We are so excited to be able to share that after a year and a half of prayer and over a year of language/culture study, God has revealed to us what we will be doing, and we will be doing it earlier than we had planned.
Most of you know when we received the call to leave the States that we knew God called us to Bangkok, but we didn’t exactly know for what. We had our own ideas, but after spending some time here we realized our plans were just not really going to be very effective. We set out to pray and seek His guidance, while also studying the language with the thought that once He revealed to us what to do we would be a bit more equipped to do it. Or at least be able to talk to people about it.
We are opening a vegetarian restaurant in Bangkok. I know, not anywhere near any of the ideas WE had, but His plans are always better. As we have assessed the challenges in reaching the hearts of Buddhists there are many people, here and in the States, claiming to have the answer. While we have heard many good ideas, we have yet to see any of them bring results; most of which we haven’t even seen implemented. Until last month. We visited a ministry that has been in Thailand for 20+ years. They are a simple organization, all people are volunteers from different walks of life and different denominations, but working together they are having consistent conversions to Christ. I don’t just mean baptisms, as I think we know that is the most ineffective way to gauge whether someone has accepted Christ or not, but true life changing conversions, of BUDDHISTS! I emphasize that because most of the baptisms that show up on the church books here are converts from other denominations of Christianity or from Animism (worship of spirits), but very minimal is the success, or the work for that matter, among Buddhists.
Their model; mingle with the people. Seems pretty simple, and somewhat along the lines of a quote that most of us I think are familiar with.
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”—The Ministry of Healing, 143.
They are simply teaching English to college students. But the catch is that their ‘school’ is a hangout place. They have a small cafe set up where the students can sit and they have games that they play with them as well. In short; they spend time with the people. They hold cooking classes and other activities throughout
the week and then invite the students to Bible study or a home group and are having huge attendance. This last week one of their home churches split, not because of division, but because it got too big. The new group meeting had 11 people, 6 of which were Buddhist, all of which had come through the language center.
The specifics will be a little different, but the premise will be the same. We are setting up a place where people will want to hang out and we can build relationships with them, then bid them follow Christ. We will offer English tutoring as that is something almost every Thai is interested in, especially from American speakers. This will give us great opportunities for personal relationships as we saw with our Thai teachers. Learning/teaching conversation you are doing just that, having conversations and learn a lot about a person. Something to help us from focusing all our energy on English classes is that having more than 7 students requires you to start an educational institution, which is a huge undertaking, and so we will have our number of students limited so we can focus on what we are really interested in helping the people with; health.
As the western diet has come in, the western diseases have been on the rise. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity are big problems here now as well. Giving the people the knowledge needed to break free from them is what we are desiring to do. Besides offering healthy food we will hold health lectures and screenings. We have caught the interest of the president of Adventist World Radio for this area who happens to be the former director of health ministries for the Thai Adventist Mission. He is a well known and respected speaker in all of Thailand. He has done things similar to a lifestyle retreat center with amazing results. He has offered to help us staff the restaurant as well as do some promoting and we hope, speaking for health seminars there as well. His influence will be a huge blessing.
We will also have a small bakery/cafe area that will afford the people a place to hangout while getting healthy desserts. This is a growing market in Thailand as bread and pastries are still not as big as in the West. With this we hope to be able to help the poverty stricken, of which there are incredible numbers. We plan to offer training on vegan baking and helping to employ some of the people from the slums to help them to rise out of their current situation, instead of just giving them food/money. We are able to have as many part-time staff as we want without having to pay taxes or SS for them and minimum wage in Bangkok is 300 Baht/day ($9) so we are hoping to be able to equip people to start their own small business. Our long term goal would be to see small ‘Centers of Influence’ like this pop up throughout this city, staffed by Thais ministering to Thais.
We have spoken with students from Asia-Pacific International University, a Seventh-Day Adventist institution a couples hours north of Bangkok, that have requested to do unpaid internships with us, which we see as an aspect of what we thought we would be doing here; training the native Thais to serve there own people. We will train, through practical, hands-on experience, how to operate a business that can support your living, while the focus of it being the springboard for sharing Christ. The challenge that has been shared with us as to why more Thais are not in ministry is that the children are expected to take care of the parents when they get older, a kind of retirement, so the youth need to focus on studies so they can have a good paying career to support family. If we can teach them how to sustain themselves with a business that is their ministry it would answer that challenge. We have been so encouraged as God has brought so many pieces together that we hadn’t thought of to give us a confirmation that He is leading and we know He will continue to.
I, Brian, will be going to Bangkok at the end of this month to scout out a location and meet with a lawyer to get the process going of opening a company. In Thailand a foreigner is only allowed to own 49% of a company and thus many lawyers offer an illegal process of listing Thai people as owners of a company that they have no part in. We knew if this was God’s will, He would provide a legal way to do it. As we prayed and I researched God revealed just what we were looking for; the Thai-US Treaty of Amity. This treaty allows a US or Thai citizen to have full ownership of a company in the other nation. Besides this, that company is also given rights as a domestic company, thus giving us more freedom. This was a huge blessing and I have already contacted a law firm that specializes in this process and has agreed to work with us. There are a few limitations to what we can do but they involve banking and petroleum industries which we have no interest in. The requirements for establishing a business under this agreement is that you must have 4 Thai staff for each foreign work permit given and bring in a set amount of capital as evidence that you are investing in the country and not just trying to exploit them.
This is where we appeal to you. We have not wanted to ask for funding while we have been here and were encouraged to just ask God to support us, and He has in amazing ways, many times through your generous support. But as we prayed we felt God lead us that this was the time to make a call. The required capital we need is roughly $60,000, depending on the exchange rate at the time. It has to be paid up before we can get a work permit. We are needing the funds before our visas expire at the end of the year. We realize that this is a huge asking and have struggled with it, but as we see that this is a 1 time request that will allow us to become self-sustaining and stay here indefinitely, we see His wisdom. As we embark on this new journey we had a couple options; go to the States and spend 2-3 months trying to find sponsors and then return and start the process early next year, which we saw as taking a lot of time, energy and resources. The other option came through prayer and a simple question; “What would you do if you had faith?” I posed the question to Jessica, having not considered it myself yet, it just came out. We didn’t have to discuss it, we both knew what we were being told, go back to Bangkok and start the work. The help we need is big by human standards, but we know our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He owns the hills as well. The over 67 Million people who are slaves to idolatry, poverty and the fear of ‘karma’ in this country who have never heard the Gospel, are a great burden on our hearts. We ask your support, but most importantly your prayers, as we move forward in faith. For those interested we have made up a business plan and can send a copy upon request. Any donations that come through Jesus4Asia, either at this link Bangkok Outreach or by check, will be 100% tax deductible.
This is part 5 of a documentary shot in Bangkok about foreign missions. It greatly illustrates the condition of things here and this episode sums it up well. Please invest the short time and if you are interested in the rest you will find them on the livemissiontv page of YouTube.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ -Titus 2:13
Thank you for your prayers and support,
Brian, Jessica & Asher Atwell