Dear Friends and Family,
Your gas gauge is bouncing on empty, the little “gas pump” light is flashing on and off and the warning bell has dinged; the journey is 400 miles, you have no money, and there are no known gas stations between you and your destination. Fun huh? The circumstances are screaming, but your still, small, inner-voice, the “True North” on your internal compass, your soul, says, “Go!” What do you do? That is what walking by faith is all about. And, that’s why I hate it. Really hate it! But I keep moving, keep praying, and I keep looking for gas. Specifically, in our case this year, it was not gas but rice. We honored some local donors on Sunday, Nov. 18th. ( see photos) These folks, and many of you, have kept us alive since July and we are grateful!
Pilots have been known to get vertigo, doubt the reading of their instruments, and fatally crash. Somehow, over the past few years we’ve managed to navigate by the “True North” heading, even though every natural instinct has told us, “You’re crashing!” We always seem to arrive wheels down and still alive. The trip is not always by the planned route, or maybe we won’t even arrive in the same vehicle, but we’ve made it. We’d decided that rice harvest would begin in November, it always does. We ran out of rice in July. Generous donors helped us survive until December, when we planned to have our own rice milled. But, the drought delayed the maturity of the rice, and we had only started the harvest and had none milled by December. The kids needed rice. I received a call from George Butron, my boss from Singapore. “The International Christian School wants to give you a gift of $25,000 to purchase rice on December Third”, reported George. I was there. ( see photos) It would sure be nice to have God show up early sometime! But, I thank God through ICS He got here on time!
It is deeply troubling to see all the abandoned rice land as I travel to our rice farm in Balang, Cambodia. This is good land that raised nothing after the floods and drought. Some farmers replanted after the drought only to be wiped out by the flood and then gave up. Few kept on going because they were either dis-spirited, or broke, or both. We were broke, but too stubborn to quit. The rice that we replanted after the drought, which did not get wiped out by the flood, was the best rice we ever harvested, some of it yielding 8 tons per hectare. A big thanks to those who helped us purchase the combine! ( see video) In hindsight we’d have been better off to have replanted all the rice that did survive the drought, as it was so damaged that the yield is only about 2 tons per hectare. It looked good on the outside, but there was nothing inside. I wonder how often that happens to damaged people? The third crop, which we replanted after the flood, may be even better than anything to date. It will be harvested in January and should get us through to our new crop next July. “True North” for us was never giving up, and to keep on planting, looking, asking, and begging for rice. God saw us through.
A navigation course is set in stages; from check point to check point. “True North” for our students begins with enrollment. Unfortunately, you cannot attend school without a uniform, and for many poor families and orphans there is simply no money for such a luxury. The result? Kids don’t go to school. Stage one: get them through the door. That requires one functional uniform, and supposedly a pair of black lace top shoes. Some poor districts will overlook the shoes. But then, stage two is to keep them in school, and that requires basic supplies. School uniforms and basic supplies alone cost us in the range of $58,000 per year. Obviously, one uniform does not last an entire year, so we are continually in need of uniform money. ( see photos)
No matter which way you turn a compass, the needle always comes back to “North”. Our hearts can be wounded, our bodies made sick, and our surroundings become miserable, but as God guides us, and we have the sense to listen, we can’t help but wind up back on course in awe of His provision. We celebrated “Thanksgiving” with orphans at Chom Chao on Nov. 22nd. I have never seen two 24 pound turkeys, with all the trimmings and 30 large pizzas disappear so fast; virtually gone in five minutes. It made those of us who take such a holiday for granted realize how blessed we really are to be able to give a little back to those who would never be able to experience such a feast. ( see photos)
“True North” for all of us who are followers of Christ should be “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27. Jesus never navigated alone. He only did what the Father told Him. There was a big problem before the first Christmas. “God is a Spirit” and we humans had physical bodies that were disconnected spiritually. So,how do you fix that? Obviously, God solved it by becoming human with a connected spirit. He restored the path of connection for us who were broken. Christmas is all about how this restoration began. We celebrate the great price He eventually paid for us through communion, but we were surprised at how few of our pastors really understood in what they were partaking, and they didn’t see any connection between Communion and Christmas. It was just a religious ritual. So, Mak Sou taught the key leaders about communion. There were some great revelations and restorations. ( see photos)
Compasses can have problems. If an enemy puts a magnet too close, it will definitely lead you the wrong way. That can happen when our bodies get sick, or we start running after riches, or seeking to simply satisfy our flesh, it affects our souls and we can despair of life. We may look at a needle that is pointing anywhere but “True North” and believe we are traveling in the right direction. At FCOP we understand that, and so, we do all we can to minister to the whole person, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our doctors work more overtime than any of us, and teams come from all over the world to lend a hand. We had teams of doctors and dentists from Medical Teams International and the Clinton, Iowa Foursquare Church here in November to break some major bondages and get our headings back on course. Thanks to all of you! ( see photos)
It is Christmas time and decorations are going up. Amazingly, when we came here in 1998 we had to import a tree. Now, they are everywhere. With the help of Home of English, 100,000 Christmas books were printed. Celebrations are being planned at every Church Home. It won’t be presents and commercial extravagance, but the heart of man pointing to the “True North” of Jesus Christ. And, that is what Christmas should be all about.
Be blessed and have a Merry Christmas!
Ted and Sou Olbrich (Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And those who make it all work,