We have had an exciting couple months, from our weekly Covid totals smashing our previous yearly total since April, to flooding, poisonous creature encounters, drug tests and finally getting our top prayer request (for the last year) answered in an amazing way. God has shown us that He isn’t finished with the work here.
Starting with the prayer request; we have been looking for new workers since we lost 2 of our previous ones during th e beginning of the covid outbreak last year. With the state of the economy we thought it would be easy, it wasn’t. But finally God opened the door and we received 2 workers basically in the same week. One was an ex-convict that had spent the last 17 years in prison and had just gotten out 7 months prior, the other was a young woman who was basically living as a prostitute, though would argue that point if you asked her.
Lek, the ex-con was working as a builder in a northern province but was being mistreated by his employer because he is seen as a lower level person due to his background. Having a similar background I thought it sounded like a great opportunity and we brought him down the following week. That is where the ‘fun’ began. We came to Bangkok to pick him up and then the boys and I left with Lek in our truck while Jessica and Prudence cleaned up and followed with Jun in the Bauder truck that they were so gracious to let us use. We get to the onramp to the tollway and a police officer walks up to my window and asks who that guy (Lek) is. He has a lot of tattoos; on top of his head, neck and even tattooed eye liner (why? I don’t know) so I figured they were just suspicious. I explain he is a friend and they tell me to pull to the side. He is taken out and brought under the bridge. A couple minutes later the officer comes back for me and says I have to join him. My 2 children are in the car and Thai police are more famous for corruption than they are for serving and protecting so needless to say I was not feeling good about all this. I am taken under the bridge where a makeshift ‘office’ is set up, handed a small plastic cup and told to pee in it. Turns out Lek popped his test for meth; great. While waiting to go (I literally had just gone before leaving the house) I use the opportunity to explain how I used to be a drug addict but had been sober for over 13 years. The police act as if I am just trying to stall. Test comes back negative and I think things are over but then they say we need to go down under the bridge another level. We end up at ground level and I am told that Lek will be going back to prison unless an ‘insurance payment’ is made; remember that thing about Thai police and corruption? So they say he needs to pay $800 to be released and we can be on our way. I have been praying and now am at a crossroads; do I invest in this young man that I literally met an hour before, or do I cut him loose and move on? Well I told him that he could have an advance on his salary for 2 months and bailed him out. I explained some rules to him and that we would help him change his life if he was interested. He agreed and the police were actually a bit surprised and told him he better do whatever I say as I seem like I could help him. To say we have had smooth sailing since then would be anything less than true but God has blessed in amazing ways.
I mentioned he was brought on as a builder to help us in the development of the new property, well we decided to start with a shop for storing all my tools to ‘test’ his skills before moving on to something more difficult. About a week in it was clear he didn’t know much. One morning I pulled him aside during breakfast and explained that we accepted him for who he was not for his skills or ability. I said that he keeps telling me he knows how to do things but it is apparent he doesn’t and he keeps causing things to be broken. I would rather him tell me he doesn’t know how to do something than say he does and mess it up. The whole time he is staring at the ground and looking ashamed. I then tell him that we hired him to give him a chance at a new life, not because we thought he was a great builder. He does not need to impress us for us to accept him. We are not better than him but we are all children of God and equal in His sight. At that I could see tears welling up and I gave him a hug and told him to just be honest and we would be fine. From that day forward things changed. He became a happier guy and was willing to do whatever he was told instead of trying to be in charge. He accepted that he doesn’t know how to do certain things and has become willing to learn and take instruction. He also comes over and gives me a hug all the time and I can definitely not leave for the day without him getting a hug. The man who had recommended him to us, another ex-con who met him in prison, said Lek had no one that cared for him except his ‘boys’. God gave us the opportunity to show him what acceptance and love really are and he is really growing. The other day I had to correct him about a standard we have about non-married couples sharing a room together. I tried to clarify that he is an adult (a year older than me) and that he can do what he chooses off our property but on campus he needed to abide by our rules. But he cut me off and said, “no, I want to do what is right that you say. I misunderstood the rule. You are like my dad and I will just do what you say on or off campus but I was just confused.” He did actually comply with what I had said and I hadn’t been clear enough. I saw the sincerity on his face and was so grateful that God has changed him so much in such a short time. Please continue to pray for Lek to grow. We have started studying the Bible and he is really struggling to not just look for rules to transfer in place of his Buddhist principles. I explained salvation to him the other day and he was so confused how he could receive something so great as forgiveness without a list of ceremonies that needed to be done first. I left our talk thinking he didn’t understand (and many parts I’m sure he doesn’t) but yesterday he wrote me about a task to do and I told him to just wait until the rain ended, he responded with “God has not forsaken me so I will not forsake you.” God is amazing!
