God in the desert

To refer to the experience of going from $100 and a stack of bills to having the entire renovation portion of our project fully funded in less than a month as anything less than miraculous would be an understatement. 

As I sit alone in the living room of my own home while the rest of my family sleeps away jet-lag I have a few moments to consider what God has done over this last month and it is nothing less than should be expected at this stage of things but yet I find myself again in awe at His faithfulness. Time and time again we have faced insurmountable ‘Goliaths’ with no possible way of defeating them only to have God show us which Stone to reach out to to provide the victory. Every month I read the previous months update and then cry as I pray and confess my lack of faith over the time between its writing and now. Today is different though. Now while I still cried while reading it was not in a sorrowful, repentant cry but in tears of gratitude for how God honored Jessica’s words of faith from last month. While we were in a proverbial desert, God reached out His hand and helped us to see that just as He led Israel through the wilderness out of Egypt, He has been here with us all along as well. So where to begin…

How about from the $100. We have had our funds much lower than that before with no idea (besides God’s providence) how we were going to pay the bills. But it had been a while since funds were this low AND God started impressing something really expensive on my heart. So when the impression came to attend ASI in Orlando I didn’t even mention it to Jessica at first. I just did some research and saw they were having a ‘young professionals’ session during the main conference which I felt could really help me in the business management aspect of this ministry. The next day I mentioned it to Jessica who encouraged me to just try to attend the local ASI in Bangkok, which we had already spoken about and which was too expensive to attend, at the end of August as that was local people and it may be more relevant. I surrendered to the idea of just attending locally and set it aside (though really I just surrendered that I wasn’t going to either without the funds. Then I got a message from my friend Calvin who is the Founder and Director of F5 Challenge in the US. I knew he was going to be a speaker at the young professionals conference but he now told me that he wanted to do a highlight of what we

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Brian sharing our promo video with the F5 leadership

were doing here in his talk. At that point Jessica said “you have to go.” Jessica’s parents graciously offered to pay for our entire family to fly back to the states for a two and a half week trip. While that all sounded nice there was no way I could comfortably leave our staff on their own and tell them that “hopefully ill be able to send you some money to pay the bills when they are due.” We just couldn’t go. Then one morning a weird thing happened. I opened my email and there was one from the Jesus for Asia bookkeeper. That wasn’t unusual but the content was. She said she was just returning from a short break and wanted to send me our current financial statement, she would send the official one the following week at the beginning of the month (which is typical) but just wanted to send this now. I already ‘knew’ we had about $100 in that account so when I opened it and saw over $4500 I was shocked. We had the money for the bills this month. Jessica wrote her parents and we booked tickets. Jessica contacted a friend who sponsored my flight to Orlando and the entry to ASI. With 3 days to prepare we packed, notified the team that they would be running the Center on their own for the next few weeks and then took to the skies.

The amazing thing was that the money that had been sent was from a church we had visited one time, a year before. They had written us 9 months or so before stating they had voted to start supporting the project, but then they had never sent anything. We just figured other things came up. Well they had sent it just when it was needed. To show just how truly amazing that timing was, we had the opportunity to visit that church during our trip and when we shared how it all happened they informed us that they took up an offering every month for our project but had decided not to send it until it was at a certain amount. “that was 8 months of offering” they said. God knew exactly when we would need it and had them store it up for such a time as this.

ASI was a bit of a blur with jet-lag brain but I gained some real gems from the experience. The best of which was the testimonies and connections I made at the young professionals conference. Hearing about other young people who are taking their passion and skill in business and using it for God’s Kingdom was a big encouragement to me. There was a lot of practical information that has helped reshape the direction as we refocus on the important components of the project, namely the ministry. But in the business side I also had this aha moment, which may seem silly to many of you. This whole time I have for some reason had this idea that it would be wrong, or even unholy, to make profit. Everything I have been planning has been for the purpose of just covering the cost of things. Which works fine in the short term but our goal is to establish a model and be able to support opening other centers throughout this city and

