So it has only been a week since our last update but a few things have come up that are in need of urgent prayer as well as some action.
I told the story last week of how the lawyer was concerned about us getting approved for a visa extension since we hadn’t done anything since the company was registered. He shared how immigration was tightening things up and making it difficult to do very much of anything. Those of you who heard us speak at a church this past winter will remember how I shared that the new constitution was greatly clamping down on religious freedom, specifically in reference to public evangelism, but also affecting religious visas due to some recent muslim related bombings. The lawyer’s suggestion was to go abroad, get a new 1 yr visa, work under that until it expires and start the extension process then. (For those who don’t understand any of that ill try to briefly explain how it works to stay here. If you don’t care, skip to the next paragraph.) So to stay here long term you receive a 90 day visa of whatever designation you fit under, for us type B (Business) and then every 90 days you, or someone representing you or the company you work for, takes whatever documents are required for your type of visa to the immigration office and get a 90 day stamp, giving you an additional 90 days before the next extension. Cycle continues. After a couple years you can get to the point of only needing to do yearly extensions. Anyway. the extension process is where they are now scrutinising everything.
We received an email from the ministry we work with the day after our last update, the 25th, stating that the embassy where all our missionaries get their visas to come here was no longer offering 1 yr visas. That was an incredible blow to the work here since all but the missionaries who are denominationally sponsored need that visa to stay. The effect was to be felt immediately as a family of 4, the principle and 3 teachers at a mission school here with a student body of 300+ had just arrived in the States to get a new visa. Now the best they could get was a 60 day tourist visa. A large majority of the rest of the missionaries here will be needing new visas this winter and everyone is scrambling to figure out what can be done to continue the work here. All of us serving here are aware that it is God alone that will decide when we are done working here, but we also have a role to play in finding the open door. Please, in all seriousness, remember the people here who have dedicated their lives to serving those who have never heard of a God that loves them. Without a long-term visa people will have to travel to neighbouring countries, at best, though most likely to the US every time they expire (2-6 months.) This will complicate things as well as make the yearly costs soar with repeat trips across the world. When we first arrived I had a strong burden to focus on the visa situation, mainly how to legally stay here long-term, as I saw that was going to be the easiest way that satan could throw a wrench into God’s work here. While this information was very alarming to us for the sake of all the other missionaries, we were not personally affected as we had a different mode of stay through the business. Or so we thought.
Aug 30 we received an email from the lawyer stating it was now impossible to get a 1 yr visa from the US and that extensions were our only option. What that means for us, he said, is that we need to move with speed in getting the centre up and running and show some revenue and more importantly, tax payments. While we still have just over 6 months on our visa we need to show that we have been doing something to warrant them letting us stay longer in reference to the story of the other business owner I shared in the last update. I had already been searching online for a building as that was the next step for registering the work permit and tax documents but nothing was looking very promising. The morning of the 30th however, before the lawyer told us about this situation, I had gone to look at a building. It was my second trip there actually, the first one was just to scout the area and see what it was like. The building looked full and like there wasn’t any available spaces in it so I wrote it off though there was no better location than where this building was. For some reason a few days later I was in that area again and went to look at it. I felt impressed to at least contact the owner and see what exactly was available and that morning found me standing in a providential location.
Our goal was to find something either in a fixer-up state or land that we could develop since our goals for the ministry don’t necessarily fit into standard Thai construction. This building is 25 yrs old and been sitting empty for a while. It had previously been a dorm for students of the university which is ACROSS THE STREET! It is 3 full floors, 1 half floor (7′ ceiling) and a covered roof. Total size is 15,500 sq.ft. We had a few ideas of things we wanted to do but realised that with the size of buildings here we would need to pick one and let the others fall by the side; with this location we could combine them. The 1st floor would be perfect for a smoothie shop/cafe hangout spot, the 2nd has some classroom (old dorm room) size rooms that would be perfect for teaching english and also a large middle room that would be great for health lectures, bible seminars, addiction recovery groups as well as church services. The 3rd floor we could have staff housing and the fitness centre, with 1 locker room (men or women). The 4th floor is where the climbing wall would go and the other locker room. Obviously you will see in the videos that the room is not tall enough for a full size climbing wall but we have been considering doing a bouldering wall which is basically rock climbing without ropes or harnesses but no higher than 15′
and with thick ‘crash pads’ underneath. This is less intimidating to people since its short, the liability is less since falls are lower and the equipment cost for us is less since we only have to have shoes available to rent instead of harnesses, ropes, etc. The owner was actually open to the idea of taking the roof off of this floor
and enclosing the roof level, raising the ceiling by about 10-12′ to accommodate a higher climbing area but I don’t think we would go that route.
