I have talked to many people who have said things along the lines of “being a missionary sounds so fun and exciting” and while there definitely are those aspects, that is not the whole story. I am sorry if it seems I am writing many negative posts in a row but I just felt the need to be real and share my heart. So often we feel the need to seem perfect and only share positive things but God is glorified in the trials as well as the blessings. They are what makes the good seem so good.
I am so thankful that God chose us to be His hands and feet here in Bangkok. I am not saying I regret it, but this morning as I saw a picture my cousin posted of Newport Beach I began to cry. I didn’t really know why but all of a sudden a wave of emotions seemed to flood out of that picture upon me. I will never get to share some of my most precious experiences with my children. Going to a Southern California beach to play in the sun and waves, visiting the Mid-State Fair just to walk around and look at the animal pens, summer bonfires on the beach and playing with the sea lions under the pier. So many experiences. As my family gathers together in one of my favorite places on earth to celebrate my grandmothers 90th birthday I am half a world away and feeling so saddened and guilty for not being there. My grandfather passed away 3 weeks after we arrived here and I wasn’t there then nor at his celebration of life. So much of life seems to not be real when you are disconnected from it.
Now we are days away from baby number 2 arriving and the fear and stress is overwhelming. We have no clothes for a newborn (gave all of Asher’s to Pakistani refugees we met here), we aren’t really sure who will watch Asher while we go to deliver the baby and we don’t even have the money to pay the hospital bill. That last one may not seem to be a big deal to our American friends but in Thailand you don’t leave until you pay the bill. Financial stresses are overwhelming and I feel ready to just give into the flood and sink away. While missions can be exciting, it is also a major sacrifice.
But then I remember that my children will have their own experiences, ones that I will get to share with them. When I was growing up I had all these ideas of things I would do with my kids. But those were my dreams, not theirs. They don’t know they are missing out on anything. And to be honest, Asher thought America was kind of boring. The death of your ideas and dreams is very painful. You realize that things won’t be what you may have thought. Which is ultimately a death of my control on my life. Life isn’t what I wanted it to be. But I can guarantee that when I look back on my life record as I stand before the Lord I will not regret any path that He led me on. Sure, there are trials. Sure, life in America would be so much easier, I so often wish I could just go get a job and live a ‘normal’ life, but God has a reason for the trials, He has a lesson to teach in each experience, good or bad.
You know it is easy to talk about faith and trusting God when there is a back-up plan. Quitting my job to go into ministry was a step of faith no doubt, but in the back of my mind I knew if something happened I could always get another job. Selling everything and moving with my wife and 4 month old baby to a foreign country is a huge leap of faith. But when there is $20,000 in the bank it is much easier to deal with than trying to figure out where cuts can be made so you can have a working a/c in your vehicle. But in the times of doubt and despair God is always there to remind how He has led in the past and that He is faithful. Click here to see how He has led us.
This last 3 months have been the most trying time for me. I don’t know if it is instinctively a part of every man to feel the need to work and provide for your family or just something that was instilled in me from my father. Watching him go to work, even when he received disability and could have just sat around was a strong message to me that a man is supposed to work. It is hard (for me) to feel like a man when I support my family with gifts from others. It is such a temptation when I see all these job listings for English teachers; knowing that my skin color and birth country all but guarantees me the job, but knowing that God has shown me He has a different plan and I just need to wait. I sometimes dream for that life I always thought I would have; going to work while my wife stays home with the kids. Going on vacations and teaching my son to play baseball. A ‘normal’ life. But then I remember that ‘the American dream’ is just that, America’s dream. God’s dream is much different. He desires as
Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9, that all come to repentance that they may be saved and dwell with Him forever. Paul expands on that thought in Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Fulfilling that dream is a work God has graciously given us the opportunity of participating in. He calls us to GO but HE is the One that is doing the work. It is so easy to forget that and get caught up in ‘our’ activities and ministry and disregard God’s calling and direction for us. In 1 Samuel 15 there is a good illustration of how that can happen even in God’s service. Please read the chapter I won’t explain it, but the end result is they directly disobeyed God but used the excuse that they were doing it FOR God and that justified it. We so easily do the same things in our lives. When God gives us a calling on our lives we accept and follow, but then we come to a waiting point and we get impatient. We start to use our own wisdom and logic and come up with what we know must be God’s plan and move ahead. But like King Saul in 1 Samuel 13 we can run ahead of God’s plan and even our good intentions can become
detrimental to His success. In the end waiting is hard, but just like physical exercise, the hard part is what makes you stronger to endure more next time. Perilous times are upon us and we need to be strong in the power of the Lord to endure.
On a personal note, we had our first home fire. (very minor grandma lol) Our house did not come with a water heater, which wasn’t a problem through summer since the sun works just fine but as the temps dropped into the 80’s we were feeling a bit chilled and I broke down and bought one. Installing was easy as there was already a safety breaker ran into the shower. But silly me I didn’t trace out the entire circuit. Under the stairs, the only wood in the entire house, was a little plastic circle that contained a connection that was not quite connected. Jessica and Asher were enjoying the warm shower and normally once we are upstairs for the night we don’t come down but I went down for something and smelled burning. I had just run ground wires (Thailand doesn’t ground anything) to all our major appliances and so thought I messed up somewhere. Checked them and all was well so I wrote it off as the wood processing plant down the road. As I went upstairs something impressed me to check under the stairs and that is when I saw the glow. The fix was simple but not sure what might have happened if they had finished the shower and I had taken one. Praise God for watching out for us.
God is leading, even though it is through waiting right now but we can be assured that when the current lesson is learned we will see the path before us opening. We ask for your continued prayers as we seek to be a light in this dark city. Jessica gave our neighbour Dthai a New Testament and she has been reading some of Luke. Pray God speaks to her heart and continues to give her deliverance from her depression. Pray for our missionary friend Melissa who bought our car. She has been called to Turkey and needs God’s strength to work there. Also pray she can sell the car so she can send the funds to us in time. Please remember all the missionaries serving overseas. We can really see why so many are adamant about working with a team. It can seem so lonely, even in the midst of 15 million other people. Pray for marriages, families and most important their personal relationships with God.
Thank you for always being there for us to stand in the gap while we seek to repair the breach for Christ.
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Brian, Jessica & Asher Atwell (plus baby)