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75 young entrepreneurs at Thursday night meet and greet

country. If we are just covering our expenses that won’t happen. I realized that God is not against us making money. Hearing talks about the children of Israel and how God prospered them it really helped me to restructure the ideas in regards to pricing and marketing. Being in one sense on the opposite side of things; having a passion for ministry and seeking to combine business with it as opposed to being an entrepreneur seeking to be missional had left me with a few misconceptions that I hadn’t even realized I had until attending this conference. I was also convicted about how much I try to do on my own. One speaker talked about delegation and quoted Biblical examples; God: “Noah build the boat”; “Adam till the ground.” Jesus; “you give them to eat…” The speaker said anything at his office that someone else can do he WILL NOT do it. And this was definitely not said in laziness as that word cannot exist in his presence. It was to empower and equip others, which is what my goal has been, I’ve just been too afraid to let go and let others help. It was a good experience that we will see whether or not can be attended in the future. My favorite part by far was sharing with the children’s divisions about mission stories and what God is doing in the rest of the world.

I boarded a flight headed back to my family at 7 am on my birthday, traveled for 9 hours and landed just before 1. We went to lunch with family and then headed to Walla Walla for a short visit. During the time in Orlando Jessica kept pressing me to go to Seattle to visit the church I mentioned above. I had been fighting it hard as I had been working myself to death and just wanted a break during this trip. Well she won and we headed to Seattle a day after arriving in Walla Walla. God worked that out as well and I was able to get a free teeth cleaning as well as visit the church in the story above for prayer meeting and learn just how amazing a blessing it was that God had stored the money over 8 months for us to be able to make this trip. After visiting the church we got to meet with the family that had sent me to ASI as they had been away and unable to attend prayer meeting. We got to share what God has been doing over the last year since meeting them last. When we were preparing to leave they handed us 2 checks, one was personal and one was for the Center. As we got on the highway Jessica looked at them and the one for the Center was enough to cover the finishing of the renovation work for the whole building! While I was fighting against this part of the trip it is where we had some of our most encouraging experiences.

The time was short and jet-lag recovery back to back like that with 2 little ones is not a good time, but in the end God blessed and we made some amazing connections during our visit. My grandmother and aunt even drove 9 hours to come visit us. To those we didnt get to see we are sorry but this was a very unplanned trip and we had limited time. Our plan had been for a furlough in the summer of 2019 so if all still stays the same we should see you then.

Something I learned from all of this experience is that God is still real. He is relevant and He is alive and at work in the lives of His people on this earth today. Most importantly, He is at work in the lives of those who aren’t perfect. I have allowed myself to build up a pride in my heart when I think about all the ways that God has been guiding and providing for us. I have had a national pride finding myself regularly saying sentences that start with, “well in America…” I have also had a personal pride in ‘my ability.’ Through this trip and the subsequent weeks since we returned home I am realizing just how similar we all are to each other. Sure we vary in appearance and skills, etc, but inside we are all intrinsically the same. We desire to love and to be loved, we want the respect of others around us, we want to have meaningful relationships and to bring joy to others. We were given a couple of books by a dear friend called “The Insanity of God” and “The Insanity of Obedience” by Nik Ripkin. In those books the author talks about how he read the Bible and believed it was a history book about things that happened in the past, but as he visited persecuted nations and discussed faith with those who are daily persecuted for their faith he realized that God is alive NOW and is still working in the same way that He did in the Bible times; all we need is the faith and willingness to follow where He leads. There is nothing special about me that makes me any more important than anyone else. Nothing that earned me the privelege to be delivered from the homelessness and addiction that had been my lot before coming to Christ. The only difference between me and the man who is still homeless and dying in his addiction is that I have learned and accepted that there is a Way out and I have chosen to walk in it because for me there in no other choice but death.

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Sign in the F5 Directors dental practice

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy update and hopefully we can get something scheduled to get back on a monthly, less lengthy, writing of things.

In His service, by His grace,

Brian, Jessica, Asher and Joseph Atwell

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Prayer requests:

  1. That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord                             (We need to add at least 4 more once the restaurant and Juice bar open)
  2. For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work
  3. 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. 
  4. 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 If you have WordPress skills or could offer some suggestion as to what could help this to be better we would really appreciate it.
  5. For our outreach during Vegetarian festival this next month.
  6. For right interactions as we deal with a water leak that has caused 1000’s of dollars in damage to another shop below us
  7. 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.

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