Dear Friends and Family,
It is the most quoted non-verse in the Bible: “God helps those who help themselves.” It is not exactly a bad thing, it just isn’t there. I believe it upholds a principle, “Do your best and God will do the rest,” which can be defended. And, that may be crucial to our success in Cambodia. When I arrived in Laos 43 years ago, I’ve got to admit I felt a little bit like a “June bug visiting a duck convention.” Here I was, the only white guy (I take that back there were two French priests, but they killed one of them, so let’s just say, I was the only white American) in the province. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was very welcome everywhere I went, I was the center of attention, and yet it seemed everywhere I went I felt as though I was on the menu. I believe the loneliest day of my life was Thanksgiving of 1968. I went down for a swim in the Nam Sane river, came up and ate a can of cold Chinese goose meat for lunch and went to work on my dry season garden. I had the best seeds, finest soil, sterilized my seedbed, fertilized everything to perfection, had my insecticides on hand, and a well right next door. The only thing I didn’t do was check on how long the well was good. It went dry in April. The garden died. And everyone had a good laugh. When I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” They simply responded, “You didn’t ask.” I made a wise decision, I just laughed with them and I made a lot of good friends. After that they watched out for my stupid mistakes. How did God help me ? I learned a great lesson: “Search for the weakest link in every project and work to strengthen it.” Now, gardens are one of the mainstays of support for our homes. (See Photos)
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has also led thousands of Cambodians to Christ. Christmas has always been the most popular holiday for Cambodian Christians, but back in 1998, when less than one percent of Cambodians knew of Christ, it was an invisible holiday. We had to import a tree for Christmas in 1999. Now, even the bar girls are wearing Santa hats. They have no idea what the holiday means, but they are curious about it, and that is an emotion we play to with great success. “Come and find out what it’s all about!” This is an invitation that is rarely refused, especially when followed with a lunch. Every church, in every province, begins celebrating Christmas around December first, and they will continue until mid January. With help from Home of English and Foursquare Missions Press we will print out more than 100,000 booklets explaining Christmas. We could easily use a million. (See Photos)
It is easy to play off your strengths, but probably more necessary to rebuild your weaknesses. A couple of years ago a Humanist group from Europe became greatly concerned about the rapid conversion to Christ of the Hill Tribes in Rattanakirri, Province. They did some research and decided it was our music. So, they imported some top music teachers from Europe and put them to work teaching the local religious groups how to incorporate music into their religious practice. It was worse than a disaster, actually causing a more rapid decline in attendance in their religious services. I have multiple talents, yet music is definitely not one of them. A rusty hinge would knock me out of a singing contest. I guess I enjoyed listening to some songs as a kid, but I hated studying music in school, would wait until my mom’s car pulled away from my piano teacher’s house, and run down to spend the lesson money at the soda fountain, that is until I got busted. I flunked band in high school for slipping out of the music room and hanging out in the ag shop, I never purchased a single record as a teenager. I was a musical moron. But, I have to admit, that nothing touches the heart like music, and anointed worship can bring tears flowing out this stone head of mine.
I actually believe that music is a proof of God’s existence. It exists in every culture and almost universally focuses on love. In fact, my favorite worship song of all time is secular: “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.” With the exception of imported Christian tunes, most music in Cambodia is secular. This may explain why we put so much emphasis on music training for our Cambodian churches. It connects the secular to the Divine in a painless seam. Cambodians love to sing, there is something like 1,000 karaoke bars in Phnom Penh. There is a reason for that, and though the devil may think they are his, God planted the musical seed in every heart. We put in for music training grants with foundations at every opportunity, and have found that the simple addition of a keyboard, and a trained musician, will double the size of a church in six months. (See Photos)
As the largest orphan care provider in Cambodia, we have endured the UNICEF proctoscope. It wasn’t pleasant, but it did do us some good; they helped us root out some malignant practices. Weak links can be: bad habits, poor administration, incompetent people or insufficient supplies. But, all 23 of our “Memorandums of Understanding,” are being approved – one for each province. We are a far healthier organization due to this microscopic inspection. However, some things are beyond ridiculous, like having the caregiver sign and thumbprint a document every time a child brushes their teeth. Jesus had more than 5,000 show up for dinner with just a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread on hand, somehow they all got fed. We had a surprise inspection of a key home that was about as well equipped as Jesus’ pantry when a small army of officials showed up. We’d have been in trouble, but we’d done all we could, and God did his part. Guess who was there doing a dental clinic for every surrounding church home? Dr. Mike and Medical Teams International. One of the key leaders of Social Concerns left saying, “Even the King of Cambodia can’t get a foreign dentist to come clean his teeth and you do this for orphans!” (See Photos)
This is the best endurance story of the year! We raise nearly 400 acres of rice in northwest Cambodia in order to feed our orphans and staff. It has been one continuous struggle this year, with early drought and late floods. Despite the challenges, we kept pumping, diking, fertilizing, spraying for weeds and repairing equipment. We harvested 40 acres of rice in three feet of mud and water. Neighbors were loosing their crops, but for some unknown reason the water seemed to let up on both sides of our property. Our 80 acres of dual crop rice will yield close to 6 tons per acre, and that’s in lousy conditions. The average for most farmers in the region will probably be around 1 ton per acre. Our poor old 1978 combine, has been morphed into a rice gobbler, replacing 100 men. We long for a new Thai machine, but the price is not in our budget, so we weld, patch, rebuild, modify, and keep it moving. The “Poser of the Year Award” goes to Mak Sou. She happened to be there, and pitched in for one day of harvest labor. We have three teams of 60 people from around the country working get our rice, which is in too much water for a machine, harvested, dried, and stored. “Jesus, we’ve done our best, now please do the rest!” We need full rice bins! (See Photos)
“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” Rm 14:17 As long as our Young Lions and Tigers can stay focused on the reality that Spiritual power does affect physical outcomes, remain unafraid to walk openly in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and can keep from becoming self-condemned over personal failure; the Church in Cambodia will grow. These kids are kicking the hell out of hell and have no fear. In 2011, we reported opening 438 new churches, putting us over the 3,600 mark for the first time. I do not believe a single church was opened through exegetical enlightenment. Every one I know of was birthed through some tangible manifestation of the power of God. (See Photos)
On 11-11-11, bands and fans united to put a stop to human trafficking. Traffic-Jam was the theme of a “Prayer-Concert” we did for the factory girls in Cham Chao. There was a packed house and a great number of the girls in our anti-trafficking dorm participated. (See Photos)
Finally, since all of us who grew up in the northern parts of the USA heard our fathers tell of having to walk through miles of snow to get to school, we will relate to the Cambodian kids complaining of walking five kilometers under a searing sun in order to attend their classes. Now, bragging rights have been dashed in several locations, as up to three kids pile on a bicycle for a quick ride to and from school. Thanks to all of you made this possible! (See Photos)
May God bless you richly!
Ted and Sou Olbrich ( Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And those who do all the work,