Tis the season to be thankful and we have had so much to be thankful for lately. From helping young people pass high school Old Testament exams to leading a group of 11 up 300+ feet through an amazing cave in a hollowed out limestone mountain and our oldest son’s 5th birthday. It has been quite an adventure. We hope you enjoy the latest.
I want to start by sharing how we have been led over the last few weeks. We had Rob Beaton, a professional baker, come out for a month to help train our staff on making bread, pastries and other baked goods, as well as pizza. Our time with him, and later his wife who joined for the last 2 weeks, were great. Our team did a wonderful job during the training and have been practicing everyday since; making bread, danishes and cinnamon rolls. We had intended to open the restaurant and bakery/cafe while he was here so he could help us work out any bugs in the early stages. Well a week into his time here I basically broke down and said it would be impossible to open anything else right now. As it stands our gym manager has stepped down from the role and I am managing the gym, we have no one here or trained to manage the restaurant or cafe so I, by default, would be carrying those roles as well. I have tried to carry things as far as I can but I got to a place where, through the gracious loving support of my amazing wife, I was able to say I can’t do it. I grew up watching my dad work hard all the time and I just kind of followed that example naturally; if there is work to be done, do it. Well over here there is enough work for at least 100 more people to do and I was trying to incorporate it all into our Center. Thankfully Rob shared a good illustration that I have shared many times since. He said he could juggle 3 items, but he couldn’t juggle 4. He said if you gave me a 4th thing to juggle I wouldn’t drop the 4th thing, I would drop all of them. That was exactly how I felt. I was trying to manage a fledgling gym, while simultaneously renovating and planning the menu and layout for an 80+ seat restaurant and a smoothie shop all while working to organise a church plant and oversee the 4 staff we have. Yes, all with only FOUR staff! We all agreed that we would focus on the gym and pray that God would send the right people to help with the rest of the project. During that time Jessica was invited to come and sell bread at a cooking school the Mission Hospital was putting on. We had a great time and sold out of the vegan cheesecakes, danishes and vegan cream cheese that was made and sold a lot of bread. We were also invited to a Filipino sports league where we sold out of the bread we brought and were invited to the next event where they expect 1000+ attendees. We realised that we can make the bread at the Center to keep our staff in practice and just do events and online ordering for now while we wait for the help to come.
As part of our gym program we had planned to host monthly outdoor climbing trips on real rock so that we could help others experience the joy of ‘real’ climbing as well as enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Well rainy season had really put a damper on those plans. But we were finally able to get our ‘first official’ tour scheduled. Within a week after announcing it the trip was fully booked. We bought the additional gear needed (helmets, etc) rented the van and conducted training for the members that were joining. We headed out 6 am Sunday morning with a 60% prediction of rain but climbed for over 8 hours with barely a cloud in the sky. Most of the people with us had never climbed and we experienced multiple hiccups along the way but our team did an amazing job adapting and working through the challenges. We gained new friendships as only 1 person who came was a member of the gym, the rest had just heard about it on Facebook.
One experience was so impactful to me that I want to share it with you. A young woman named Oak, maybe early-30’s, was very new to climbing; her husband had brought her to the gym a handful of times. On the way she was very excited to get outside and climb. We were doing what is called multi-pitch climbing which means the first person climbs up and instead of coming down and waiting for the next person to go up, they stay at the top and bring the next person up and then the first person continues upward. At the top of the first pitch she was still excited but seemed to be a little unsure of herself. Well at the top of pitch 2 there is a scary move as you exit the cave. The pitch is what would be called a chimney (you being on the inside of a 3 or 4 sided column. This particular one you climb all the way up the left side of it but at the end you have to move all the way to the right in one big move, stepping out over the 40 feet of emptiness below you onto a hanging boulder before finding a good hold and pulling yourself out of a tiny hole just big enough for you and your backpack. Well Oak had climbed the route really well actually and was now at the final move. I was only a couple of feet above her trying to calm her nerves and explain the sequence to exit the cave. She didn’t seem all that nervous though she was just grabbing around for anything she could hold onto that was closer than the holds I was pointing out. With a couple of minutes of trial then a final grab and pull she was through the hole and standing on what is called “The Balcony” a large flat area 3/4 of the way up the north side of the mountain overlooking the countryside.
