…but God is carrying us through, with lots of help from His ‘team’. We have mentioned more than once the challenge of being in a foreign country, living in a giant city, surrounded by millions of people, yet feeling so alone. Well God used our latest challenge to show us just how false those feelings truly are.
About 2.5 months ago Jessica came down with something, but her symptoms didn’t appear for more than a month. When they did she was down and out. She could barely get out of bed, couldn’t stand the smell of food or the thought of making it and so the task of food prep fell to me. Now I used to live alone and cook for myself but after more than 6 years of having someone cook for me, I realized I didn’t know how to make anything anymore. We were eating freezer finger foods out of the airfryer for a week at least. We were really not sure what was going to happen. Then we put out a message to a friend and we had a motorbike taxi dropping food at our door. Then another friend heard and started delivering food. Our team noticed I wasn’t coming to work anymore and started sending food over and offering to help come watch the boys for me. Then a friend from the US actually offered to come all the way here to help out and fly back with Jessica; as we had decided the medical care in the US would be better suited to help with this condition. Instead, another friend serving up north decided to come down and stay with us to help cook, clean, take care of the boys, etc. Also, the friend that has been helping out at the Center with IT type stuff and general all-around duties also offered to help out. In the end, we realized that while we often feel like we have no one here (mainly due to the fact that all the other foreign missionaries have left BKK) we still have a family and support system that cares about us. To those of you reading this, we are so grateful for your help and support in this time especially.
The lesson I took away from all this is that so often our perception is what controls our thoughts and emotions, which in turn direct our actions. And so often, for me anyway, my perception is wrong. So my thoughts, feelings, and actions are stemming from a distorted perception. It made me think of the root of this whole issue that we often refer to as the Great Controversy. The problem of sin all began with an error of perception. The exalted angel Lucifer felt that by having someone more exalted than him around it meant he was less important. That feeling that we commonly call insecurity/fear/selfishness started a snowball of bad choices that led ultimately to the highest honored created being in the universe being expelled from his place in heaven. In contrast, the highest exalted being in all the universe chose to forgo His position, come down among us as one of us. Not as a child of a king or ruler but to live the life of a simple tradesman. He did all that not to prove He was humble or to show that Lucifer was lying, but because He knew we were struggling and wanted to bring us aid and support; to provide encouragement that no matter our situation we can still have peace and joy through serving others. He knew that without His sacrifice we would all be lost. That kind of selfless devotion to others is something that I am greatly lacking. I realized it in a new way when we had 2 people come to live with us and help with Jessica’s daily tasks. With the 3 of us working to keep up with her duties, and just making it I realized how little I actually help out. I feel like I go to work and then am entitled to a break when I get home. I have even gone so far as to compare the workload and stress I have to what she does and act as if I carry a greater burden. The only way I am able to see things like that is through a distorted perception that is only focused on me. The weeks prior to people coming to help I was trying to carry Jessica’s duties on my own while not really doing any of my own (maybe going to work for 2 hours while the boys napped) and I maybe accomplished 35% of her duties and they were all done sub-par. You know, trials come upon us and so often we just focus on the challenge to get through it and at the other end we praise God we made it, but for me, so often that is as far as it goes. I may learn a lesson from it but then the same type of challenge comes again and I respond the same way. I believe God allows the trials to show us aspects of our character that need refined. But not just to reveal them for the purpose of self-knowledge. When we see it we then have the privilege of turning it over to Him to cleanse us from the distorted thinking and bring us into a true understanding of ourselves. Thankfully the God we serve is so patient and continues to strive with us and direct us in the right way even when we stubbornly fall into the same ruts over and over again.
