Wow! It has been almost 4 months since I have written an update. To say things have been a bit overwhelming would be an understatement. Building a climbing gym, Bible Worker training, finishing renovation work on the rest of the building as well as being parents has been about all that we have had time for, and even then it’s been a stretch. Oh yea and we bought an Italian pizzeria.
Each month when I sit down to write I look at the previous newsletter to remind myself where we left off. Trying to figure out what things are relevant and what we should share is sometimes challenging. Reading this afternoon from my last post in early December I saw this sentence;
“Looking through our newsletter archive I feel that my experience very closely parallels the book of Judges while I am all along wishing it paralleled the book of Acts.”
I wish I could say that things have been different during this new year but they haven’t. We are so grateful for all of you who keep us in prayer and especially those who let us know that you are praying for us as it helps us remember that we are not alone in this work.
That statement really struck me as I have been focusing a lot on the book of Acts during the Bible worker training this last month. Somehow it is so easy to teach and encourage others to make God their all in all and surrender everything to Him with total abandon, then to go home and be so selfish and self-focused. I often feel like the Pharisee in the story of the Pharisee and the Publican; Comparing myself to others, feeling justified in myself because ‘at least I’m not like that.’ As I sit here sweating in my living room, killing the ants that are crawling all and biting me, trying to think about what parts of the last 4 stressful months should be shared, I cant help but wonder, “What in the world am I doing here?” I know I have shared this before, forgive me for the repetition, but when you don’t really have anyone to talk to you have to get things out somewhere. Too often I contemplate what would life be like if we lived in the States. My wife would have deep, meaningful relationships with friends and be able to be happy, my kids could play outside and not be trapped in a small square lot we call a yard, I could have a job I understand and come home feeling accomplished instead of defeated and overwhelmed, we could have Sunday family day instead of that being the one day traffic isn’t bad and we need to get as much shopping done as possible. There are a whole host of ‘what ifs’ that the enemy likes to throw at me when I am stressed. The proverbial ‘kick him when he’s down.’ But then God gives a blessed experience that reminds us why He has brought us here. Even though I may be feeling that I am failing miserably, He is still gaining the victory.
I had a few of those experiences this last week. The full team of workers we currently have (4 only) have all officially moved into the building and began full-time training on the 12th of March. We have been going through intense Biblical training and it has definitely been overwhelming for them at times.
God has given me so much grace in communicating the precious truths of the Gospel to them. Initially I was going to have a translator as I have not formally learned any Biblical vocabulary but on the first day the translator told me I should try to share the worship in Thai. Since then I have done 3-5 hours a day of training in Thai, something I didn’t think was possible. One of our staff commented that he had heard many of these things before from pastors, and didn’t understand, but the way I shared it made sense. I responded jokingly that it was because I spoke at a child’s level. Reflecting later on that answer I realized that God was answering my prayer for the gift of tongues to be able to communicate clearly as I had been praying earnestly for the workers to learn these truths and be able to share them. Well last week I taught a class on how to share your personal testimony of what God has done in your life. Then I assigned each worker a day that they would share their testimony for staff worship. The first day was a blessing as I learned the story of June, one of our new teammates. He actually cried most of the time sharing how God had led in his life and his family. Then the next 2 were the management team that have been with us for 6 months now. They shared how God had worked in their lives and then each talked about how they had been praying for some opportunity to serve God and then we met and it became a reality. Listening to these young people, whose culture tells them to hide anything bad in their lives and do all they can to save face, tell their stories with honesty and openness really showed me that God is greater than any cultural barriers. I have focused so much on the fact that God wants to “dwell among us” and be one with us and I have seen that it was a somewhat new concept and one that seems to be making an impact.
We have also been doing climbing training with them at the Thai National Team wall across the street from the Center 1-2 times a week and it draws quite a crowd. Every time we climb there it has drawn a crowd but now we have Thai people climbing and it is an even greater draw. We have had more than 20 people standing and watching at times. Jessica encouraged the team to bring their business cards, interact with the people watching and invite them to climb. We have made a few good connections and will continue this tradition once the Center is open as it is a great ‘fishing hole.’ We took them on their first rock climbing trip on real rock and they all loved it, though there was a bit of terror and Tong even saying in Thai as he stretched out over the top ledge, “when we get back to Bangkok I will resign” haha.
This coming week the director of Adventist World Radio for Thailand, Pastor Surachet, has agreed to host training for our staff on how to combine the Gospel with the health message. He is the only Thai SDA that I know of that is doing this and has been doing it for the last 20 years. If you have watched the series I Want This City, then you would have seen him in the episode about the Health expo at MBK mall which drew thousands of people. He is a great resource and we are so grateful that he was willing to squeeze some time out of his incredibly busy schedule to do this training.