Now that was a great feat and wonderfully rewarded with the beauty of God’s creation from that viewpoint but that isn’t the point of the story. After finishing our climbing, rappelling back to the start point and hiking down the mountain I found myself walking next to Oak. She looked at me and said,
“Your staff said this was going to be easy. That was really hard! I couldn’t do it.”
“But you did do it” I responded with a smile.
“No I didn’t. You pulled me up on the second part!” She stated emphatically.
Now I was surprised. I didn’t even know how to respond. She went on to explain just how I had pulled her up and through the cave exit. Calmly I explained to her that I had done no such thing. She had climbed the route herself. I realised her belief that she couldn’t do it was so strong that even after physically doing it her mind told her she didn’t and couldn’t. We had a great talk about the importance of challenges. That they are the means of bringing growth in our lives. If we only tried things that we knew we could do (very typical Thai way so as not to lose face) we would never challenge ourselves, never struggle, and never grow. We called this place the F5 Challenge Center for a reason. We need challenge in our life to continue progressing. Otherwise we stagnate. Not only that but our thoughts have a very big impact in this. If we believe we can’t do something, often that thought will keep us from accomplishing it even if we try. Thai people are often hard to read but she seemed to understand what I was saying and started processing it. She told her husband Sunday night she would never go on a trip again. Monday she told him it was ok. Tuesday she said she was going on the next trip.
That experience really taught me a lot about my walk with God. So often God has called me to things far beyond my capabilities and experience. (Example shown below)So often He leads to a place where I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. And almost every time I falter and fumble like Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. My thoughts tell me I cant do it and when I give ear to them they throw me into a place of fear that leaves me frozen. I try to find ways around or reasons why God couldn’t be calling ME to that. But in the end (usually) I surrender and God blesses the decision to move forward in faith by doing something so incredible that my faith grows and my pride is laid in the dust. So often after the challenge is passed I look at the result and then think back on what MY plan had been to get through it and I realise how short I would’ve sold myself. If we listen to our own thoughts and fears we will end up going no farther than we did yesterday. Our thoughts have power; power to spur us on to trust God and see great things happen, or the power to smother us with fear and lies and keep us in a state of inability. But if we focus on connecting with God and listening for His Spirit saying “this is the way walk ye in it” then we will go above and beyond even our wildest dreams because we won’t be limited by our finite capabilities but will be sustained by God’s almighty power. The book telling yourself the truth has been a big blessing to us in this regard.
We saw through this trip that our outdoor excursions are not only really popular (our next one was announced 3 days ago and is almost full) but are the place where we can really make good connections with people. 2 hr drive each way and 8+ hours on the rock really gives time to bond. We have also realized that these trips are going to be too expensive for the average Thai person (our target market) as long as we are having to rent a van. We are praying to be able to buy a 12-15 passenger van to use for these trips which will not only allow us to lower the price per person but it will allow us to do these trips more often. In tourist season and also during school breaks we could do 1/week if we had enough people signed up but as it stands now we need to book the van in advance so we have to space them far enough out to be sure we can get enough people signed up to at least break even on our investment. My initial research found that used 12 passenger vans run from $25-27k usd for a 2013 and a brand new 2018 is around 37k. Please keep this in prayer that we know what God would have us do and maybe that we could find something operational that is cheaper.
We also have received word that the pathfinder leaders from 3 of the local Adventist academies would like to add our gym into their curriculum for this year. That would be a great opportunity and good trial for other schools. We are also offering 3 day climbing camps for a couple of the schools during their Christmas break. This season being cooler is the time that we could potentially earn a fair bit of money to help us carry through during the other times of the year.
