Dear Friends and Family,
“Spreading like a cancer!” ( see photos) That’s a comment I heard from one cynical humanist regarding the growth of Christianity in Cambodia. On first take, I didn’t like the analogy. I hate cancer! But then I saw a TV special on modern cancer research, and it changed my mind. For years cancer research has been looking for a “cure” for cancer; the silver bullet that wipes out all forms of the disease. That, according to recent findings, isn’t going to happen. We all know that there are many different types of cancer, but what I haven’t known is that even though there are new medications that can target and kill specific types of cancer cells, the big breakthrough is that each person has unique genetic characteristics that have specifically allowed that cancer to multiply in their body. Modern research is pointing to genetic testing that creates individualized treatments for each person.
Wham! It hit me! That is the way the Holy Spirit works in true revival. God does not relate to the human race as a “Cookie cutter”, one-size-fits-all, experience. He speaks to us each individually, and uniquely, and though there are many types and callings of ministries, each one is manifested in that particular individual in a unique way. It is that process that allows a cancer to take over a body, and it is that same type of individualized response to the Holy Spirit, that takes a nation for Christ. We gathered about 40 of our most effective leaders together for specialized training and this became evident. The Holy Spirit is working within each individual in a very unique way, and the synergism of that personalized common, “Disease”, called “Christianity” is taking this nation.
We operate an all-volunteer army. ( see photos) No foreigner receives any salary from FCOP. Last year, for various good reasons, we lost Kris Warner, Bob and Christal Hollandsworth, and Jenny Robinson, to God’s new callings on their lives. This reduction of force left myself, and Sam Tolle, as the sole foreign contingency in the organization (Sou has been a Cambodian since 2001). It’s not that the Cambodians can’t run this church and N.G.O. it’s just the communications and coordination aspects that get overwhelming. Reports, team coordination, donor communications, training, and keeping the vision in focus seem to be our main functions, but we were buried! I never saw much of Sam as he was with the teams, and paper had me so buried I couldn’t see the top of my desk. Training was really suffering, but God sent reinforcements.
I have been praying for a coordinated training program which combined the aspects of “Hearing the Holy Spirit” as presented to us by Randy Clark a year ago, with the Beth Barone’s teachings on the trinity and connection to God, and each other, through relationship. I had to go to Venezuela to find John and Sonja Decker’s book: “Doing What Jesus Did: Ministering in the Power of the Holy Spirit”, to give me a framework to fluff out the content already in my heart. But, the most important aspects were human. We received three gifts in January. Errol and Brenda Faulkes. showed up in a marriage package, on Jan 10th. Errol, a gifted teacher with the School of Supernatural Ministry and Brenda a skilled administrator and human resources manager are here for the long haul. The third gift is temporary, Ol’e Sonny Weimer, our FCOP Int. Board President, came on the 13th to help me out at the rice farm for a couple of months. The devil is worried, because we are ready to blast off.
The rocket almost blew up on the launching pad. I have been on constant antibiotics and Claritin (antihistamine), to keep from getting sinus infections and sore throats, for over a year. I went to an eye-ear-nose-throat specialist and he said I had developed allergies to the rice dust. Well, there was no way that was going to stop me, so I stayed on the drugs. Fifty-two years ago, I was caught under the chin and thrown by a Holstein bull while out trying to retrieve a new-born calf. He knocked out my bottom front teeth. Fortunately, it was on Memorial Day weekend and my Uncle, who was a dentist, was visiting the farm. He stuck my teeth back in my head and over the next few months, and several root canals, I was as good as new. Somehow, one root canal got infected about 50 years later. I couldn’t feel anything, but I knew there was some pressure there. Ol’e Sonny decided to take care of some needed dental work and get a couple of implants with our low Cambodian dental prices. He talked me into going with him and getting checked, five days before I was due to go to Venezuela. I was in the chair for four hours. The dentist pulled the one bad tooth, put me into oral surgery, and drained a huge infection. He said it could have killed me had I not gotten it fixed. I no longer need the Claritin or the antibiotic. Ol’e Sonny saved my life. What’a guy!
