Well we promised to write every month and I was documenting things that happened with the intention of sending one out last month but then we ended up with no power, or running water, or many conveniences we take for granted actually and that became a little challenging to get an update typed out. So this will be again late but we do what we can.
As we wrote the last update we had just come off another lockdown, well now we are 3 weeks into another. But it has afforded us time to get some work done, or at least try. We were finally able to get a meeting scheduled with the land owners and transfer the title! It was an interesting process and great opportunity to lift God up. The siblings all want to meet together before going into the land office and we soon found out why. The Headman that has been helping us came over and told us that they were going to ask us to report a cheaper selling price for the land so that the taxes would be less and actually recommended us not to do it. We had no intention of lying but this is significant as I have yet to meet any kind of official here that is not in support of lying, cheating or corruption. It gave us a great insight to see that he is genuine. We explained that we are Christians and would not lie. Then came the meeting, the oldest brother is a high ranking police officer who led
out and informed us of his plan. My Thai staff member, Jun, who was with me looked a little unsure so I spoke up and informed him that we followed the Bible and God’s Word declares that we shall not lie. The man looked at me and then chuckled. He looks at his wife who says that Buddhist precept number 4 says we should not lie either. They respect our stance and it ends there. That was the easy part though. Going inside we begin to process the paperwork with the government officers. Everything goes fine until we get to the head of the office who has to sign off on the title transfer. He starts saying there is a problem with the documents and running us around. It became clear after 4 hours that the officer wanted a “tip” using the excuse that one of the Thai women we were transferring the title to had taken her foreign husband’s last name at marriage was causing problems. Foreign name means rich person. I was quite proud of my staff who stepped up and said we would not pay any bribes. “It’s not a bribe, just a fee. It is normal. Everyone pays it. It just has to be stuck under your documents and no one can see it”….. Translation-bribe. We stood firm and left with the title though the process was not how it should have been and we have to go back when this lockdown ends to fix some things. But we are legal, title holding owners of the land.
We were able to move out to the property the following week and start digging an outhouse style trench for a bathroom and had a toilet and shower ‘building’ designed delivered. Then the next trial hit. We were supposed to be smack in the middle of hot season but that changed rapidly and the rain began. Rainy season started over a month early and it wasn’t weak. Our 3 bedroom tent got twisted up and destroyed as well as a shade tent (video attached at the end). All were staked down but the stakes were torn out and tents were thrown by the wind. We talked with the headman who informed us he had a small house about 15 min from the property that we could rent for $60/month including utilities. We took it. It is rustic and we have to have a tent set up inside because the house isn’t sealed up from mosquitos, centipedes, and or snakes can come in. There is enough room for the kids and Jessica in the tent and I was sleeping in a tent under the porch roof until we found that roof leaks as well. I ended up sleeping in the cab of the truck for a week until we got some bamboo houses built and delivered.
The day they were delivered we were supposed to have at least 4 days with no rain. It poured that evening while I was at the house helping Jessica get the kids to sleep. Jun was at the property and when I asked if it was raining there he sent me a picture from the front porch of our new ‘lake’.
We then realized that the spot we chose to set up camp, on the back of the property, was a low point. The clay soil drains very slowly. We bought some knee high rubber boots to wear and concrete blocks to lay in the mud as a path between the bathrooms and huts. The next day we went to install the second toilet in the ‘bathroom’ and saw that the trench was almost completely full of water. I failed to close it off properly. So we spent the whole day digging a new trench in a higher area and then had the bamboo house builders come and move the bathroom for us. At this point we should be ok with the new set up but only time will tell. Please pray that we know what to do about either keeping our houses where they are or moving them up to higher ground as well. This little back section is the only low point on the property and also borders the rice fields so the moisture in the soil is already high anyway. To top things off, while backfilling the old toilet
hole I got the tractor stuck in the old trench, like front tire was almost no longer visible and back tire was sunk up to the step. Thankfully after a couple of hours a neighbor came by with his tractor and pulled me out. We are grateful to now know that this back section will not be suitable for structures and we are considering a few options, one of which is turning it into a pond/water retention area. Many decisions still need to be made and we greatly appreciate your prayers for wisdom.