As I mentioned it used to be a dorm for university students and that is literally all that surrounds it, dorms and apartments. We would be basically the only business besides the 7-11’s and internet gaming shops. This is significant since Thai people tend to stay in a small radius to their home. A friend was commenting how when you drive around Bangkok it seems like you see the same shops over and over again, and you do, because they like to stay close. Setting up the centre here would be the most ideal location for building relationships. It is a 3 min. walk to the entrance of the University. For those who don’t remember God had led us to set up near Ramkhamhaeng University which is ranked number 12 in the largest universities in the world by enrolment. The University is currently expanding and there is also a large Catholic University just around the corner as well. On the road the building is on the owner said there are upward of 100,000 rooms that are rented by students as well as business people who live there and commute to the business district. Transportation is easy and there are a couple malls near by as well. Walking traffic is excellent as well which is where a lot of business is generated here.
The catch on such an amazing property is actually a blessing as well. The building, having not been used in a while is in need of renovation. The owner was hoping to find investors to invest in the renovation and then rent it for a lot as it is a prime location but hasn’t been able to find any investors and so he listed it cheap in hopes that someone would rent it, with the understanding that the renter would need to do the renovation themselves. I walked him through what we would be using it for and he was happy with that. The need for something we could design ourselves was met, the location was perfect, and the price was great. The other positive is that buildings here being made entirely of concrete, the renovation work to be able to start operating are minimum and I could do a lot of it myself which would greatly reduce the cost. There are already bathrooms on every floor, 2,3 and 4 having 6 toilets each (they would need replaced but not expensive.) Basically it would be scraping things down to concrete level and then cosmetics, tile, paint and some windows and a/c units. I’m sorry the video quality is not great but hopefully you can get the idea. “Floor 4” shows everything that is structural and needs to stay, everything else can be removed the owner said.
This is the “1st floor” (1/2 floor) where we would have the smoothie shop/cafe. Walls would be removed to make it more open.
This is “floor 2” where we would have the classrooms for English teaching/tutoring and also the main meeting hall in the middle.
This is “floor 3” where staff/volunteer housing would be as well as fitness centre
This is “floor 4” where the climbing area would be.
Finally the roof. The cover is brand new. We would remove the storage ‘cages’ that are up there and haven’t quite decided what it would be good for though a couple ideas are being tossed around.
I mentioned that there were things in need of urgent prayer as well as action and this is where that action comes in. The price that the owner listed online was 45,000 THB ($1300 USD)/month but when I was there he threw out if I wanted to rent the whole building the price would be 40,000 THB ($1154 USD). I have felt impressed to offer 35,000 which would bring it basically to an even $1000 USD/month. To some this may seem high but considering that anything else we have found in the general vicinity of the university, which has only been one place that was available, was 30 min walking distance from University, no walk-by traffic, not a nicely laid out space and at 2700 sq. ft. is around $500/month, it is A LOT for the price. He wants long term renters, 5-10 years so we could lock in a low rate for a while. Obviously we need help in making those payments until we are profitable enough to sustain ourselves and that is why we are calling on you, our friends, family and supporters. We need to get things going now and cant do it without you. We are going to start drafting letters to a few foundations to help with the renovation costs but we need people to sign up to help with the monthly payments. $1000 is a lot for 1 person to give but if a church got together and even had 100 people pledge to give $10 a month (not even 35 cents a day) it would cover the cost of opening this centre in the midst of millions who have never heard of Christ. We are looking for a 1 year commitment as we hoping to be able to sustain ourselves by that time. We don’t have the resources or time to come to the States and fundraise on our own so we need you all to be our voice. Would some of you be willing to speak to your church, Bible study group, friends to pledge something. We understand if a small group cant raise the full amount, but something is better than nothing and there will still be other costs involved; utility costs, furnishing the cafe, climbing wall materials, etc. If your group would like to sponsor any of those we would be grateful for that help as well. We need $3500 to make the deposit and lock in the building and about $300 more to pay the lawyer to start the filings.
This may seem like a large commitment but when you think about the fact that only $1000 a month can put a lighthouse for Christ in the midst of 15,000,000 people and in the direct walking path of over 100,000 it is a small price to pay. Please consider sponsoring just $10 a month and finding some others to join you in it and very soon we could have the light burning in this community and spreading to others as our new friends graduate and go to other provinces, some of which have never had a Christian enter them. The call is urgent and the need is immediate. Please answer the call.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; -Titus 2:13
Brian, Jessica, Asher & Joseph Atwell
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