It’s 5:40 am. I’m sitting in the truck getting ready to head to the building to put the last coat of paint on the stairs before the workers return from their week off. All of a sudden my phone vibrates. “Fire at the building” is all it says. I throw the truck in reverse and turn around. I race to the building the whole time crying and praying that everyone is ok. So many thoughts are racing through my mind; the building is consumed and all of our friends inside are dead; Tong had just commented the other day that we didn’t have fire extinguishers but I wanted to save money and $50 each was pretty expensive so I didn’t get any. I finally turn the corner and can see the building in the still-rising sunlight; nothing looks out of place. I park and get out and then I see the damage. The new meter we just had installed last week from the Municipal Electric Authority was gone. The giant wires we just had run were all melted together in a tangled mess hanging from the front of the building. The shop next door to us looked the worst with their plastic sign burned and their facade covered in the chemical powder from the extinguishers. I sent a praise of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting everyone and everything. Just then David, the mural painter, came walking out asking how I got in. I asked him about the fire and he was oblivious of it. Tong’s wife Wiang came down shortly after also oblivious to the situation. Not only did God protect our friends but He gave them peace and rest during the situation.
A neighbor came over to explain the situation. Apparently at around 3am a few neighbors noticed flames climbing the front of our building. From the description and the black char marks they were big flames. Four neighbors grabbed fire extinguishers and came to put the fire out. No call to a fire department, just stepping in to do what needed to be done. All they asked for in return was a refill of their extinguishers; less than $60. I spent the money by the way and have a 15lb extinguisher for each major floor and a 10 for the gym. The cause of the fire is unknown. The electrical authority came up with many different possible causes but none of them founded on any real logic. All of which were targeted at placing the blame on us. With a $3,000 meter destroyed the question was who would be responsible to replace it. Well after refuting all of the possible scenarios they came up with they resolved to replace the meter for free…right then. I was a bit shocked. No desire to investigate or look into the wiring to see what caused the fire, just an offer to hook power back up to it. I turned the offer down and waited until the next day when the electrician could come and make sure everything was safe and replace the wires that had fire damage. With a 400V 150A service the fire could have, and should have, been much worse. We are so grateful that God was watching over His Center. Jessica always says there is no such thing as bad publicity and we have had a lot of people asking questions about what happened and then “What is this place anyway?” Really setting the stage for our opening. Today we had the electricity hooked back up direct but have to wait for a meter so we are receiving free power.
This situation reminded me of Isaiah 43:2 and as I was writing that it reminded me that 2 weeks ago we went to the church campout for Central Thailand a couple hours south. It
was a nice time to get to know the other people from the local area. On Sabbath morning the speaker started talking about flooding in Bangkok. We did a quick Google search and found that the whole city almost was under water. If you remember our road situation it basically floods when it sprinkles more than 15 minutes. Well there was nothing we could do about it from so far away. Afterward I messaged our landlord, who lives 4 houses down, to ask how the house was doing. She said that it was pouring rain but there was no flooding on our road. God is so faithful to fulfill His promises.
As for the opening; we have decided to do a soft opening in November, date pending the renovation completion, and then set the grand opening with festivities and everything for March when the team from Canada will have the climbing wall finished. We wanted to have something fun to draw people in and couldn’t think of what it would be so we prayed and thought the climbing wall really would just be perfect. The team coming to build it includes climbing coaches who have agreed to hold some workshops on beginner climbing then we can offer free climbing to get people on the wall and trying it out. There will be food and drink promotions as well.
We finally got our first of three signs installed a week ago. It looks real nice at night but our camera won’t capture it lit up. We were counseled to have one for the restaurant and one for the whole center. We also had one made for the membership aspect (CLUB F5) so that will be three signs. Though the building is big enough to handle them.
The mural work is finished, for this trip anyway. The artist is talking about coming back to do the restaurant floor but we are needing to pray and coordinate schedules to see if it will work. He had thought he would be able to do the first 2 floors this trip but ended up only having enough time for the cafe. The work he has done is incredible and the Thai people who have come in to work have been so excited and taken selfies with all the animals. We are so excited for how God works all things out for His glory.
