Dear Friends and Family,
I am confident that for 67 years I have heard this sung, several times per year, but especially at New Years. It wasn’t until my 67th year of hearing that I understood what I had been participating in because, I was curious, and Google is so convenient. I suspect many of you are in the same boat of ignorance. Here’s the song: ( see video) I always thought it was a song about remembering your friends and good times. The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates “Old Long-Since” but in the entirety of the original poem, it seems much more about forgetting and forgiving past hurts and wrongs and remembering the good about people. The song is attributed to Robert Burns who put a 16th century Scottish poem to a traditional dance tune. The first recorded rendition of the poem seems to come from this anonymous ballad from 1568:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
Is thy kind heart now grown so cold
In that loving breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On auld lang syne.
Imagine the blessing we would all incur if we just took that attitude to heart? It’s a great way to start the new year; forgiveness for all past offenses. Happy New Year!
I just returned from a New Year/Christmas celebration in Balang, Cambodia. ( see photos) That is where we have our rice farm, rice mill, and a church orphan home. Balang has been a rather difficult place for the church to thrive. It should be no surprise to us when we look at all the hurt, corruption, and abuse of Christian principles that have taken place in the past ten years in that location. We had a time of prayer and repentance earlier this year and about 50 people showed up, mostly local farmers who had been involved in buying stolen seed and fertilizer. It was a good start. God put it in my heart to celebrate our harvest, bleak and difficult as it was, with the people of Balang for “Auld Lang Syne”. As it turned out, we were not done with harvest until December and our rice milling did not begin until just before Christmas. New Years Day was the time. God gave me Isaiah 54:1-4 as a promise. The local pastor and our District Supervisor for that area set up the program. It was scheduled to begin at 9:00am. They told us to expect 500 people (that’s about the entire population of the town). At 9:00am I looked around and there were maybe 50 people there.
I thought, “What a bust! I’ve been here for 14 years and never overestimated a crowd. What happened?” At that moment our auto-volt control for the generator quit and it burned up the power supply for the keyboard. The computer on the keyboard stored all of our music, dance and drama material for the program. I looked at Sou and we clasped hands and started to pray. She said, “This might be God?” I just looked back wide eyed, hoping she was right! Fortunately, the guitars and PA system were still working so, we told the musicians, “Start singing and keep it up until we get this fixed!” It is a 1 & 1/2 hour round trip to the District Capital, Bantemeanchy. That was the closest place I knew of that sold keyboards. Off the guys went in a cloud of dust, when Sou remembered that we had a keyboard at one of our churches in town. Sure enough we couldn’t buy a power supply, but, thanks to cell phones, they brought the one from the church. Thank God! It worked! The program started at 10:43am with more than 700 people in attendance. It is the only time I have ever seen an alter call given where 100% of the people present responded. I’ve seen thousands born again in services, but never before everyone! Balang is alive and well!
Our Christmas season in Cambodia was fruitful beyond our wildest dreams. We estimate that at least 30,000 have come to Christ and it won’t be over until January 15th. We’ve had multiple Christmas events in every province. And the results were great based on the message of “Auld Lang Syne”. You see the whole reason for Christmas was to enable a Spiritual God to reconnect with a carnal man by becoming carnal Himself. He wipes out our past and establishes us with Himself in a simple act of faith on our behalf. The past is forgotten! Merry Christmas! ( see photos) We know of four mayors, two county supervisors and a county clerk that accepted Christ. I’m sure there are more. The fruits of our labors and investments are coming into focus. Don’t quit on Cambodia. The Voice of America put out on a broadcast how amazed they were that so many locations were celebrating Christmas. In Siem Reap 20,000 people showed up at a single Christmas event sponsored by the Bureau of Tourism.
