A Holiday Greeting from Esther Wakeman, serving in Thailand
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Each year, I get to meet with the senior class students in each of the 13 faculties or schools of Payap University, where I work in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As we begin, I ask the students how long they’ve been studying. Some answer “four years,” the time they’ve been in college, and others think back to preschool — they’ve been in school for as long as 20 years! Their upcoming transition to life in the workplace is a big one, and we want to give them a chance to reflect on their time at Payap and to consider their calling — rooted in their talents and passions. The last session I did was the smallest yet, with six students graduating from our Science Faculty. It meant we had time to hear each of them read their “My Payap Story” reflection. They already knew each other well, but when we got to “Tim’s” story, we were all a bit surprised as he began to weep, remembering the loss of his best friend in a motorbike accident just a few months ago. His friends and teachers expressed concern for him, and it drew us all closer. I felt privileged to be present as we experienced some moments of the “caring Christian community” we try to foster at Payap through our chaplaincy work.
The experience also reminded me of the need we have for more counseling support for our students. I’m grateful that we are welcoming Ms. Patara, a new staff member in the chaplain’s office who will be working with students. She is especially interested in counseling — I’m looking forward to working with her in this area. She started with us just in time to begin follow-up care for about 20 first-year nursing students who are interested in learning more about Jesus and following him as a result of our spiritual renewal week!
I’m also grateful for a new network to coordinate and strengthen resources for Christian counseling in Thailand that has just gotten started. Twenty-five Thai and non-Thai Christians involved in counseling attended a recent meeting. We are finding out what people are already doing, and what resources need to be developed. We hope that McGilvary College of Divinity of Payap, where I teach pastoral care and counseling, can increase its role in training both lay and professional counselors. My teaching assistant, Ms. Kulying, is an important contributor to the network. Her role in pastoral care for new believers at First Church, Chiang Mai, has shown her the great need in the church to more effectively help members grow spiritually and emotionally.
Becoming a follower of Jesus means entering a relationship with him and with his followers that is meant to transform us to become more like Jesus. That seems to be Jesus’ fundamental strategy for expanding his reign on earth — bringing it through us, salt and light, a city on a hill. Kulying and I are trying to inspire our students to learn the variety of ways that God helps us grow in both spiritual and emotional maturity, so they can experience their own growth, and be intentional about facilitating such growth in their future ministries. I was encouraged after class on a few occasions when students shared examples of how what they were learning was helping them encourage friends and folks in the churches where they are doing fieldwork. Please pray for us as we prepare our classes for second semester, that Jesus will become more real to each student, and that they will experience his healing presence in their lives in transformative ways that will inform their ministries for many years to come.
And as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, may he also become more real to us, and may we know his healing presence in deeper places in our hearts during the coming year — that we will all shine his light more clearly through our lives. Thank you for your support of this ministry. And I invite you to prayerfully consider any ways the Lord might be leading us to expand our partnership.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year,
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Tags: accompaniment, Chiang Mai, Christian counseling, encouragement, Kulying, McGilvary College, Ms. Patara, pastoral care, payap, reflection, relationship, salt and light, sharing, spiritual growth, transformation
Tags: Esther Wakeman
Tags: chiang mai, chiang mai thailand, christmas, counseling, esther, esther wakeman, esther wakeman's, esther wakeman's sending, esther wakeman's sending and support, healing presence, jesus, mai thailand, pastoral care, payap, payap university, sending and support, staff member, students, wakeman's sending, wakeman's sending and support