Dear Friends and Family,
Happy New Year! I’m sick. Some kind of flu virus I suspect. New Year’s Day involved an extended staff meeting at our office to work out new government regulations concerning our church orphan homes. The combination, sick and government regulations, is a lousy way to start a year, so I am expecting 2011 to be great! I know that doesn’t make any sense, but remember I’m sick. In fact I felt so bad I excused myself. Sou took one look and told the two staff doctors, who were in the meeting, to, “Check him out”. I protested, “I’m not dead yet! Only the good die young, I’ll live forever!” One look from her and both the doctors and I knew that if we didn’t obey, it wouldn’t matter how old I was. She’d better watch out! She turned 63 last month and the kids threw her a party to prove it.(see photos) They backed me into the office dispensary, took my pulse, looked at my throat, checked my blood pressure, temperature and confirmed my diagnosis. “He’s not going to die!” I went off to bed with some Tylenol and antibiotics. So, why is this going to be a great year?
Nothing is ever as it seems. Why is that? We tend to project the present into the future and it clouds our perception. We had a tremendous finish to 2010 (More later). But it wasn’t without speed bumps along the way. Did you ever wonder how Jesus got from Psalm Sunday to Good Friday in five days? That’s kind of my point. When things are great, enjoy the moment. (Half hour later) I hate it when I get illustrations in the middle of a thought! At the moment I typed the period at the end of the last sentence, my phone rang. Sou had an accident. It’s just a guy who plowed into her with a motorbike – nobody hurt. PTL! But, I had some anxious moments. I could get paranoid about writing these updates. When I was in the beginning of writing the Christmas Update, I heard a cry for help, and then a lot of commotion as our staff started running for the door. We’d just finished morning devotions when our staff member who cared for the livestock and grounds, just fell over. We got to him within 30 seconds and his airway was open, but I couldn’t find a pulse. I started chest compressions and got some air movement, both docs where out in the country. Some staff took him to the hospital, but he was DOA. (I couldn’t go, just like I couldn’t go to Sou’s accident site or to any real estate purchase. If white skin shows up the price increases by at least four fold) Personally, I think he was dead when he hit the ground. (see photos) He seemed fine one moment, dead the next. Since he banged his head when he hit the ground, there was a lot of bleeding. The hospital ran tests and he was HIV positive, so all involved got HIV prevention shots. Anyway, back to my point, when things are great (Psalm Sunday) you may be sure there is a devil crouching under a rock somewhere to mess you up. And when things are the blackest (Good Friday) there is an Easter on the way. Just don’t give up! EVER!
Good things come from bad things for those who love God. That’s how I interpret Rom. 8:28. (Go ahead, look it up) This is classic, but you probably don’t want to read it from the pulpit. Two weeks ago Peter, our National Church President, and I just happened to be in Balang, the location of our rice mill and one of our church orphan homes. On Sunday, Dec 19th I was there trying to resurrect our rice combine, and Peter the church. The church has suffered because the original pastor, angered because we wouldn’t let him make a profit off the rice mill, decided to quit being a Christian and go back to Buddhism. Many members quit with him. We went to church service, and since it was peak rice harvest there were only about 45 people there, mostly orphans, older women and children; everyone else was working. Peter doesn’t get there often so the new pastor asked him to speak. He rose and went to the front of the church when a teen aged girl walked up to him and kneed him squarely in the groin. “Crushed his cookies!” Peter gasped, leaned forward and stopped breathing. I’d started for the front of the church but he looked up and waved me off. Everyone was so shocked and embarrassed that there was total silence. The mother of the girl came, grabbed her and dragged her to the rear of the church. Peter took a deep breath and with a grimaced, red face began his sermon. It was a good sermon.
After service I was watching this girl when Dr. Chhaya, our staff surgeon who also oversees the rice farm, pulled me aside to ask some questions about the rice harvest. (see photos) I kept one eye on the girl. I noticed that about every 30 seconds she’d start flailing around like some out of control string puppet. Peter, the new pastor, and several of the older women were gathered around her praying. After the third session of jerking motions, I excused myself from Chhaya, and walked over to where the group was praying for the girl. They were praying nice religious prayers, “God, please heal this girl!” “Please help this girl!” etc. I interrupted and said, “This looks like a demon spirit.” They were silent. I moved in front of the girl. She was staring at the ground. “Look at me!” I commanded. She lifted her head, but all I could see where the whites of her eyes. “Do you want to be free of this demon?” I asked. She growled, “No!” I looked at Peter and the pastor and said, “You can’t be polite with devils, and that’s a devil!” She was looking at the ground again, so I lifted her chin. “I command you! You foul spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, be silent! I want to speak to this girl!” Her eyes opened. Then I lowered my voice and said, “Little girl do you want to be free of this spirit?” In a very weak voice she said, “Yes.” I looked her straight in the eyes and in a loud voice said. “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you! You foul spirit! Come out of her!” She belched. Now, I’m a pig farmer, I’ve handled a lot of stinky stuff, but that smell was one of the worst I have ever encountered. She stood straight and seemed normal. “Can you read?” I asked. “Yes, I’m in the 8th grade,” she responded. “Then go home and read the Bible. Fill yourself with God’s word and this devil can never come back.” She’s been fine ever since.
What we didn’t know was that this girl was famous throughout the town for being possessed. So, when Christmas service was held, despite the fact that harvest was not complete, virtually the whole town showed up. The church was packed. People were crammed in the cafeteria and were standing in front of the church. They estimate 600 were in attendance, including the former pastor who had gone back to Buddhism. Peter had come back to preach the Christmas message. He taught; “How Jesus came to set us free!” At the end of his message he asked, “Who wants to receive Jesus Christ in their hearts? More than 500 hands shot up including that of the former pastor. Peter, feeling he must have been misunderstood, asked again. Again, more than 500 hands shot up. They prayed. God makes good things come out of bad things. (see photos)
Christmas is huge in Cambodia. I would estimate that more than 15,000 people came to Christ in our Christmas services. (see photos) When we came here 12 years ago we had to import a Christmas tree. You could not find one anywhere in Cambodia. Now, they are everywhere! Christmas is probably the most decorated holiday of the year in this “Buddhist” country. The front page of the Cambodia Daily carried a full page color photo of Santa on the streets of Phnom Penh. Our services throughout the nation were packed. Hundreds of “Garment factory workers” are coming to special afternoon services. (see photos) I go on four mile walks most mornings. I talk to the kids on these walks and they show up at our office every Sunday afternoon for a special service on the driveway: (see photos) We printed 90,000 Christmas Bible Stories, gave out 30,000 special Christmas books donated by Home of English and passed out 13,000 comic Bibles to new believers at our services. This is not counting what happened at our 2800 home churches. We dedicated two new church buildings this month with hundreds receiving Christ at each new location. (see photos) Cambodia is coming to Christ. Despite the sickness, despite the deaths, despite the critics, despite getting old, click on here to see what 12 years in ‘Bodia can do to you: http://www.missionreports.com/christmas_2010 Despite it all, the devil is going down! And that makes this a very Happy New Year indeed!
May God bless each one of you with a most healthy, fruitful, joyous, and prosperous 2011!
Pa Thom (Me, Ted Olbrich)
Mak Thom (Sou Olbrich)
And the ones who do all the work: Our Staff