To give a quick update to the Center progress; we have been picking up steam and connecting with a lot more people. Getting the word out about the gym has been a focus for the last couple weeks as we had many customers say it was hard to find us. I googled climbing in Bangkok and we appeared on the 6th page, even after the gym in Chiang Mai 9 hours north. So having little experience with anything tech I have been working on how to improve our appearance online. If you have experience with SEO we would love to pick your brain. We have had the owner of the building who is a lecturer at the University next door bring multiple groups of students to do mock articles for their journalism classes. Just yesterday we had a group of 20 come and they actually shot a full show with interviews and instructional climbing clips. They were very excited and said they would post it on youtube and promote it at the university so hopefully that can bring in some more traffic from there. We also had a friend help us draft a letter to all the local schools in our area offering them promotional pricing and training. We are sending that out today so please keep that in prayer as we seek to connect more with the local Thai schools. Our wall setup is a little out of the current standard as well. We have pretty basic flat walls and holds for the most part which is more old school and people are looking for angles and bigger holds. We had an opportunity open up that may help change that but we are still praying. The outdoor trips, on the other hand, are really booming. We were filling them up so fast we began to do them weekly instead of monthly. We have the next 2 weeks booked already and have started maxing out the trips at 16 people. This has given us great opportunities to connect with people and build relationships. We have had many return customers join the trips. We are now praying on how to get more personal in the relationships and transition them to spiritual topics. This is also good from a business standpoint as the government will still not extend our visas in the country as they say our business is not yet viable. We have to leave the country every 90 days to get new visas. Well, these trips are providing a solid income stream that is helping our business to be more viable as well.
We just had the team from Mission Spotlight and Mission 360 come out and spend a weekend with us shooting interviews and actually going on an outdoor trip to get some footage of what we are doing. It was a really fun experience and nice to be able to share what God is doing here and how He will bless if we trust Him. We also had a group of Masters of Missiology program students from AIIAS, the Division university, come and check out the project and we were able to give encouragement through our testimony of how mightily God works despite our failures. Both groups asked about whether we do regular fundraising and we got to share how God has provided all along the way. The many stories of how He has shared our needs with people we don’t even know and how people like you have stepped in to be a part of the work here. The Mission Spotlight team coming was a great testimony of that. One pastor asked how we could have built this whole project up with little to no fundraising and I answered that we have a rich Father. You know so often we look at the hurdles and then make the ‘safe’ choice as to how to do something. But God is calling us higher. When the 12 spies came back from Canaan and reported that the people were giants, the cities were strong and that they couldn’t defeat them, there were 2 men in opposition to the majority. They didn’t argue that ‘the cities aren’t that strong’, or the people aren’t that big’; they said, “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” -Numbers 14:7-9 They didn’t argue the points of contention, they simply tried to show the error in perception. The challenges aren’t what we need to focus on, focus on the fact that God is leading us, He delights in us and if He says to move forward we have the assurance that He will lead us in the best possible way, regardless of whether we think it is the best way. Often we look for an easier softer way, but there isn’t one outside of God’s leading.
Moving forward we are looking to open the cafe floor very soon as the groups of university students all showed a lot of interest in that floor. We will serve baked goods and smoothie and when we get a flow down maybe start doing pizza a couple nights a week. Please keep this in prayer. Our team is doing a wonderful job and really helping to get things moving. God revealed to me just this week that I am often bringing them down because they are doing things better than me and, like Lucifer, I feel threatened that these people that I trained are now getting to be better than me at things. It was so liberating to understand that and see that instead of holding them down so that I feel better, I can now encourage them to rise even higher. The goal from the beginning was to train the locals to be able to carry on this project without us one day as we are not a permanent fixture in Thailand and I feel God is showing me that even in spite of my best subconscious efforts to hold them down and keep them at my level so that my pride doesn’t get wounded, they are growing and excelling. That is exciting news and even more so because I surely can’t take any credit for it. We need to find a few more workers when we get ready to open the cafe so please pray that God will show us who and when.
I mentioned Jessica going back to the U.S. to get help with her current medical condition. She and the boys will be landing in Phoenix on Feb 19th and staying through sometime in Sept. I will be arriving either in June or July and then all 5 of us will return together in Sept. Yes I said 5. Jessica’s condition is Hyperemesis Gravidarum caused by pregnancy. We had planned to have some surgical intervention this summer on our trip back to the States but God had other plans it would seem. We will officially be an F5 family. After delivering Joseph here we both decided if we ever did have another child we would go back for delivery. Even with the flights, it is cheaper to deliver with our midwife there and the experience is much better. So Jessica will be there for a very extended trip and I will come out for a few months as well. We look forward to getting to visit many of you while we are there.
