So much has happened over the last year; we both learned so much about the Thai culture and about ourselves as well. We traveled all around Asia, spoke in many different churches and even learned to rock climb. But one of the most challenging was a 3 month tour of the western US.
As we think about all that the Lord has led us through it is easy to see that He spoke truth when He said “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” -Rom 8:28. We have faced challenges that would have destroyed us a few years ago, but as we face each new trial we grow in our faith and are able to trust in His faithfulness.
Traveling around the western US for the last 3 months has been so trying on us. Not only are you stressed about all that you have going on behind the scenes, but you are also staying in other peoples’ homes and to top it off you are on heightened alert because most of the homes are not ‘kid friendly’ and you are worried your child will break something. Needless to say it wears on you. Always having people around makes it hard to communicate with your spouse and wears on the home circle as well. Thankfully the last few places we were staying with family that worked all day and gave us some time to reconnect with each other and destress. This time has shown us so much about ourselves and allowed us to grow individually and as a couple. Thank you to all who opened your homes to us and made us feel welcome. We have been on the road since the first week of September and are so excited to get back to our own home, even if it will only be for a couple weeks while we find a new home in Bangkok.
This has been such a faithful car. Jessica got it in 2006 and it has done so much work for the Lord. It has carried us through all our ministry journeys Stateside and through multiple ‘tours’ to visit others. We didn’t know what we would do with it but knew we needed to sell it this trip as we don’t know when we will return and there is no need to store up ‘treasures’ here. As we prayed about it a missionary friend from Canada that is serving in the US wrote us that she was in need of a car. The Lord worked out our dilemma before we were even at the point to start considering it. If we sold the car in Spokane, the logical place as we would be there the longest, we would have to rent a car for a month to finish our trip. But she is serving in southern California, where we are flying out of, so we just sign over the papers and head to the airport. Praise God.
We have some friends in Chiang Mai, Jordan and Maria Kennedy, who are very dear to us. They too have been studying Thai in preparation for ministry. As we have gotten closer to our departure from the north to head back to Bangkok they have felt a pull to go also. We have invited them to partner with us in our work but the challenge they face is one that is sadly very common in missions, money. Jordan, the husband, has been supporting the family doing transcribing online but would not have the time for that as he would be in a more full-time language program in Bangkok. Please pray for guidance in their desire to serve the Lord in whatever way He has for them. They also have 3 children, 2 adopted and 1 together. Click here to read their blog
This time of year is often filled with gift giving, happiness and songs about the birth of Christ. But this year for me there is a heaviness in my heart as I hear those songs that I love so much. Having been in Thailand for the last year and a half has really changed my perspective on so many aspects of life. The Gospel, and the Bible for that matter, have been things that I have taken for granted. The comfort I receive from Christ during trials and the forgiveness when I sin and hurt others has just become something I expect to be there. I hadn’t considered what it is like for countless millions who have no idea and may never have a chance to know His peace. I had come to a place where I had forgotten where I came from, that my life hasn’t always been this way. I forgot what trials used to be like and how helpless I felt, many times wishing I could just die so the pain would stop. The hopelessness of the thought that no one understands me and I am all alone here. For many of us who learned about Christ later in life, we know what it is like to try with all your might to change your life, only to fall helplessly on your face, not having any idea what went wrong. Only in Christ can we find the answer. Sadly it took a desperate cry from a family member to wake me up to the reality of my situation. We can so easily get caught up in our own selves and our desire to better our lives because of what God has done for us. After all, He asked us to do that (John 14:15). But when our efforts to purify our characters don’t involve ACTIVE service for others, ministering to people who need the hope that we have found, and instead find us simply spending more time reading to find new rules to follow and any area of our lives that needs adjusting, we are completely disconnecting from the source of our purification. Christ is where the hurting are and He has called us all to be there with Him (Matt 25:31-46) so that we can experience His love for us through the love He puts in us for them.
As we enter a new year why not make a decided effort to serve others more than ourselves. Let’s go out of our way to make someone else feel special, even at the expense of our own pride, convenience, or expense. Christ humbled Himself to uplift fallen man. The whole focus of what Christ did on this earth was to uplift others. He, the Creator of everything, worthy to receive all honor, glory and praise, lived a life as a tradesman in a terrible city, endured the pressures of a bad family situation, walked as a nomad with nowhere to lay His head, was spit upon, beaten and ultimately killed, all so that you and I could have a better life. Nowhere in there was a thought about Himself. Then I somehow feel that I am worthy to enter Heaven because my life isn’t what it once was, I have made a change for the better. I will never be worthy to enter those gates and neither will you. The only reason any of us will be present there will be because we have an incredibly merciful God that can somehow look at us and see something worthy to love. Not until we truly understand that will we begin to live lives that are pleasing to Him. I am making a covenant to seek a deeper understanding of His love for me through selfless service to others. I pray you will make that commitment as well.
We received a notice this week that a community church in Phoenix has decided to donate $2,500 toward our start-up needs! That was such a huge blessing. We have just over $5,000 now. Moving back over with not even 1/10th of what we need is a bit scary, but through the ways He has led recently we can’t do anything but trust that He has a way already laid out and the only way we will ever find out what it is will be by taking one step at a time in a forward direction. We are so excited to see what a new year brings and hope that the small effort we make will become a great ripple that will cover the earth with the Living Water. Please pray for us and the others serving overseas, as well as for the people we are seeking to bring hope to.
From our heart to yours this holiday season,
Brian, Jessica & Asher Atwell
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: -Titus 2:13