I just want to start by saying that we have been so blessed by the support and encouragement from all of you over the past 8 years. We have seen so many miracles of God’s providence and so many of you were used as His hands and feet to be the physical answer to prayer. Continue reading Final Goodbye
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.)
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.
It’s amazing how easily we can forget God’s providence and working in our lives. But I guess when we have an enemy who knows his time is short (Rev 12:12) and is like a roaring lion seeking to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8) then we should not be so surprised. Continue reading …lest we forget…
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.)
It’s a phrase heard often at this time of year. Usually it evokes thoughts of the newest toys or gadgets that have been advertised in preparation for the holiday. Sometimes it brings thoughts of fun times laughing and making memories with friends and family. This year for Jessica and I it brought different thoughts.
Last week our F5 team pulled off the largest event we’ve ever attempted, marrying the rock climbing gym and bakery, into an active, fun filled social event for a homeschool group. Confidence has soared and momentum is beginning to build. By faith we believe 2020 will be the year the F5 Center of Influence takes off! Continue reading God’s plan is always best.
Addictions are not all the same. But they are all hard to break. Thankfully we serve an all powerful God Who has died to set us free! Meet Ice. Continue reading Breakthroughs
There is a song by artist Laura Story called ‘Blessings’ that talks about the challenges we face in life and while often we view them as hurdles and hinderances to our spiritual growth, in reality they are often the medium God uses to facilitate growth. Well, last month we shared a few testimonies of what God has been doing here. It was a real encouragement as we struggled with the idea that we had been here 5 years already and hadn’t had any ‘real’ results. Well, this month we had a few more powerful blessings that came in the package of trial. Continue reading Blessings Through Raindrops
สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ Happy Thai New Year. This is my favorite time of year in Bangkok because the city empties out and is like a ghost town. This is the holiday where everyone returns to their hometown to be with family. Since very few people are actually from Bangkok it results in there being only a couple spots in town where anyone is and they are a mix of local Thai, but mainly young westerners, looking for a wild party. All I have to do is avoid those spots (which are very far from me anyway) and I have this giant city to myself. While I normally really enjoy this time I am very much missing my family and wishing that we were together. This is the time of year we get to eat at our favorite falafel restaurant that is only 10 miles away but usually takes upward of 2 hours to get to. Right now we can get there in 15 minutes. But I am grateful that we have the technology we do so that we can at least stay connected via video calls. Continue reading 5 years; no fruit?