Dear Friends and Family,
Do farmers make good missionaries? Honestly, I don’t know if they do. But I do know a few things I learned on the farm that have really helped me, and they aren’t necessarily the agricultural stuff. Farmers are optimists. Each year you have to invest thousands of dollars in a crop that may not make it to harvest. You learn to take the good with the bad, and always keep one eye on next year. You learn to fight, and innovate, and do whatever you must to bring in the harvest. You never give up. I guess that’s why I like the fact that we have our rice farm in Cambodia. It helps me focus on the bigger picture of the kingdom of God.
Jesus used a lot of agricultural illustrations in His teachings and I don’t think it was just because a lot of the people were farmers, it was because these principals work in every walk of life. In farming you can sometimes go through two or three poor crops to get to that bumper yield. Missions can be like that, but if you persist against the weeds, weather, insects, diseases, and do your utmost to get things on time, and done right, it will eventually pay off with the big crop. That’s what we (farmers and missionaries) live for. We’ve had some crop failures, and I believe you understand I’m not just talking about rice, but we have also had some “Bin busting harvests.”
To bring this back to earth, Western Cambodia went through a severe drought this spring and early summer. Our first crop of rice, which we harvested in July, is the only rice crop I have ever raised that never once grew in standing water. We fought the weeds, and the kids prayed. We brought in nearly four tons per hectare, which is well above the national average for a good year. We are grateful! The rains have started, and we’re planting the second crop in mud. We believe it will be great! Optimistic, just like all good farmers. (see photos)
Mak Sou just came back in from Khampong Thom province and visited a Divisional Superintendent (church leader) whom we had been reporting was watching over 32 home churches. Actually, he has 153 churches. Now, that’s a good crop! (see photos) I have felt like we are fighting a chronic disease and that our yield would be down this year. A group of missionaries from Korea are buying pastors all over Cambodia. We don’t pay the Home Church pastors, and these Korean missionaries will try to pick off the most fruitful by offering them salaries of up to $150 per month. We loose some pastors, and that hurts. But, the new crop keeps coming in, and what’s more, a big percentage of those that leave come back, because that church group doesn’t walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. The straying pastors figure out that the power of God is worth more than money. And for those who never return? “None the less the Gospel is preached,” and my hope is that our former pastors infect them with a good dose of the Holy Spirit.
What’s the difference between faith and lying? They look a lot alike. Both lying and faith speak of things that are not as though they are. The difference is that faith is God breathed, and it comes to pass. On the surface they can look the same. The difference can only be determined through the Spirit, and for those not walking in the Spirit, I probably look like a “big blowhard.” I’ve always said, “I believe Cambodia will be a Christian nation.” Quite frankly, I used to get a little weak in the knees when I’d hear myself say such a foolish thing, but is was seeded by God. Now we are seeing the harvest. (see photos)
Baptisms in water and the Holy Spirit are on some very fertile ground this year. We had Pastor Jon and Pastor Tim from Living Water Church in Olympia, Washington, USA help sponsor a Baptism Trip for about 400 kids. The kids that came in from our more remote homes had never seen Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. To get to come on the trip they had to bring a friend who didn’t know the Lord. They got to hang out, play games, get to know one another, visit the Royal Palace, hear the Gospel, receive Christ, be baptized in water, and filled with the Holy Spirit. As far as I could tell, 100% of them got the full dose. It was a good harvest. (see photos)
Good farmers learn how to maintain their equipment. The same is true with the Church, both the spiritual and the physical aspects need attention. The practical challenge of maintaining the physical body, through our Foursquare Foundation Hepatitis B vaccination program, (see photos) is proving to present a real challenge. Nearly everywhere we go, we are finding about five percent of the people test positive. It is a very infectious disease and eventually it has the ability to destroy the liver. There are medicines which can help control this disease, but they are expensive. We treat those we can, and pray for the rest. Healing beats treatment any day! That’s real spiritual maintenance.
We fight a constant battle against the elements to keep our buildings in a good state of repair. Facility renovation for the Oral Church Home, funded by the Nutland family from Hong Kong, is an example of an ongoing, routine activity for FCOP. (See Photos) It all just goes to prove that the second law of thermodynamics was instituted by God. Stated in plain farmer terms: “Anything left to itself naturally turns to crud.” True for body, soul, and spirit.
I realize that a growing number of people in the body of Christ are leaving traditional churches for more intimate gatherings. I can understand that, but being part of a larger body is valuable. There are times on the farm when you need to head for a larger shop for some installations, repairs, and adjustments. That seems to be the role of our central churches. We try to maintain that desire for intimacy with both God and man, but it’s good to be part of a larger body overseen by a seasoned pastor. At our Chom Chao Church, Sunday is a time of celebration, teaching and relationship.
We had the great joy of seeing An Som Adt, (his family name is An) the first orphan that FCOP raised who went into ministry, dedicate his son at a Sunday service in July. In his ten years in ministry he has gone from Youth Pastor, to Senior Pastor, to Divisional Superintendent, to District Supervisor, to Assistant to the President. Som Adt was so impressed with teaching that my oldest son Tony (Anthony) brought to the Cambodian FCOP team, during a trip last March, that he named his son, “An Tony”. It was a fun day! (See Photos)
Our successful rice harvest in the midst of drought was a great reminder of who really is in charge of the universe. We just experienced another proof of the hand of God working through the power of prayer. Many of you are aware that all 106 of our Church Homes were up for renewal of their M.O.U.’s (Memorandum of Understanding) which are issued by the Ministry of Children, Youth, and Veteran Affairs, and gives each home a licensee to operate in Cambodia. (See Photo)
Because we openly lead people into relationship with Christ, we were strongly opposed by one Assistant Director who was in charge of our renewals. She was in a very close relationship with UNICEF (They do not like to see children change religion). Pastor Peter (our President) and Naret (our Chief of Staff) went to the private hearing for our licensee renewal. Fortunately, all of our kids and staff have been praying for this day for months! This Assistant Director made a strong recommendation to the Director that all our licenses be revoked. Both Peter and Naret have a good relationship with the Director of the ministry. The Director simply looked at this woman, who has been openly hostile towards FCOP, and asked, “If you close these homes who is going to care for these children?” She did not have an answer. The Director demoted her on the spot, removing her from any oversight of our FCOP homes. Yes! There is a God!
Have a great month! We are!
May God bless you richly!
Ted and Sou Olbrich (Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And those who do all the work, Our Staff!