Merry Christmas and a soon to be happy New Year. As I sit home alone on Christmas eve I have a lot of time to reflect on this past year. From near divorce, to abandoning the work here to a 7 week separation from family we have had a year fraught with challenge, adversity, but most importantly, victory and growth.
I think 1 Peter 5:10 perfectly summarizes our year, and really our whole time in this country. The suffering we have experienced is doing wonders for our characters. We started out with joy and excitement on a new adventure, but soon the reality set in, sooner for Jessica than myself I think. I kept myself busy with language study while she took care of the house, the baby and me. Things lightened up a bit when we moved to Chiang Mai and both started studying. The workload was a bit less and it left more time to bond as a family, something we hadn’t really done. But when we returned from our trip to the U.S. last Christmas pregnant and needing to move back to Bangkok, the challenges began. Jessica got extremely sick with Hyperemesis again and it left me stressed out and worried about “MY plans” of getting back down to Bangkok to set up the work. There was a lot of difficulty and hardships but we finally made it back to Bangkok.
We had a friend graciously let us stay in his apartment while we hunted for a house, well I hunted, again Jessica was left alone to tend the house and baby alone, only this time she had a tiny studio to entertain the 2-year-old in. I was gone for most days and was all-consumed in this search for a house. 1 week into it all of the stresses that had been piling up in our family and marriage finally broke free and a decision was made that we were separating, mainly do to my insensitive attitude and one-track mind. My focus was that the mission here is more important than anything. I mean, didn’t Jesus say that to come to Him we must love Him more than father, mother, wife, children? My zeal nearly cost me my family. But by God’s grace we were able to pray through it and today, 10 months later and thousands of miles apart, I love my wife more than I ever have. We found a house and things smoothed into a routine, but once we found the building things escalated. You can read more about that in our previous posts here.
Fast forward to today and I have had over a month alone here to review myself. God has shown me through these trials just how much of self is still alive. I have been struggling with burn-out, with escapism as a byproduct of that, simply due to the fact that I am trying in my own strength. I am so worried about what our supporters in America will think and feeling like I am not doing enough to honor their (your) commitment in supporting us that I work harder and longer. But in reality we are in a stage where there is only so much I can actually do right now, so I try to find things to stay busy to justify, in my mind, that we are ‘worthy’ of your support. God showed me I have been doing the same with Him. I do so much in my relationship with Him to prove to Him I am ‘worthy’ of His love and His grace. In this time alone He is revealing to me not just how unworthy I am, but how unnecessary it is for me to be worthy. His love is becoming so much clearer to me in ways it never has before. The other day I was thinking about the closing scenes of Christ’s life as He was being beaten and tortured and I thought about God the Father during that time. Being a father myself I can’t count the number of times I have run full speed up the stairs of our house with no regard for anything but getting to where my child is screaming in pain (usually minor) so that I could help him know that I am there and it will be ok. Then I thought about Christ on the cross crying out “Father why have you forsaken me?” At that point I lost it and began sobbing uncontrollably. I thought about how I would feel seeing Asher in pain, crying out and knowing that I had the power to help. Then hearing him call out to me “dad, why have you left me” was too much. I thought about God seeing everything His Son was going through but knowing that He couldn’t step in or the whole plan of salvation would be ruined. So often I had only thought about the physical pain that Christ endured but focusing on the mental and emotional pain God the Father must have felt really touched me. Having gone through so much of it lately myself it was a wounded area that needed the healing that only God can provide through showing He understands our every pain.
Lately I have been very raw in our updates. So much so that others here have told me that I should tone it down and be more positive. But you see one of the biggest challenges on our hearts and minds here is this deep-rooted need to keep up an appearance to the folks back in the States because “if they know we are struggling or making mistakes, well maybe they will stop sending money and then we will have to pack things up and abandon ship.” That burden that I carry around constantly is what is driving me into the ground. I have seen people have to leave here because they couldn’t come up with enough funding. It’s scary to have your future reliant upon others. Especially with this project that is so much bigger than we wanted or are even comfortable with. But when God says “GO” we have to follow. I don’t say any of this to make anyone feel sorry for us but so that you can understand the reality here and I can let go of some of this burden by letting you know we are not perfect. I make mistakes, a lot. Probably multiple times in a day. I have an issue with always needing to be right. I’m a hypocrite. I judge other people around me and allow that to build up pride in my heart that “I’m a pretty good person compared to them.” I’m not proud of any of these things, that’s not why I share them. I share them because today I finally have peace about it. I’m not perfect, but God has been growing me in incredible ways and today I have peace that I have been forgiven and tomorrow is a new day to start over. These things have been laid at His feet and I believe He will accomplish complete victory in me because He has promised.
As you gather with friends and family to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, focus on the reason He came to this earth. In Isaiah 9:6-7 we are told;
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
THERE WILL BE NO END,
He came to be a counselor and the prince of peace to those trapped in darkness. Jesus Himself declared the reason He came to this earth in John 18:37 was to “testify of the truth.” I am convinced that Christ is still living and testifying of the truth today and wants to bring us higher in our experience with Him so we too can testify of the truth.
So there wasn’t much of an update on the work there but I felt impressed to let that all go as we prepare to enter a new year. An architect came out and assessed the building 2 weeks ago, her rough estimate was between 2-4 million Baht (56,000-110,000 usd) for renovations. I called another contractor who has come out and will call me Monday with his quote which I’m praying will be less. Please also keep that in prayer. We had an amazing blessing just a few days after our last update. A young woman contacted me and started asking lots of questions about the internal workings of the ministry. A few days later JFA contacted me to let me know that young woman sent a check for $10,000! It’s been incredible to see how God is laying His work on the hearts of others and how as a body we are working together to finish the work. Oh, I also finally got my work permit. It was originally denied due to technicalities but my lawyer was able to explain the situation and get approval for a 6 month work permit that will need to be upgraded to a 1 year after the building is operational.
Please continue to keep our prayer needs before the Lord and may you have a blessed holiday season with family and friends.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ; -Titus 2:13
In His service,
Brian, Jessica, Asher and Joseph Atwell
- For God to continue to convert our hearts and humble us into full dependence upon Him.
- For God’s Spirit to continue working on this project to bring Him honor and glory
- For Jessica and Asher to find the healing they need.
- For wisdom and strength in renovating the building
- For the resources we need to continue
- $45,000 renovation costs
- First year operating expenses
- For God to direct us to foundations that will support the renovation costs.
- For at least 4 more dedicated Christian employees
- For all the missionaries facing visa issues right now. Some have been denied visas and others are in the process. PLEASE KEEP THEM LIFTED UP.
- For people to help support a project in the slums to bring education to these oft neglected youth. $1000/year could send them to a private Christian school with room and board. If you would like to find out more check out their website here http://jesus4slumkids.org/ or email Joshua Bauder at Joshuabauder@hotmail.com