Nothing demonstrates the spirit of “Auld Lang Syne” better than baptism:”The old is buried and forgotten and the new is born!”. We held numerous regional baptism events around Cambodia for new believers. Here are pictures from a few of them: ( see photos)
Some things are better forgotten, “Auld Lang Sine”. Even though the rice harvest is in, we still have to mill and distribute the rice. It was a tough agricultural year in 2012. Some land was planted three times. When we run the bookkeeping, all our efforts were basically in vain. (Hey! This is no surprise to an old farmer, we know how to lose money on a regular basis.) We looked at the expenses and they are nearly $160,000. The value of all our paddy produced? $161,000. That is not including anything for our labor, land or depreciation. But we move ahead. We should have enough rice to get us to an early harvest in July of 2013. We pray this year is blessed. Milling paddy produces about 65-70% finished rice. Rice milling is hard on machinery, and it has cost. We installed a new engine in December, and it seems that every day our antique milling equipment is in need of some kind of repair, but all the kids will be eating our own rice for much of the year. Most of the rest of the 25-35 % of the milled paddy is used for animal feed, and five percent is rice hulls, which can be used for cooking fuel. We will still need help this year, but we are ready for a blessing. ( see photos)
As we move toward self sufficiency we hit speed bumps. It is the help of people like you which keeps us going. ( see photos) Rice from Butte County Rice Growers, Manna Packs and Rice Nutrition Meals from “Feed My Starving Children” and “Stop Hunger Now” through the help of “Reach Now International” and “Church of Glad Tidings” along with donations from many of you have helped keep the kids in rice. Others, like “Gleanings for the Hungry”, have helped with protein, vitamins, dehydrated fruits and vegetables. “Medical Teams International” sends teams to care for our sick bodies. And, importantly, “Faith Comes by Hearing” supplies the audio Bibles for our spiritual food. We appreciate you and will not forget. “Auld Lang Syne” my friends! “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat!” (Matt. 25:35).
We can’t stop the merry-go-round of life and get off when trouble makes it inconvenient to continue. “Auld Lang Syne!” We’ve added over 250 kids in the last 60 days and have been informed that the Prime Minister is going to present FCOP with some kind of award. It is hard to believe that a year ago there were those who were calling for us to be shut down. Sometimes, I wish we could pull the switch and rest for a while, but buildings need repair and, people get sick and we are refreshed by the help of those of you give constantly, like the donor who wishes to remain anonymous who bought new mattresses and bedding for the Bakou Church Home and those who put teams together to come and help. ( see photos) Faith Baptist Church in Singapore helped us put a couple of teams together to help build a fence that helps prevent the noise from a karaoke bar next door from keeping our kids awake most of the night. And finally, our friends from the Foursqare Churches in Japan came and helped re-paint the Tluke Yule Church Home and celebrated Christmas with them. Thanks friends!
Fortunately, God doesn’t take holidays. He forgives all our sins and plans a great future for us. Thirteen years ago He sent rainbow colored fire down on a group of rebellious pastors in front of a town of about 600 people. One of those men still pastors that church and, at that time, the entire village came to Christ, but through the years they began to drift away. This time the pastors had gathered together to pray specifically for Sou and I and for health and for provision for 2013. It was shortly after noon on Dec 26, 2012 when they were praying fervently in the Holy Spirit when several of the village elders were gathered across the street from the Toule Dam Nak Church Home. There was also a group of five orphan kids playing nearby. What they saw frightened and amazed them. They saw the entire front of the church engulfed in flames. The fire was rainbow colored with red blue and yellow mixed together, they did not know how to respond as it seemed out of control. They called out to the children at rest in the second story to come out because the home was on fire! Others saw the fire as well and then after about two minutes it suddenly went out. They went to find ashes from some substance in the church but only found the pastors in prayer. Pastor Meas Heoun explained that this was the presence the Holy Spirit and the elders once more, as in year 2000, responded, “Your God has big power!” Sorry, no pictures of the fire, but the church was full on Sunday. “Auld Lang Syne” my friends, and Happy New Year! ( see photos)
Ted and Sou Olbrich (Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And those doing all the work,