Be careful what you pray for! How many times have you heard that it’s the high price of fuel that is destroying our prosperity? I went to speak at the Venezuelan National Church Convention. I was gone for seven days and spent four and one-half of those days traveling. More than 6000 leaders showed up. ( see photos) Venezuela is in turmoil. It is ripe for revival. The church knows that their country’s only hope is going to be found in relating to a personal Christ who will direct each individual as a valuable asset. The country’s crisis is economic and social chaos. The price of gasoline? One and one-half cents US per gallon! That’s right! Our driver filled up his 16-gallon gas tank for less than the price of a small bottle of drinking water. What’s going on? Venezuela is swimming in oil. The socialist government decided to help the poor by giving cheap fuel, free housing, welfare payments, etc. The result, very little is actually produced there, and inflation is 60% per year. The US Dollar is worth eight times more on the black market than it is at the official exchange rate. No foreign exporters will sell to Venezuela because the government insists on using the official rate, causing the shelves in the stores to be empty. You can’t even buy toilet paper. The people are enslaved to their government and they can’t escape, and the poor keep voting for more free benefits, just digging their pit deeper. As Margret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that it doesn’t work!” Right now, that is a valuable lesson for Cambodia.
Two New Years (Western and Chinese) and never-ending Christmas celebrations dominated our month. I think our last official Christmas program was held on January 24th, but some home churches are still celebrating. It is our biggest draw of the year by far. When Sou and I came to Cambodia in 1999 we had to import a plastic Christmas tree. Now, Christmas decorations are everywhere until mid January, and they actually say. “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”. Buddhist Cambodians openly acknowledge that the day is about the birth of Christ, and everyone is curious about what it means. So, we have tens of thousands of curiosity seekers showing up for Christmas celebrations at the church and we estimate in excess of 50,000 received Christ as savior this season. ( see photos)
In the Western Countries we “Fall in Love” and get married. In Cambodia, you get married and hopefully, eventually fall in love. Arranged marriages are still the norm here, and surprisingly the divorce rate is officially better than the USA’s. But, life is a lot more enjoyable if a couple can learn to love each other. We brought in 25 young pastoral couples into a marriage seminar sponsored by “Living Water’s Church” from Olympia, Washington. It was truly a miraculous turn of events, around half the couples openly confessed they did not love each other, and left the three days later kissing and carrying on like start-eyed lovers. They were! “Get them a room!” was the outcry. So, we did, for a three-night honeymoon. ( see photos)
There is no question that 2013 was tough year for us. Our largest donor was the Foursquare Foundation, and they’ve been forced to cut way back. Some how, even though we were constantly broke, we survived and actually grew in worth, as we added some rice land and church buildings. Most importantly we continued to grow as a church as God moved through thousands of local people, leading their neighbors to Christ, healing the sick, baptizing new believers, seeing others filled with the Holy Spirit, and expanding the kingdom of God. ( see photos)
What saved us was the donated food and equipment. Even with just ascribing value equivalent to rice, and low valuations on equipment, these donations added an addition of more than $500,000 US to our cash flow, putting our balance sheet in the black for the year. In January we received more valuable rice nutrition meals from Feed My Starving Children, Reach Now International, and Glad Tidings Church, and a container from Son-Haul in Fort Morgan, held hostage at the port for nearly two months, with two trucks, and several pieces of rice farm equipment. ( see photos) Very seriously, to all who donated, “Thanks!” We could not have made it without you!”
Mission teams are our lifeline. They think they come to impart a little and receive a lot. I’ve never seen a single team leave disappointed, but they impart much more than just the financial resources and their skills. They leave our kids with new relationships that they will carry for a lifetime; “Someone from half-way around the world cared enough about this “Stray Dog’ (Slang term for orphan in Cambodia) to come to see me and help me!” We already hosted two teams this month in addition to the “Living Water Team” which is on the ground now. East Valley Christian Center did a major re-hab at the Snule Trait church home and Medical Teams International brought several of our old friends back with Dr. Canfield for a very busy dental clinic at Phsar Chas. ( see photos) “Thank you!” is much too little to say. Have a great 2014! We are off to a great start!
Ted & Sou Olbrich (Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And those doing all the work, Our Staff!