If you knew us back when we were preparing to come to Thailand, you probably heard us talk about how our desire and goal in ministry was to disciple young Akha leaders, who could then go out and minister the gospel to their own people! Arriving in country, we found that as much as we wanted to "disciple" we simply didn't have the language or cultural understanding to do so, and so we began the *long* process of language learning. As we lived in a village, God began to slowly lead us (almost without our knowledge) into a medical ministry to the Akha (which we now call the Akha clinic). While most of our official ministry for the past 4 years has been seen in more tangible ways like medical clinics and dental teams, our desire to disciple young people never left us. Let me go back a few years the beginning of Esther's story (at least the beginning of her story with us!) I was pregnant with Abi and had horrible morning sickness that kept me confined to bed or running to the bathroom most of the day! Paul was running himself ragged, trying to take care of a sick pregnant wife and keep up the with laundry, dishes and the house. Seeing our predicament, Nancy, a seasoned missionary, mentor and friend, encouraged us to hire a "helper". We grimaced at the thought, partly because we were too stubbornly independent to admit that we couldn't handle everything on our own, and partly because we hated the thought of having someone do our "dirty work", it seemed so elitist! However, we were clearly in a pickle and even beyond that, we began to realize that our independence was more a reflection of our American culture than the community-centric Akha culture to which we were trying to assimilate.
So, we began to pray! We prayed that God would bring us someone who would be so much more than a housekeeper. We prayed that He would bring someone who really needed a job to help support her family. We prayed that he would bring someone who would become part of our family, someone who would be a disciple, someone who would be a co-worker with us in our ministry. Esther was the answer to those prayers.
Esther came to live with us full time. When we were in the city, she was there. When we went to the village she came along! We immediately began to see that Esther had so much potential! She is brilliant, passionate, bold and diligent. She has a great head on her shoulders and a desire to learn. We were immediately blessed by her ability to make friends instantly wherever we went; her personality was the perfect fit for our unusual mobile lifestyle.
But even more than that, we could see that she was hungry for God! She had grown up in a Christian home, going to church every week for her whole life. But like many teens, when she first came to live with us, she was doubting the faith she had grown up with, asking hard questions like "Is God really real? If so, how do I know?" Knowing the importance of the these times of struggling, we encouraged her to continue seeking God and stood by her through her journey.
Over the next few years, we had many amazing conversations with Esther. She always initiated the most interesting topics; we discussed polygamy to freewill, ethics to nose rings... and everything in between. About a year after she came to live with us she started saying things like "I think I'd like to go to Bible school... But I DON'T want to go into ministry! I just want to learn for myself." We secretly hoped that she would one day decide to go into ministry because we could see such great potential in her, but we were happy to see her faith growing and hoped, at least, that she would be a solid member of the local church.
In August, she was baptized, publicly declaring her faith in God. And this last weekend, Esther announced that she wanted to go into full-time ministry, carrying the gospel to her unreached Akha brothers and sisters internationally . When I asked her what brought about the change, she said that she was thinking about her future (she had always imagined herself selling produce like many of the Akha women do) and realized that she wanted to impact people and do something "special" for God! We are ecstatic! We are so honored to be a part of Esther's life and hope that she will be able to impact areas that we cannot!
Please join us in praying for her future!
A Husband: Please join with us as we pray for Esther's future husband. Pray that God will provide an amazing loving husband with a similar calling on his life. Someone who is strong enough to complement Esther's strong personality, yet graceful enough to allow her to minister in the full capacity that the Lord has equipped her for.
Personal Growth: Pray that God would continue to work on Esther's heart and prepare her for the many difficulties she might encounter on the mission field in the future!