Dear Friends and Family,
“God, why is this happening to me? What have I done wrong?” How often have you said that? Personally, I refuse to answer, as I will definitely incriminate myself! But, here is the question we should ask, one that you never hear; “Everything is going as planned, and we are experiencing great fruitfulness! What are we doing wrong?” Wrong! Are you crazy? That’s what we long for! You see, we all love seasons of blessing (it would be nice to have one right now!). When they come, we’re so busy singing praises in celebration we don’t realize that this is not what we should normally experience. We should expect fierce opposition. As Ol’e Bob Hollandsworth used to say, “We must be doing something right. All hell’s breaking lose!” (Jn 16:33) If trouble is the measure of success, February was a great month! Our Combine required an $8000 repair bill, vehicles broke down daily, property titles were in constant contention, government bureaucracy seemed to double, kids came down with serious illness, Sam Tolle broke his hand and Errol Faulkes, our newest staff member, suffered a stroke. ( see photos)
But, emerging from the fire we do not smell like smoke! (Is 43:2) Our combine is repaired and harvesting and our first ‘Certified Rice Seed’ crop is ready for sale. The two used, but new to us, Ford Trucks from the US are converted to LP gas and running strong. Our FCOP Holding Company, Ltd., which will allow us to purchase, hold, and protect land without personally held titles, is a functional reality. We’ve seen multiple miraculous healings. One young girl, who was prayed for from afar, went from passing out regularly, due to a defective heart, to facing an amazed doctor looking at the M.R.I. scan, saying, “This is a perfect heart!” Sam Tolle is playing the guitar again and, Errol Faulkes, who totally lost his speaking ability three weeks ago, is walking, talking, and gaining strength daily. ( see video and photos)
The devil definitely got toasted on Tumnup Island. Pastor El Sim, who has practically destroyed Satan’s realm on the island of nearly 100,000 souls, was opposed by a resistant Shaman who made money by conjuring up a potion which he sold for its healing power. It actually seemed to work for a short time, but then the recipients either relapsed or grew worse. His wife had been bed ridden for almost ten years, she frequently received the potion, and was growing worse. El Sim prayed for her and she began walking. The Shaman burned his idols and became a follower of Jesus Christ announcing to the community that he had quit following the demons because the God of El Sim has “Big power!” His wife is now normal. ( see photos)
The real victory is with our children and youth. In a sense, Cambodia is counter-culture, with children and youth leading the growth of the church. Last Sunday the kids took over the service for a packed house. The oldest person on our special praise team might have been ten years old. Thanny, the Young Lions leader, preached the sermon and handled one of the largest alter calls at our Phnom Penh church, in our history. Throughout the last month key Young Lions leaders received a special “impartation” and release in meetings, with Bill and David Norton doing the teaching. Young people had their Spiritual giftings identified, were released to operate in them, and pass them on to others. The Young Lions led a rousing charge to the province of Pursat and left hundreds of new believers in their wake. When we try to discern what has brought this about, it boils down to hundreds of small things, done with a general intent to grow the church through years of fiery opposition, but not with any expectation of the grand result. There is no smell of smoke on these kids. ( see video and photos)
A simple hug. A prayer of blessing. A pat on the shoulder. Stuff we do every day and forget, especially when you’ve been doing it for 15 years, almost everyday, with around 13,000 kids in the rear view mirror. It’s the little things we do and say that stick with these kids. Often children long forgotten, and statements erased from our memories, surface in unusual ways. Recently, at one of the many weddings we attend and often help fund, a young guest asked to be photographed with Mak Sou and I. I did not recognize her, nor remember her name. About a week later a large framed photograph arrived. It must have cost her a large amount of money.
Srei Nak had grown up, years ago, in the Kakaoh Church Home under our FCOP Vice President Long Kit. She first came in year 2000. Now, Srei Nak’s grown and married with her own family, but she came 400 kilometers for Long Kit’s daughter’s wedding. Srei Nak owns a prospering dry-goods business in Poipet. When she came to the house with the present she said to Sou, “I’ll never forget you and Pa Thom telling us that we could become anything we wanted, and that we were the future of Cambodia.” Thirteen-thousand kids later, her story is not unique. There are very few places Sou or I can go in Cambodia and not be recognized. ( see photos)
It is not just the kids. I have spent countless hours talking to Paul Mok, our Rice Farm Manager. He’s one of the first adults I got to know in Cambodia. I remember, early in 1999, (an ignorant, English-speaking, foreigner) being over-charged by the local mechanics. I returned to the used car dealer where I’d purchased my vehicle, and asked him, “Is their an honest mechanic in Cambodia?” He laughed. Discouraged, I queried, “Then tell me, who is the best mechanic in Cambodia?” Without hesitation, he shot back, “That would be Taing Sunleng!” I said, “Take me there!”
It was the beginning of a long relationship. He’d work on my car, and I would share with him. One day he said, “I read in the Bible that when Saul became a Christian he changed his name to Paul. I want to change my name!” I assured him, “That’s not necessary, Paul only did that because he wanted a new identity.” He paused, “Well, I used to be a very bad man, and I want a new name!’ I said, “Ok! Who do you want to be? He said, “I want to be Paul Mok”.
Now, of the hundreds of hours I have spent talking with him, he just told Sonny Weimer, our FCOPI Board President, “There are two things that Pa Thom told me that I will never forget. One is: 塑ou can’t keep a bird from taking a dump on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest in your hair,’ and the other is, 塑ou can have all the money in the world; you can buy the best food, but you can’t buy an appetite; You can buy the company of some of the most beautiful women in the world, but you can’t buy their love; and you can buy the best bed in the world, but you can’t buy a good night’s sleep; and you can buy the best medicine and doctors, but you can’t buy good health. Those things come from God.’ ” It’s strange what people remember! ( see photos)
FCOP was busy with teams all month. Our first lesson was in humility. Living Water Church from Olympia, Washington, USA (Close to Seattle) happened to show up just in time for the Super-Bowl (The annual US football championship which featured the favored Denver Broncos vs. the ‘under-dog’ Seattle Seahawks). Now, the problem is that since FCOP International has located its office in the Son-Haul building in Fort Morgan, Colorado, Sou and I have made it our official US residence. Sonny Weimer, our board president, is a life-long Broncos fan, along with Errol and Brenda Faulkes from Colorado. The game began at 6:00am local time here in Cambodia, and the entire Living Water team showed up. Since so many Seahawk fans showed up at the restaurant, the owner put us in separate rooms to prevent mayhem. We Bronco’s fans, puffed up with pride and confidence, offered them our condolences before the game began. Ohhh the pain! The Broncos lost by 35 points which was one of the biggest routs in Super-Bowl history. ( see photos)
To their credit, the Living Water team members were gracious victors. They worked hard and did wonders at the Toul Serey Church/Home. Though the Denver Broncos didn’t make the cut, we had some “Super Teams” this month. These heroes were soon followed by Joyce Butron, our Regional Director who brought a group of family members to refurbish a flood damaged Church/Home in Srayov, they even got Mak Sou and the FCOP Office Staff in on the action. They worked wonders in the short time they were here. Erik Jensen, a FCOPI board member, and a director of Asialink Norway, brought in a small medical team that was so appreciated by the provincial governor, he came to personally open and close the clinic. He noted that only the Christian Teams brought people who gave without wanting anything back. That’s a good way to close the month.
Be blessed! We are!
Ted & Sou Olbrich (Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And, those who do all the work, Our Staff!