To say 2020 was anything but crazy would be an understatement. So many have lost so much. The wildfires that ravaged Australia (anybody remember that anymore?) The rioting in Minneapolis and other areas resulting in many deaths, The huge explosion in Lebanon, the Thailand mall shooting where a soldier opened fire in a crowded mall killing 29 and injuring 58 and we could continue with earthquakes and other natural disasters that have seemed to plague the world. But what most will remember from 2020 is Covid-19 which as I write this has taken the lives of more than 1.7 million people. When I look at the big picture my problems seem small in comparison, but for us it seemed like the year was a catastrophe.
We have prayed for 6 years that we could have a team to serve with us here. Late 2019 we had a family of 4 and a very good friend join us. Things were really looking up. Due to Covid we lost all of them in a matter of a few short weeks (they went home, not died). We went back to feeling utterly alone here. Then our country went on lockdown with stay at home orders and our center was forced to shut down for 3 months. We lost our home, the only one our kids ever knew, and had to move into the center. We attempted for months to make a connection in one of the slums nearby but being muslim they all denied us when they learned we were Christian. Then as we were taking some time away for some work on our marriage we learn that 2 of our native team were quitting (next day) and we had no way to replace them. It forced us back to reality. Then not more than 3 weeks later our oldest son ends up in the hospital requiring emergency brain surgery. While this was challenging for us God revealed so much of His purposes in these experiences.
Through the lockdown and moving into the Center we had an opportunity to spend extended time praying and studying the prophecies with our native team and redirect our focus to be more intentional in sharing the message of Christ with others. Through our 2 staff leaving we were forced back to Bangkok to help fill their roles and were able to be here when our son needed surgery. The surgeon we had here was top notch. We were also able to hire a new worker that has done an amazing job in replacing one of the ones who left. Finally through the emergency surgery God showed us just how much support we really had here. While so many of you wrote letters, sent funds to help with the hospital bill and prayed with us, it was the local people stepping up that really made a surprising impression on us. One friend came down to stay with Jessica to help with the other kids and give her a chance to visit in the hospital. Another that we had only just met once sent us a significant donation to help with the hospital bill. Many people came to visit and many more offered so much help in so many other ways. We, like Elijah, felt like telling God that we were alone here. But through the trials we faced God revealed just how close He is and how many people He has placed in our lives to support us. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Also the friends that got us into rock climbing and are the reason F5 has a climbing gym moved back to Bangkok. But that isn’t all.
After calling every slum in our general area, more than 20, we finally found one that would allow us to come and help; it was the last one on the list. We visited and saw the needs and planned to prepare something starting in the new year. But when we saw that we received above and beyond the amount of the surgery cost in
donations we decided to pay it forward. Just yesterday we loaded our truck with 1500 KG of rice and 300 packages containing cooking oil, salt, dry noodles, soap and seasoning to deliver to 300 families in that slum. Because it was such a big group the mosque offered to allow us to use their parking lot. It was a really great opportunity and made some great connections with the leadership of the area and some government officials who came out to make sure we were following proper COVID protocol. Those leaders ended up taking a case of Steps to Christ to distribute and a book on health that a local SDA Dr wrote. The principle of the school on the Mosque property also asked if we would be willing to support some programs for the students at her school and scheduled us to come for children’s day in early January. God is good!
Also at the end of October we got to witness the baptism of a long time friend here, actually one of the first Thai people we met at church. We have mentioned her before here. Her name is Chompoo and we have worked so hard to point her to Christ for the past 6 years. Josh and his wife from Jesus for Slum kids spent so many hours as well just seeking to draw her higher. Well she recently quit her good paying job to work as a teacher in Josh and Chitladas “orphan house”. Her testimony at the baptism was such a blessing to hear as she described God’s working in her life.
But something that has been a heavy burden on our hearts for the past 4 years was finally brought to fruition just today. We have mentioned the Pakistani family at the end of our road many times before. We met them just before our second son, Joseph (now 4) was born. We met their father only once because shortly after we met their case was denied by UNHCR and he was taken to the detention center. (If you are confused you can read their story here) Since then we have prayed and sought options for getting him out
but in vain. Well just this last few months the government has been allowing people to bail out of the detention center. Some friends who had met the family offered to pay the bail and we started the process. They told us it would be 1 week and we waited. The family said they hadn’t heard from their father in a few weeks which was unusual as he called somewhat regularly. As the second week passed and still no word I began to worry that he had died in there. The conditions are very bad. But praise God, today he was reunited with his family. We were so excited to visit them and see the family actually happy for the first time. The son was 9 when his father went in and now is taller than him. They said that they spent the morning just staring at him while he slept as if it wasn’t real. This was an incredible blessing. So many of you have prayed for this family and provided funds to feed them every week for the last 3 years and we want you to know they are so grateful.
As a final blessing for the year we mentioned God leading us to set up an outpost center for our family and team to have a retreat from the city. God brought us to a perfect place that would also double as a camp so that we could use it to connect with our customers from the gym and share Christ with them through the things He has made. Well we started to feel a little discouraged as funds were not coming in toward that and we thought maybe we had gone out ahead of the Lord. But again He showed that He was leading us and as of our last report on 12/18 we have received $78,048 and with the available matching grant are only $15,976 away from the total purchase price! This is amazing and in a time where economies are so uncertain, God is continuing to show that He doesn’t stress about economic forecasts. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills as the Psalmist writes, but even more so, He owns the hills as well. Here are a few videos about the project and the land. If you would like to donate and have your gift doubled you may click this sentence and do so.
Full program that aired on 3ABN last Friday about the project
5 Min promo
Short 2 min 30 sec promo
I don’t know what the new year will bring but one thing I do know, if we keep our eyes fixed on Him and our ears open to His Spirit’s speaking, we will be carried through whatever may come and have the opportunity to be used to lead many others to glory. We are so incredibly grateful for all of your love, prayers and support that have made this project possible and may God broaden each of your influence to do greater things for Him in 2021. “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” The Lord is coming soon, may we use every opportunity to warn others.
Brian, Jessica, Asher Joseph and Prudence Atwell
- That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord (we currently need one 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. Pray especially for our children
- For hearts to be open in the Lam Sali slum and a great harvest wrought for the Kingdom of God
- For guidance as to what we should do about the property for an outpost center and that the funds can come in to purchase it before the government calls another shut down and we are stuck in this city again.
- 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 $3,000! 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
- 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 drs 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 (Thank you to those that have been praying. God has been doing some amazing things and helping these kids see and understand the love that God has for them through the love Josh and Chitty are showing them.)