We have by faith set up a contract with the A/C company to begin installation day after tomorrow. We make the payment in 3 installments and have enough to get though the first 2 if we don’t have to pay any other bills so we have 3 weeks to come up with the rest of the money, roughly $8400, as long as no other “extras” pop up. It is exciting to see the end so near and that we almost have the money needed to finish the renovations. There always seems to be one more thing that needs paid for! We had a team come from the General Conference to look at the building and learn about our project. One man was from Hong Kong and kept referring to the fact we only had one flight of stairs and our escape ladders were rusted out and missing large sections. I wasn’t worried about it thinking that was just one more expense that we didn’t need to worry about. Well turns out the law here, as lenient as it is in regard to safety regulations, does require working fire ladders or escape routes. Another $2400. Certain things that I keep thinking are included in our builders quote turn out to not be included, the glass for our partition wall in the restaurant, the light fixtures for the restaurant, the extra expense for converting the 220V power to 380V, etc. Needless to say not a lot has gone as expected but God has been providing just when we need it every time. We have almost enough to finish the contracts we have open and then will just need the funds to furnish. We already have almost the entire first floor furnished and just need the work table, juicer and some couches and coffee tables. The restaurant has all the tables and chairs, except the V.I.P. table that I will build. We need all the kitchen equipment still but compared to the renovation the cost is minimal. The church is still completely empty and has no flooring, chairs or sound equipment yet, but we did get a projector. The fitness center/climbing wall has received no funding specifically yet and so we have left it as a back burner project. I have attached a slideshow with captions (many pics are panorama so a bigger screen works best). We know God has called us to set it up but we want to get the other aspects operable first. I have a list of expenses if there is any interest in sponsoring certain pieces of the project. Just write and I can send it to you.
We have been asked to join the board of leaders organizing TYC (Thai Youth for Christ) here in Bangkok. This is an exciting venture as there is little to nothing for the youth here and especially nothing with any emphasis on the Bible. Our first conference will be held July 27-30. We are searching options for speakers and venues currently and are really looking forward to what God will do through this opportunity.
The enemy has really been at work here lately. Besides the fire, the leaders of our sister project in the slums were in a motorcycle accident that, like our fire, should have been much worse. They sustained minor injuries but are now looking to raise around $6,000 to buy a good used car. If you would like to learn more or support them in this you can do so by clicking here. I also have signed up to run a half marathon in Chiang Mai on Christmas Eve with the hopes of raising some money to support the kids they are planning to send from the slum to the academy up north this next school year.
We have been so blessed through the ups and downs of our time in Bangkok. Many times I wish for easier circumstances but after the trial passes I am so grateful for it and the growth that has come through it. God is really changing us in every area of our lives. We have recently been reading a book called “Telling Yourself the Truth” by Dr. William Backus. It has revolutionized our thinking. The connection between the thoughts and the feelings is so important and what we think really shapes how we feel and ultimately what we do. In the book Testimonies for the Church book 5 we are told, “If the thoughts are wrong, the feelings will be wrong; and the thoughts and feelings combined make up the moral character.” The only thing we will take to heaven is our character and according to this quote that means our thoughts and feelings. It is vitally important that we correct any misbeliefs not only theologically, but also in our internal self-talk. If we are slaves to lies in our own minds then we will never be able to find true joy in Christ. Romans 12:2 says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Thank you all for your continued prayer and support. This work would not be possible without each and every one of you.
In His service, by His grace,
Brian, Jessica, Asher and Joseph Atwell
- That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord.
- That we can remember where OUR actions brought us and that the only reason we are where we are today is because of His undeserved, unmerited grace that lifted us from there.
- For the $8400still needed to pay off our open bills with our contractors by Nov 19
- For donors to sponsor the fitness center/climbing wall construction (Roughly $40,000 needed to complete)
- For the funds to finish the renovations and furnish the center (Roughly $20,000 needed to complete) After our last newsletter we received a donation of $10,000 toward renovation costs!
- For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work
- For the planning of TYC (Thai Youth for Christ) conference at the end of July
- 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 climbing side of things. Please pray that God opens the right heart. If you know anyone with a passion for climbing, route setting skills and a heart for missions please send them our way
- For our website development. I have very little experience with this but God has been guiding and it looks pretty good. You can view it here F5BKK.com
- For people to help support our sister project in the slums to bring education to these oft neglected youth. Only $1000/year could send them to a private Christian school with room and board, less than $85/month. 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. (If you would like to support school costs through sponsoring me in my half-marathon you can do so through pledging here and putting marathon in the description. 100% will go toward tuition costs for these young people.)