The other young woman (Gina) has moved in last month to F5 as she was living in an apartment paid for by her foreign ‘boyfriend’ who had a contract with her basically that he pays rent and she provides ‘services’ in exchange. I know many in the world do this today and would not consider such an arrangement prostitution but I just have to call it what it is. We were able to help her out of that situation and give her a place to stay. Whenever lockdown ended we were going to have her work for the gym doing marketing. She is a nice young girl and had told us she had previously converted her life and become a Christian; obviously there was still growth needed. Well so far she has been doing ok here, though we haven’t seen her much as most of our time has been spent at the outpost property. We came in yesterday so that I could set new routes in the gym and upon going upstairs I find Gina sitting on the floor about to eat. We greet each other and then she starts telling and story then crying. Turns out the ‘boyfriend’ had become more than a ‘contract’ to her and she had feelings for him now and had seen him at her friends restaurant with another woman. She was allowing satan to beat her up and tell her she had done things wrong and wasn’t worth anything. I had the blessed opportunity to share with her her value in Christ and that it wasn’t her fault. We talked about how God gives us principles and directions in His word for our benefit not to restrict us. We are told not to have a relationship with unbelievers because they are unable to truly love us as love comes from God. If they don’t know God then they don’t really understand love and thus cannot love us the way God wants to love us. She thought I was so smart so I had to explain that I only know what I know because of being on her end of many situations like this in the past. It is so amazing how God is able to use the terrible experiences of our past that so often, in the midst of them, we would wish for anything else, to bring honor and glory to His name in the future. I would’ve never guessed that my ex-wife cheating on me or our crazy relationship could be positive but it was used to bring hope to a young woman almost 20 years later. She was much encouraged and has agreed to study the Bible with us to learn what she should be looking for in a relationship and also what is expected of her in a relationship. Please continue to pray for Gina.
Work on the property is moving along well. Travis and Becky Sharon came down for a month it feels like and helped so much. We have all the truss work on our home finished and the floor is almost ready to be poured. They were a huge blessing and I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. Another friend Rodney has moved down and is helping to continue the oversight of the project. We are really glad to have dedicated, wiling people to come help. The Stecks have also found a rental house and moved down last week. They are working on laying out the orchard area and then getting some solar worked out so we have power to use. We have had a gravel road put in and a 20 meter x 20 meter x 4 meter deep pond dug out in the back low section which is filling up fast with just the last 2 days rain. We are praying to be able to get into our house in the next month or so so we can get a semblance of normalcy back to our life but still a lot to work left to make that happen and with the crazy rain it is being slowed down.
We had a nice celebration for the 4th of July remembering those that have given all and those willing to sacrifice to allow us to have the freedoms that are enjoyed in America. I’m not intending to get political at all un thus but so many in America are against what the country has stood for for so long. Living in a foreign country for the last 7 years that is built on monarchy and an unspoken caste system, it really makes me appreciate the freedoms that America stands for. The main takeaway we focused on was the ultimate sacrifice that God was willing to make in sending His only Son to this earth to die for us so that we all could have ultimate freedom from the source of all was, tyranny and hatred; sin.
Praying you all have a blessed summer (for those in the US) and that the Lord will draw you ever closer to Him through the division that is ripping through the world right now. Following are some videos of what our lives have been like lately with prayer requests/praises at the bottom.
May God bless you and keep you,
Brian, Jessica, Asher, Joseph and Prudence Atwell
- That we can find the right workers with a heart to serve the Lord (God is good and you already know this answer if you are this far)
- 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. (God is really blessing with this)
- 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 (Fully payed off, thank you for your support to purchase this. 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 (Huge PRAISE; I just dropped Chitty off at the airport yesterday, her application was approved and at this point she is reunited with her husband and baby again!! Thank you all for your prayers.)