A Month in the Life of a Mission Co-Worker

A letter from Esther Wakeman, serving in Thailand

October 2017

Write to Esther Wakeman (esther.wakeman@pcusa.org)

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,

July was a wonderful month. The first week I was in Germany with the most beautiful baby in the world, my grandson, and with his parents, my daughter and her husband, who are among the most amazing parents in the world. Quick trip, but completely worth it to enjoy Vigo and his astonishing development. I’m so looking forward to their staying with us here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for three months this winter. AND our whole family—all of my husband Rob’s kids and grandkids will be here for the holidays. We are making history. Getting all of us together from three continents is no easy feat.

The second and third weeks of July were filled with the fourth annual and best English Fun Camp so far. Eight wonderful volunteers came from Presbyterian churches in the US and joined five more volunteers recruited from Chiang Mai Community Church, the oldest international church in Chiang Mai. The Payap University teachers and students (130 nursing students and 50 accountancy majors) loved practicing English conversation, and showing off the local market and scrumptious Thai food to the volunteers. This camp is a great introduction to Thailand, the Thai church and cross-cultural ministry, and I wish we could do it again, but the university will be changing our academic schedule next year to return to the traditional Thai school year that begins in June. Sadly, we won’t be able to have another camp.

While the camp was flourishing, I was busy finishing up administrative responsibilities as I left my position as University Chaplain of Payap University to become a regular staffer in the chaplain’s office. I get to work with my new and wonderful boss, Rev. Satanun Boonyakiat, PhD, otherwise known as Golf (his nickname—all Thais have nicknames) who is also dean of McGilvary College of Divinity of Payap, and a beloved colleague of many years. Golf loves God with all his heart, and is extremely bright and wise. I’ve wished he would become chaplain for years, and I’m so grateful to be working under him now. I relished the 15 years I was privileged to serve in senior administration at Payap, but I’m so relieved not to bear the responsibility any longer and to get to focus on making disciples and teaching future church leaders. I finally have time to hang out with students more and encourage them in their journeys with Jesus through mentoring and counseling. I’ve yearned to be able to do this for years. Being welcomed into young hearts is pure joy. I will continue teaching Payap’s core values to our students and staff, and teach pastoral care and counseling.

During the last week of July, the chaplain’s office was asked to help with orientation in the dorms. We led some getting-acquainted activities and gave a short meditation on life together. My colleague, Lum, suggested that as part of the event we invite the students to pray the Lord’s prayer, even though almost all of them are Buddhist. She reminded me that whenever Thai folks move to a new place or even just stay in a hotel room overnight, they usually show respect through a brief prayer to the spirit that rules over that place and ask for protection. They would probably be happy to pray to the Spirit who rules over Payap’s dorms. So we passed out the prayer, and they happily prayed with us. This was such a novel thought for me, but I found it a lovely, creative way to share Jesus’ vision for his kingdom of peace and forgiveness with our students.

The last day of July, I had the opportunity to represent the Christian perspective in an interfaith dialogue event at the Seventh World Buddhist Youth Symposium. The theme was “The Way to Happiness,” and I enjoyed sharing what I’ve been learning through the “Life Model” (which integrates brain science and the bible) about the neurological meaning of “joy”—being glad to be together—and sharing the Christian understanding of how delighted God is to be with us. This is the foundation of our joy. I’m grateful for your prayers for this amazing opportunity.

Thank you for partnering with me in this work. It is a privilege for me to have so many terrific Thai colleagues, and to enjoy the honor of working with them in this adventure called Payap University. Please continue to support us with your prayers, and your financial gifts.



Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,

What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.

After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.

I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.

Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.

Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.

In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?

With gratitude,

Jose Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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