Making Disciples Who Make Disciples

A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand

November 2016

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).

Dear friends,

Jesus is a fantastic leader with a clear vision for his people and the resources to make it happen. I was reminded of this at the recent General Assembly of our partner church here—the Church of Christ in Thailand, whose theme was Jesus’ call, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you. I’ll be with you.” One of my heroes is Frank Laubach (1884-1970), a missionary to the Philippines, who had a heart for the poor and developed the “each one teach one” approach to literacy. Over 60 million people in 34 countries learned to read as a result. I think Jesus’ idea was the same—we are called to make disciples who also make disciples—each one teach one.

I keep getting distracted from this vision, and I’m grateful to be reminded. One graphic had my full attention—comparing results after 32 years of evangelism and 32 years of making disciples. An evangelist making a convert every day would have 365 converts the first year, 730 the second, 1,095 the third, and so on, finishing with 11,680 in year 32. But a disciple making only one disciple per year, who also makes one disciple per year, and so on for 32 years results in 4,194,905,296 disciples. This way changes the world. Jesus’ idea and commission was a great one. I’m recommitting myself to pursue it. Being a disciple means we are being changed from the inside out, so that we want to obey what Jesus taught and are able to obey more and more as a heart habit. Dallas Willard is one of the best resources for learning to embrace this process—check out Renovation of the Heart and The Great Omission.

God is giving more opportunities to be with folks in ways that lead to heart change. Rob and I were invited to teach at a marriage retreat for pastors; I taught “Immanuel Journaling” and everyone heard wonderful encouragement from the Lord. Rob and I met with five couples for almost an hour each—three of whom were in serious marital distress. We were able to comfort them and offer hope and prayers. We hope to see some of them again over the next five months as we’ll be going near where they live to do some teaching on pastoral counseling. We’ve been invited to lead a family retreat in a Karen village up in the mountains at the end of November, too. Maybe this is going to become more of our calling. Marriage offers one of the best places we can be transformed to be like Jesus because it exposes our need so clearly!!!

I’m enjoying meeting weekly with two Payap staff women who have known Jesus for a while and are now encountering marital challenges that are drawing them closer to Him. I love sharing a good meal, sharing our hearts, and praying together for grace and wisdom. It is a precious gift to be let into someone’s heart, and Jesus has wonderful ways of giving them what they need each week. Watching them grow is delightful. I’m hoping to start a prayer and sharing group focused on praying for our international programs at Payap. We are losing some key leaders and our staff are discouraged. I’m believing that God has good new leaders in store for us. Please pray for us in this regard—and that this challenge will draw us closer to the Lord, and shape us more into his image.

As I mentioned in my last letter, our Payap Fun English Camp went very well and we would like to do it again. If you are interested in joining us from July 8 to 22, 2017, please let me know by January so we can start planning. Volunteers are invited to come meet a real need—helping our students have fun with English and reduce their anxiety talking with native speakers. You will be challenged and grow through the experience too (see my last letter for a sense of the experience from the volunteers’ own words).

CCI USA Tour June 2017—We plan to have a tour of our Thai dance and drama team of the Christian Communications Institute (CCI) during June 2017. The performers will be some professional staff and some students from Payap—it should be good fun. If your church is interested in hosting us for a performance, please write to me at cciusatour@gmail.com and we’ll send you more detailed information. I’m thinking we may stay on the West Coast this year, but if lots of churches in the Midwest want to host us, then we will seriously consider that as well.

Payap’s president, Dr. Sompan Wongdee, was named president of ACUCA (Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia) for 2015-2018. I will serve as General Secretary. This is an honor and an important responsibility. Christians are a minority in most of the countries of the member schools. ACUCA helps encourage the Christian identity and mission of these schools—a vital service. Pray for us as we plan conferences, student camps, and produce newsletters. Pray that our service will strengthen disciple-making too! On the plane returning from the ACUCA conference in Bali I had a lovely heart-to-heart with one of our best Payap leaders. She said: “Some people might wonder how I’ve been at Payap for 35 years and not become a Christian. But in Buddhism we don’t have God, so when you talk about God in worship, I just don’t get there.” Our hearts were open, and I offered the possibility that if there is a loving God who made her and who is good, it would be sad to miss the experience of God’s love. Please pray for my friend and others—especially during this time of grief and uncertainty in Thailand. The King of Kings longs for his love to be received by the precious people of this land.

Finally, for the record, as of October 7, 2016, I’ve received 45 percent of the sending and support goal for my ministry for 2016. Thank you each and every one who has joined with this ministry in this way. I’m so grateful. Please consider any ways God may be inviting you to join more fully in his vision of making disciples here in Chiang Mai—through prayer, financial gifts, coming to teach English, or hosting CCI in June. Here’s a link for donating to my ministry: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/the-rev-dr-esther-wakeman/.

Advent Blessings,

Esther

Please read this important message from Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2, NRSV)

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Esther Wakeman this year, and any previous year. We hear from our mission co-workers how much your prayerful financial support has meant to them. Please know that you are a vital part of ministries throughout Thailand.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for our congregations and all people of faith to commit themselves to support mission co-workers like Esther. Our global church partners greatly value her service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and Thailand.

We have historically relied on endowment interest and the general offering from congregations to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished. It is only through the gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep Esther doing the life-giving work God called her to do. A year ago, in May 2015, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. World Mission communicated the challenge to you, and you responded decisively and generously. Through your response, we heard the Spirit remind us, “Fear not!”

Today, I’m asking you to consider an additional gift for this year, and to increase the gift you may consider for 2017. Sending and support costs include not only salary but also health insurance and retirement contributions, orientation, language training, housing, travel to the country of service, children’s education, emergency evacuation costs, and visa/passport costs.

My heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support of our Presbyterian mission co-workers. In the coming season, we will celebrate God’s sending of the Christ child, the source of the good news we share. May you experience anew the hope, peace, joy, and love that are ours because “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,

Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


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