The internet game shop situation is about settled. I had to personally test all 60 computers as the owner said it wasn’t his responsibility. After all that I found that he had 12 computers with signs saying they were broken before he closed down and others that were very damaged as well. After writing up my assessment and getting one of the working units valuated we settled on roughly $1000 for his part; replacing the 5 computers in the back corner that were physically damaged by water. I am still responsible to pay for all the repairs to the building which so far has been $2500 for replacing the plumbing and drop ceiling that were damaged and an estimate of roughly $3k-$5k to repaint and redo all the electrical work that is damaged. Please also keep this in prayer as we draft the final agreement with the shop owner and give payment. May God be glorified in our interaction.
Jessica had a blessing come in the form of a high school exam. Yeshab, one of the children of the Pakistani refugee family we have been helping, came over and told Jessica that she had a final this week on the Old Testament in school. If you remember Jessica was doing Bible studies with this family for over a year every Friday night. Well they stopped coming about 4-6 months ago and Jessica has felt a bit down about it. Yeshab told Jessica the majority of her test was on the sanctuary. She said every time they asked a question she could picture it in her mind because Jessica had gone through Ivor Myers “Blueprint” study of the sanctuary with them. She said Jessica helped her pass her final. It was a nice encouragement. When you are working for years with people or in a place and it looks like there are no results, something like that really gives you hope and reminds you that no matter what things look like, God is still in control. The last thing she said was that she had to write out 5 of the 10 commandments and had 4 no problem but couldn’t think of a 5th. Then she remembered that it was Asher’s birthday and she said “it came to me. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” God is still working and we plead for you to please keep praying for this family.
Nothing is set in stone yet but with Asher needing to have a follow-up visit to check his shunt we are currently planning a trip back to the states this coming summer. Please also keep this in prayer so that we know when to come and for how long. As of now it looks like Jessica and the boys would possibly stay longer than me as I would need to be here for work. We would like to attend/share at Faithcamp west and have received an invitation to do so but just want to make sure it’s God’s will.
Thank you for all you do to serve and encourage us here; it makes a world of difference.
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 (We need to add at least 1 more for the gym and 4 additional once the restaurant and Juice bar open)
- That God can help us in the business side of things. There are a few business people giving counsel and advice and helping in connecting with schools but we could use all the help we can in this different cultural context.
- For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work
- For our vehicle. Our truck had a broken a/c when we bought it which isn’t a luxury but a necessity here. We spent $1200 here replacing piece by piece (diagnosis here doesn’t happen often) and it worked for a year but now is not working again and to top it off all windows but the driver’s stopped working as well. The clutch keeps having problems and now one of the mirrors got hit and is taped on. It’s a 2000 with almost 300,000km on it and we don’t know what to do; keep repairing or try to sell it and get something else?
- 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 restaurant. We are looking for a vegan chef/baker. If you know someone with restaurant experience, or restaurant quality skills please send them our way for an interview.
- 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 If you have WordPress skills or could offer some suggestion as to what could help this to be better we would really appreciate it. (Praise God, we had a young woman offer to come help us and she knows websites! She has done so much already to make it functional and look great. Thank you for praying for this.
- For our outreach during Vegetarian festival this next month. (Well we set up a table and had food available. We gave away samples of pizza and actually sold a few. The cookies were a big hit and we made our presence known.
- For right interactions as we deal with a water leak that has caused 1000’s of dollars in damage to another shop below us (As the newsletter mentioned God intervened in an amazing way bringing the bill down from the initial $10,000 to only $1,000. Please continue to pray as we finalize with the building owner about those repair costs
- For guidance for Josh and Chitlada (Directors of Jesus for Slum Kids project) as they seek to know what God is wanting them to do. 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. You can also view their project featured on the program MissionTREK here