Dear Friends and Family,
“It’s like deja vu all over again.” I’m sure the old Yogi Berra quote will resonate with most Western pastors, who have stared at empty seats, as they read this. We had 1500 chairs set up for a 7:00 pm Easter evening service. I arrived at 6:55pm and there were 150 people there at best. “What a bust!” I’m thinking as I greet the few faithful attendees. Never before had we over estimated an event in fourteen years of Cambodian church history. After a wonderful, packed-out Easter morning service, I couldn’t help but wonder if the coincidental simultaneous beginning of the Cambodian New Year, and the mass exodus to the countryside which always accompanies it, had beaten us. I was mystified. (see photos)
I sat down as the first performance of the Easter event (A variety show that featured the resurrection of Christ) put together by the “Young Lions”, walked on stage. Feeling that this was going to be a small scale disaster I began praying our kids would not be too discouraged. The program began with a girl who leads worship at our Cham Chao Church as a few additional people began coming through the gate. Then the MC, “Seri Yen”, one of our “Young Lions” from the Don Bosco Technical School in Sihanoukvulle, a girl we helped raise most of her life, welcomed those who had come. Unmoved by the small crowd, with great enthusiasm she talked of the great evening ahead, with her co-host Pastor Khouch lending support.
The second singer came through the curtain at the rear of the stage, I didn’t recognize this beautiful young woman in the long purple and yellow striped gown. She paused, bowed, and thanked Mak and Pa Thom (Sou and I) for helping her, and proceeded to belt out this professional grade song. I thought people were going to tear the gate down trying to get in. It turns out she is a famous recording star and actress who came to know Christ at one of our church homes. I was humbled and honored, thinking, “I don’t even know this girl.” Then they followed, one after another, former kids we’d raised, churches started with our kids that were not even Foursquare, skits, dances, dramas, songs, preaching, and an altar call with dozens of factory workers responding, ending with a fashion show at 10:30pm. By the end of the program, we didn’t have to worry about empty seats, nearly all of them were filled. It blew my mind! Sou and I just looked at each other in amazement. We had no idea of the impact that this movement has had on Cambodia. Pastor Peter says that more than 10,000 kids have lived in our church homes, and they are all over Cambodia taking Jesus with them.
As I watched the Easter evening pageant unfold, I couldn’t hep but think of the alternatives for these 10,000 young people, especially the young women. A few days earlier, Jenny Robinson, (FCOPI Staff Member) called me regarding a response to a potential donor concerning our “War on Trafficking”. She tweaked and transcribed the phone response and put it on her blog. Much better than my rant! It’s a good read. (Jenny’s blog)
Toe to toe with the Devil in the fifteenth round and still swinging. These guys just won’t go down “Ole Slew Foot” has lost the fight, and is getting a severe beating. I watched the movie, “War Horse” on a recent flight to America. When I saw this horse dragging the entire defensive line of barbed wire and just refusing to quit, in my mind I saw our “War Horses of Cambodia.” These are the guys who have kept slugging it out for the past 14 years, with little or no pay, and even less recognition. Everything that God has accomplished here is due to their efforts. These are guys like Long Khit, our General Supervisor, and other leaders like Mao Mengheian, Some Adt, Kong Khouch, So Sanit, and others who have sacrificed so much to see the Kingdom of God arise. I salute you! (see photos)
We keep running into the fruits of the efforts of these leaders. New churches of several hundred members are popping up that we have never heard mentioned. Two new churches emerged up in the Angkorian Region of the Siem Reap province this month. They are outgrowing their houses and just asking for a shelter from the sun. Several of these are being built with no outside help. One such home church is in Khampong Speu province. Several hundred members came out during the Cambodian New Year to be blessed with a foot washing, which is very similar to their traditional blessing of washing of the body. The elders are honored first. (see photos)
The most explosive growth of the year has got to be at Tumnup Island. Mak Sou spent two days touring the region with Pastor El Sim, who has built the work from a few faithful followers to more than 80,000 believers in 38 villages. El Sim is a woman of great faith and gifting. As Mak traveled with her, both blind and deaf people were healed. She’s transmitted the Good News through the use of “Proclaimers” a transmitter that plays the Bible in Cambodian. Both Jim Gleason, who represents “Faith Comes by Hearing,” and George Butron, our FMI Supervisor joined Mak Sou and Pastor El Sim on the trip. (see photos)
I much prefer “Happy Pigs” over “Angry Birds” and would be delighted to feed our swine on bird eggs, even if it meant being pelted by a bunch of disgruntled fowl. Unfortunately, we have no such source of protein for our porkers and have to rely upon rice bran, which we receive as a by-product from our rice mill. This all revolves around our 400 acres of rice production, half of which is now producing two crops per year. That said, a key link in the production chain has been secured. We have our combine! (see photos) Pa Thom tried for a grant to purchase the machine, which got shot down, but in the process of raising matching funds, Pa got the money for his new toy from Church of Living Water in Olympia, WA; Church of the Open Door in Clinton, IA; Gateway Fellowship in Fulton, IL; and Dr. Mike Callan, an FCOPI Board Member. Now all we have to do is figure out how to haul the combine so we can do custom harvesting in order to raise funds to plant some new churches. Thank you!
This was a month of meetings and celebrations. Cambodia New Year knocks out about half a month in terms of productivity. Mak Sou had some of the orphan kids come for a swim, and they had to first “Bless” her. (see photos) Fortunately, we kept busy during the lull, with meetings and foreign visitors.
For the first time in history, a sitting Foursquare International President has visited Cambodia. Dr Glenn Burris was here and spoke at the Chom Chao service on April 22nd, after arriving from a meeting of the S.E. Asian Church leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. FCOP was there. (see photos) That was our month. How was yours?
Be blessed! We plan on it.
Pa Thom (Ted) and Mak Sou (Sou) Olbrich,
And, the gang that does all the work,