In F5 Center news we had a great experience with our only Buddhist employee, Black. He was on the National Climbing team and a great route setter and climber so we were really excited to have him. But his work ethic soon showed to be all but non-existent. I had 2 talks with him about not showing up for work or leaving for lunch and not coming back but nothing seemed to change. So I decided to have a final talk with him and tell him if he didn’t change then we would have to let him go. The time came for the meeting and I went into the store room with Jun our manager and had prayer. When I sat down to talk with Black my whole plan disappeared. I spoke to him about the challenges of work and how we are a team and need to support one another and apologized for not taking more time to get to know him. I asked if he had any personal issues that we could help him with (one regular excuse for not showing up to work was needing to go to the dr) or if we could change his schedule to be more convenient for him. I emphasized that we wanted to all support each other. I explained how he and I are a similar personality (introverts) and how it is sometimes hard to talk with new people. I told a funny personal story of how an interaction went wrong for me meeting a new person and that was the first time he looked at me. Typically whenever we talk he looks at the ground. Now he looked at me and laughed and we talked for another 10 minutes. Finally he said that nothing needed to change but him. He was not showing any responsibility and needed to step up. Thats what I had planned to say but it was so much better for him to say it instead. He committed to doing better and we ended the meeting. Jun was listening and after closing said, “Your way of doing it was so much better than the plan we talked about. The other way (ultimatum) just makes people quit.” The employee turnover rate here is enormous. I had to explain that the ultimatum WAS my way of doing it. What actually happened was God speaking to that young man. Well the test to see whether he would stick to his word came the following week and he was like a brand new worker. He showed up early every day and did the clean up stuff Jun usually did. Then one day Jun and I had to lead an outdoor trip and he was here alone, I came up the next day to find the entire store room cleaned and organized. I asked him about it and he said there weren’t any customers the day before so he decide to clean up. Typically he just sat on his iPad and watched climbing videos. God had worked a change in this boy’s life. Unfortunately the following week was Thai new year when the entire country is shut down and everyone goes to their hometown to be with their family. It is a lot of drinking and partying and after that he only returned to work 2 days and then we never saw him again. We are encouraged though to know that change can happen and are praying for another opportunity to minister to a new employee. Please pray we can find 2 replacements as we were still one short for the 4 required to keep our work permit/visa.
God is working and satan is not happy about it. We are in need of prayer. Please see our list below for specifics. I will also attach videos and pictures of everything that has been happening after the prayer requests. Neither of us know how to edit videos or we would make some cool video incorporating all of it.
Our thanks go out to you abundantly for your support,
Brian, Jessica, Asher, Joseph and Prudence Atwell
- That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord (we currently need 2 more to meet gov. requirements)
- For the resources we need, preferably through income sources, to cover our expenses. You can learn more below.
- For extra protection over our marriage and family as the enemy seeks to discourage and destroy Christ’s work.
- For guidance as to what we should do in developing the property. We have many ideas but want to be sure we are in God’s will.
- Praise God. Some friends that have shifted directions in their ministry have offered to sell us their full size tractor with 4 implements for only $5,000! As soon as the property is secure we can take possession and pay as the funds are available. This will be a huge help in development (We have taken possession and made 2 payments thus far. $1500 is still owed. It has been a huge blessing.)
- For peace in decision making. Brian struggles with the desire to be faithful in using the resources God has entrusted to us and often leaves us cutting corners in quality and efficiency to save a few dollars. May we be able to do what is needed.
- For time. We are told that the final movements will be rapid ones but there are so many here that have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel. May we have more time.
- For guidance for Josh and Chitlada (Directors of Jesus for Slum Kids project). They have been seeing many changes in their work and they could use an extra special outpouring of prayer. Pray especially for their daughter Evangeline who they found out has Cystic Fibrosis and there is only a couple doctors in Thailand that know anything about the disease. 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 (Josh has decided that taking their daughter to America was the best option and so far she is doing really well. Please pray she continues to improve and also that Chitlada’s application to enter America is approved so she can join them soon.)