals: Give online to E200327 for Esther Wakeman’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D500900 for Esther Wakeman’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

 


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Dear Friends,

I am writing to thank you for all the ways you have supported me over the years. By now, those of you who have supported me financially through the PC(USA) have received a letter informing you of a big change in my life, and the lives of several other mission co-workers. Due to financial impacts from the pandemic, the Presbyterian Mission Agency is working hard to reduce expenses, and one way is offering Voluntary Separation Packages to all personnel at least 63 years old, who have served the church for at least 3 years. This is the first time that mission co-workers were included in an offer of this sort. After prayerfully considering this offer, I decided to accept it. My last official day of employment will be September 17, 2020. Rob and I are deeply grateful for the excellent support we have received in so many ways from the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The PC(USA) cares for mission personnel wonderfully! And so, I invite you to continue supporting me through your prayers and generosity as I transition out of my position into retirement.

This is a big decision, and a big change, but I have been contemplating retirement for a couple years already. My husband, Rob Collins, retired many years ago, but has continued to teach at McGilvary College of Divinity, where I also teach. Rob is 82 years old, and not getting any younger. Ordinarily, I would be required to stop my work here, but Chiang Mai, Thailand is a bit unique – it is one of the top cities in the world for retirement! Several of our children and grandchildren live here, and the church and the university where I work greet with joy my plan to continue to teach and minister as a volunteer. So, for at least this academic year, I will finish out my teaching commitments. I have been asked to continue beyond that, but the actual shape of future activities remains to be determined. Our “Plan A” has always been to stay in Thailand, so regardless of my work activities, this is where you will most likely find me for the rest of my days, apart from good visits with family and friends in Germany and the U.S. from time to time.

What a wonderful adventure my life has been! Thank you, Christ Presbyterian Church, in Canton, Ohio, for sending me as a volunteer in mission to teach English here, 41 years ago. My dad had an inkling before I left that I might find a husband here, and I’m so glad I did. Rob Collins has been a patient, gentle, loving partner, who has steadied and balanced my life, and enriched it with his children, and our children; his love for his students, and his enjoyment of life.

Thank you, Pasadena Presbyterian Church, where I first became a Presbyterian while in graduate school. You loved our family well, and along with First Thai Presbyterian Church (thank you), launched me into ordination as a minister of the Word and Sacrament. Too many churches to name blessed us by hosting the wonderful Thai dance and drama troupe of the Christian Communications Institute—thank you to all of you and all the families who hosted the team. Those trips blessed us with so much fun, beauty, friendship, and appreciation for cultural differences. Special thanks to First Presbyterian Church Santa Barbara and Knox Presbyterian Church in Overland, Kansas, who established partnerships with churches here in Chiang Mai that continue to provide mutual blessing and growth.

Thank you to old friends and new, and beloved extended family members who hosted me and who read my letters and supported me with prayer, friendship, and funds. I have been so privileged to be able to live and serve here because of your support. Over the past couple months I have been counseling a youngish mother who says she remembers me speaking at her middle school (I have no recollection of those talks), then she encountered me again in chapel at Payap University, and now as an adult, a friend brought her to see me for counseling. She has met Jesus as we’ve talked and prayed, and just last week she gave me the most stunning report of amazing changes in her relationship with her husband—she’s sharing her heart more courageously with him, and he likes it! She previously walked on eggshells in most of her relationships. She’s now “showing up”—and with her parents too! We know there is lots of learning ahead, but some miracles have taken place. What fun—to work with Jesus in his healing and strengthening work. I’m so glad that I will be able to keep working with him for the rest of my days, no matter where I am or what I am doing.

I want to take this opportunity to ask you to prayerfully consider supporting two other PC(USA) mission co-workers who are working in Thailand. Rev. Dr. Sharon Bryant directs the Christian Volunteers in Thailand program. This was the program that first brought me to Thailand as an English teacher at one of the schools of the Church of Christ in Thailand, our partner church. As you can imagine, COVID-19 has impacted this program for the current year, but Thailand has controlled the spread of the virus so effectively, that I hope new volunteers may be able to come here sooner than they might be able to go to other countries!! In addition to supporting Sharon, this program is a fantastic way to connect your church to the work of the church here in Thailand, by committing to recruit and send volunteers regularly to Thailand to teach English. I answered the call 41 years ago, and look what happened!

The other mission co-worker works in southern Thailand among Muslim people. For security reasons I can’t share details, but if you are interested in supporting this person, please contact Rene Myers (rene.myers@pcusa.org) who will assist you with information. My passion has always been sharing the good news of Jesus Christ here, and this is definitely the passion of this person, as it is Sharon’s passion as well. So even as I step out of my employment as a mission co-worker, and move into retirement and work as a volunteer, there are excellent opportunities for you to continue supporting PC(USA) mission work here in Thailand. There are other opportunities around the world as well.

Thank you again for your friendship, prayers, and financial support. I am forever grateful.

In Christ,
Esther


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