Two days ago the F5 Challenge Center (top floor now called F5 Climbing Center) had its grand opening bouldering competition. We had over 200 people come out and more than 75 competitors! I expected 100, not having any real knowledge of what the climbing community was like and our climbing couch expected 45 competitors based on the number of registration forms he had us print. It was beyond what any of us could have imagined.
I want to start off with a big thanks to each and every one of you for the support that you have given. Some have given financially. Others have given of their time and energy. Still others have given just a listening ear and encouragement and counsel when needed (which is often). But I believe all of you have been contributing through prayer and that taps us into the Greatest Source of power, energy and resources imaginable. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you all.
We decided last month upon an opening date as the director of the ministry we work with was planning to be in the country and we thought it would be nice for him to witness the opening. It seemed there wasn’t all that much to do still anyway so we proceeded to announce to the public. Then I got the ‘brilliant’ idea to have a competition as the grand opening draw; nothing fancy, free entry, just for fun. Well we ended up having Mad Rock and Black Diamond, 2 major climbing companies, sponsor prizes for us and each of the local gyms sending representatives to compete. We had at least seven members of the Thai National Team give their all and it was so amazing to watch. We had some of the top route setters in the country volunteer their time to set routes for us (I’m talking 6-8 hour days) just to support the competition. Managers of other gyms even. God was so good in providing exactly what we needed when we needed it. Our climbing couch, neighbor and friend Chris was the best hype man ever and did an amazing job promoting through social media to bring in the crowds. The only challenge came when we entered the week before the opening and realized we were not going to have everything finished.
Our team did a phenomenal job working 12+ hour days for a week to get things ready. Friday afternoon it was evident that we weren’t going to make it. By God’s grace I never once considered pressing through and just getting it finished. I told my team to quit working at 5:30 and prepare themselves for the Sabbath. The company making the mats for us was there and I asked them to leave and went home. God gave me peace. On the ride home I began to cry and cried most of the way (actually not safe to ride a motorbike while crying FYI) just thinking about how God had brought us to this point. In my mind I had to fight the negative thoughts that everything didn’t look perfect and wasn’t the way I wanted it to be when we opened to the public, but God flooded my mind and heart with memories of all He had done and the tears wouldn’t stop. The next morning Asher did an awesome job performing a song with his Sabbath school class in front of the whole church and then we came home. Jessica and I had a challenging discussion (fancy way of saying fight) where God really helped bring to the surface the feelings and conditions of our hearts and we ended crying and able to pray for one another to have strength to endure to the end. After sundown I needed to go back to the building to work as much as I could to get things ready and Jessica had an idea to message a few friends on Facebook. Well an hour and a half later we had 12-15 people show up ready to work. It was overwhelming. They scrubbed toilets and showers, hauled benches and mats, painted walls. They literally did everything that was asked of them. At midnight when they apologized that they had to leave they informed us they had to be up at 5 to run in a marathon! That was love in action! That was Christianity! That was truly the image of God shining forth! Those of us left worked until 4:30 in the morning before retiring for a 3 hour nap before registration began.
The work that those people did illustrated in so many ways the practicality of the Gospel. In Isaiah 58 God describes His plan for each of us who claim His name and it boils down to practical service. He isn’t as interested in sacrifice and offering as He is in a willing heart. That was a literal picture of what our ministry is all about. We aren’t just here learning the language and how to interact with people so we can ‘tell’ them the Gospel. We are doing it so that we can make heart connections with them and ‘live’ the Gospel in practical terms that are relevant in their lives. People here are not interested in just some new philosophy or teaching, no matter how true it is. They want to see it being experienced and experience it for themselves. I honestly think that is everywhere, not just here. This event raised no money (except 250 baht for one shirt sold) but it brought us into contact with so many people we would have never met otherwise and gave us an opportunity to interact with them on a personal level. It wasn’t an awkward interaction at some kind of evangelistic function, it was a genuine and organic interaction where we could actually get to know each other and become friends. That is what I think the Lord wants us to do. Now obviously we don’t just stop there; we must continue to love people and show them the character of God but this event really showed me the reality of this project and how effective it can be for building relationships and serving people in a practical way.
Moving forward from here we are going to finish the gym as there were still some things left undone and then officially open full-time to the public next week. After that we will focus our time on getting the juice bar/smoothie shop up and running hopefully by the end of the month. Jessica will be continuing to develop recipes and perfecting her dough for pizza (she made her first pizzas last week and they were amazing) and we have a skilled vegan baker coming out in Oct to help us get all of the restaurant/bakery things organized. We are grateful for the Lord’s wisdom in this as I was trying to open everything at once and probably would have burned out really quickly. Opening incrementally will give us the opportunity to get something going, work out the bugs and find a rhythm before moving on to the next phase. It will also help us in finding and training staff for the various positions.
While it feels like we have reached a finish line we have really just begun. I took the day off yesterday to recover but then ended up working on administrative stuff most of the day so took the day off today to actually rest. Tomorrow I will get back into it and we can get back into a more natural groove. There are a lot of pictures from the event and I will post some here. We will also have a video put together at some point as well. So stay tuned for that.
Something that has really been the focus of my time with God lately has been just His amazing Love. I have made a lot of mistakes here, I have been selfish, greedy, arrogant, rude, and add whatever other negative characteristic you’d like and it would probably apply. But through it all God has been there not standing over me waiting to catch me in something, but standing at my side seeking to lead me in the right path. The story of Hosea has been very impactful to me over the last 2 weeks. God gave messages to other prophets but to Hosea He made him a prophecy. He told him to love a woman who was loving another and then said that would be just like God’s love for Israel. He loved them but they strayed from Him (Hosea 3:1). His method for bringing them back was something that really touched my heart. He wasn’t going to punish and correct them into submission. Rather He was going to allure or woo them into His love again (Hosea 2:14. Then He would draw them through love and kindness until they no longer thought of Him as their master, but as their husband (Hosea 2:16). He used the closest human relationship in the Biblical sense (the only one described as making 2 people 1) to declare what He wants to be to us. But not through forced submission but through drawing by love. That is God’s method for reaching our hearts and I think also the method He wants us to use in being His hands and feet. Only by His grace can our selfish hearts be changed into hearts that love and care for other people. But when that change happens we will see a result similar to what we read about in the description of the early church in the book of Acts. Not by our might or strength, but by His Spirit. Please pray that we can allow the Lord to allure our hearts and use us to be the image of God to those around us.
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 (Praise God a local missionary family came to help)
- For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work
- For our climbing couch and friend Chris. His wife just had a baby that had some complications and incurred a bill of roughly $6,000. They are unable to cover the expenses and are not sure what to do. He has dedicated so much time into this Center and much of this wouldn’t have been possible without him and he has done it all for free as we had nothing extra to give him. If any of you are able to help it will be greatly appreciated.
- 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.