As for the Center; we had the team from Canada, the US and one from Australia out for the last 2 weeks working almost non-stop to get the climbing gym finished. We hired out the major part of the steel frame to a local company as they would only have about 10 working days here. Well sadly the Thai team wasn’t able to meet their timeline and were not finished when the team arrived. Whats more, the work they did do had a fair bit of errors and so many days were lost to rework. While they didn’t finish before leaving yesterday, they did an amazing job and we are super excited and blessed to have had them donate so much time and energy into this work. Jessica and the Pakistani family (that she shared about in January) worked together to provide food for this team of 10 and also the staff training group. It was a full-time job on top of watching the kids as I was running around like a headless chicken trying to get the right supplies for everything. They did a great job!
Our energetic neighbor, Chris, who has strong ties in the climbing community has been coming around and helping wherever he can. He is an awesome promoter and has already secured us a free article in 2 local magazines about the Center as well as the Channel 3 news team coming out to do full coverage of our grand opening. God is good! Chris has been spending a lot of time with us and is also our climbing trainer for the staff. He is a talented guy and a wonderful resource.
Oh yea, the pizzeria. So we have been looking for kitchen equipment to outfit the restaurant. I am trying to find a good deal and am receiving updates from many websites. Well I saw a post about a pizzeria that went out of business. Long story short I met with the guy and it turns out he opened a pizzeria in the business district, it operated for 2 years and then due to family challenges he had to close up. He intended to work out the problems and reopen so he simply packed everything into crates and stored them in a storage warehouse. Well 2 years later and he still hadn’t opened and now dad back in Italy had a stroke and is needing the young man to come take care of him for an undetermined length of time. He wanted to sell but had no pictures before packing it all up and the storage company would charge him to open them. I convinced him to meet me there and open some of the crates and was able to see the large double pizza oven, marble-topped, chilled prep table and the mixer that has a 75kg per hour capacity. All of the equipment is imported from Italy and high quality. He also has 2 refrigerators, all his tables and chairs, cashier counter, cutlery, large meat slicer, wine cooler, etc. He told me it was 3 crates and when we got there the label said 3 of 5. He asked and they confirmed he has 5 crates; he doesn’t even remember everything that is in there. Best part is that he wanted 200,000 baht (roughly $6400) for all of it. I priced out buying just the equipment we needed from a local Chinese made supplier and it would be 180,000 baht. So we are getting quality items for about the same price but then able to sell what we don’t need and get back some of the money. He said he would part it out and sell for more but he has no location to open all of it up. When I paid the storage company for delivery they said it was 27 cubic meters of stuff. This equipment will be delivered on Tuesday then we will get the kitchens organized.
That also brings us to a slight change in recipe focus. We originally were going to just do salads. As we talked with people the women all said they would come to a salad restaurant but men rarely did. When we asked if they would come if there was pizza they all said yes. But then when we saw how big ovens are (the one we got is 450 kg) we gave up as we would never get that upstairs. Well then the room on the first floor opened up that we rented not really having a plan for it. Well that will be the pizza making area. We are praying the Italian guy will spend some time teaching us a few dough recipes as he has special training under a master in Rome for, get this, VEGAN PIZZA! Keep that in prayer. We have also made an official call to a professionally trained vegan chef/baker to come for 1-3 months to help us get things set up and some training for our workers. Working with yeast in this heat and humidity is a science and it would be great to not have to try to figure it all out on our own. Please keep these things in prayer so that we can follow as God leads.
Throughout this rollercoaster the one lesson we keep learning time and time again is that God is in control and He knows the end from the beginning. If we just stop worrying and put our trust in Him, He will lead us in the way everlasting.
Thank you all for your continued prayer and support. This work would not be possible without each and every one of you.
In His service by His grace,
Brian, Jessica, Asher and Joseph Atwell
- That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord (We have 4 but need at least 4 more)
- That we can find a welder available to come help finish the last little bit of the climbing wall
- For the climbing holds to come through customs with no issues
- For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work
- For the planning of TYC (Thai Youth Conference at the end of July). (Sadly there were some challenges at the Union level and this has been postponed until next year.)
- God has impressed us that we need to open an official call for someone (or a family) to come and join our team to help with the baking/pizza cooking. We are looking for a vegan chef/baker. If you know someone with restaurant experience, or restaurant quality skills please send them our way for an interview.
- For our website development. I have very little experience with this but God has been guiding and it looks pretty good. You can view it here F5BKK.com
- For guidance for Josh and Chitlada (Directors of Jesus for Slum Kids project) as they seek to know what God is wanting them to do. If you would like to find out more check out their website here http://jesus4slumkids.org/ or email the Project Director Joshua Bauder at Joshuabauder@hotmail.com.