We had a blessing come in the form of a donation to help us buy a new vehicle, which was just in time as a new addition will now make our pickup too small for our family. The church took up an offering and raised $10,000 for a new vehicle! We started shopping for SUV’s as it would be the most practical vehicle and found a few but then had an idea. We have been wanting to get a 16 passenger van for the Center so that we don’t have to rent one every time we do one of our trips and it would offer freedom to do them whenever regardless of the van operators schedule, but buying a van like that that we would only use, at most, once a week seemed like a poor investment. Well, we thought we could buy one of those for our personal use and then once a week use it for the Center. So we have been searching and finding some good deals online.
The challenge is that in 2011 we had the huge flood here and so we don’t want to get stuck, unknowingly, with a flood vehicle so we are looking for something newer than 2011. We have found a few 2014 Nissan Urvan for around $15,000 (Toyota are more expensive). We want to ask that you could pray for us to know whether this is a good plan or whether we should stick to the method we currently use of renting and just buy something sized for our family.
The other major prayer is in regards to the climbing wall. We had the father of a couple girls from the Thai National Climbing Team call and ask me to come to his home. He showed me the training wall he had built for them within the last year. It was an amazing setup and he had better training facilities than every gym in the country, including the National Team. He shared that they would be moving and he needed to sell it. The national team had offered to buy it but he said they have a big budget and could import all these things themselves (everything he has was imported from Europe). He knows what we are doing in trying to help promote health through climbing to the local Thai and that we are tight on funds and wouldn’t be able to get the kind of setup he has otherwise (import fees are a nightmare here). He has over 700 competition style holds as well as a Campus training wall that is second to none here. Including the fall mats, he paid 480,000 baht to have it built/imported. He offered it to us for 180,000 (around $6,000 which it would cost just to get the holds). He also said that the National Team has offered to rent his holds as they are competition holds (what official international competitions are required to use) when they do competitions and he feels we could make our investment back over time. He said they offered him $1,000 once. He offered to hold it for us and said he would allow us to make the buy in 2 or 3 payments if that worked better. We would like to request prayer to know what the best course is to take with this. We will also be doing some redesign of our wall facilities during a holiday coming up to add some more angles and shapes to what we have in hopes of being able to meet the desires of all. We get a lot of people to come in once but getting current climbers to return is sometimes a challenge as they find the facility lacking in certain areas. All things we didn’t know and are growing through.
Sorry this is so lengthy but that happens when we don’t share for a couple months. Thanks again for your prayers and support. It really means a lot.
In His service, by His grace,
Brian, Jessica, Asher, Joseph & Baby Atwell
- That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord (We need to add at least 1 more for the gym and 2-4 additional once the cafe opens)
- That God can help us in the business side of things. There are a few business people giving counsel and advice and helping in connecting with schools but we could always use prayer in this.
- For the air quality in Thailand. It has been at hazardous levels for weeks now and is getting worse. Schools are currently closed because of it.
- For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work
- For us to have guidance in all the things we are needing to decide upon
- For us to be more intentional in our witness for God’s glory
- For our vehicle. Our truck had a broken a/c when we bought it which isn’t a luxury but a necessity here. We spent $1200 here replacing piece by piece (diagnosis here doesn’t happen often) and it worked for a year but now is not working again and to top it off all windows but the driver’s stopped working as well. The clutch keeps having problems and now one of the mirrors got hit and is taped on. It’s a 2000 with almost 300,000km on it and we don’t know what to do; keep repairing or try to sell it and get something else? (Praise God for $10,000 coming in to get a new vehicle!)
- 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 restaurant. 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 right interactions as we deal with a water leak that has caused 1000’s of dollars in damage to another shop below us (The contract I drafted was accepted and we just need to pay the shop owner. The bill for repairing the building will come later when the repairs are done.)
- 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. You can also view their project featured on the program MissionTREK here