Dear Friends and Family,
Every so often, in every life, you receive those shockingly painful blows of reality. They come as telegrams, emails, phone calls, a knock on the door in the middle of the night or a soft touch on the shoulder, but they always send a cold shudder up your spine – someone close has died. We didn’t talk much, but I felt an instant bond. Maybe it wasn’t so much spiritual as it was a sense of brotherhood; we were both farmers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Craig Grunert raised 17,000 acres of canola near Yorktown, SA, Canada; making him certainly one of the largest canola producers in the world. He never went to church; though his wife and daughter rarely missed. As a child, he spent several months in an orphan home with his twin brother. Perhaps that was part of the bond that was so easily formed as he toured our rice farm, and as I shared the dreams we had for the development of the Church in Cambodia. He was comfortable with spiritual things, and I assumed he’d known Christ a long time. It seems they met in Cambodia.
Craig was here early last month with his wife Sherry and daughter Caleigh; son Justin, was home on the farm. After Craig’s return to Canada, he attended church for the first time. He talked about the work of FCOP here in Cambodia and was inviting everyone who would listen to come to a special showing of the pictures from his trip, to be held on April 28th at the church. Instead, it turned out to be his memorial service. More than 1000 people attended. His pastor, Des Klingspoon, explains, “Craig had changed – something really shifted. God used it (the trip to Cambodia) to soften his heart, and he fit in with us all like he had always been part.” Sherry and the family wholeheartedly grabbed onto a memorial fund idea – The Craig Grunert Memorial Rice Plant. They encouraged family and friends to make a donation to plant rice in Cambodia instead of buying flowers. Thus honoring the memory of a passionate farmer by seeding a harvest that will go to feed orphans in Cambodia, a place that he had made a real heart connection with. Jesus put it this way, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” May God bless the Grunert family! ( see photos)
Craig died when he went to inspect a silo of canola. No one knows what happened to this normally, very safety minded farmer. But, he’s the third farmer I have known personally, to die in a bin of grain.
Craig’s mortality has put a new urgency into Sou and I’s own transition in Cambodia. A key factor in making the Cambodian Foursquare Church sustainable is to make it more self-supporting. My fear is that long term donors may see Cambodia as this huge gushing wound with no tourniquet in sight; slow death by bleeding out the donors. That’s a misconception, but an understandable misconception, since I have not communicated with you previously about an end-game. I don’t believe orphans can ever be totally “self-supporting,” but we can move in that direction; and our rice farm is the key. It’s going to have to grow by about five times, take several years, and several million dollars to develop. But, I have the plan to make it work. Cambodia will no longer be a “dependency leach.” Imagine an 8000 church strong system of growing Christians in a poor Asian nation! It will happen. It’s our life’s ambition.
As with our churches, the rice crop is planted, but the ground is not yet green. It’s time to pray for adequate rain. Both physical and spiritual rain. This year we’ve increased production to about 460 acres. The crop is the best fertilized, and best seeded to date. We have about 240 acres that can raise two crops a year, and 60 acres that are capable of growing three crops this year. ( see photos)
Beth Barone has become the newest member of the FCOP International Board of Directors. She has been here for a week, training a group of key transitional leaders. Sou and I realize that we are pioneers. We’re a bit like Gen. George Patton, if you want to win a war, just give us one! But, we’re not the ones to win the peace. That takes a Gen. George Marshall. If you don’t understand me, Google some history. We know that the transition from a “Missionary led movement” to an “Indigenous led movement” will take a “bridge builder.” We are working on that as well. The point is; we have a plan. ( see photos)
The Church just keeps growing. Easter was a big holiday this year with hundreds of people around the country coming to Christ. A missionary friend of mine here in Cambodia wrote to me about a group developing a manual for church planting. I think he probably insulted them when he said, “Why don’t you just get people saved and filled with Holy Spirit and turn them lose? Go visit Foursquare.” I have not been contacted… It is amazing though, how we all embrace the scripture in 1 Corinthians, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” We nod our heads in agreement, and then rush out to get our Doctor of Divinity degrees. I am not against studying theology, but I don’t think it is primary in church growth.
I believe we can be educated and spiritual, but all too often, the seminaries boil the Spirit out of the passionate. It is strange that the greatest healing ministries we have in Cambodia are headed by people who could neither read nor write when they came to Christ. Our Young Lions proved the point in Rattanakirri Province – where 80% are illiterate – they led several hundred people to Christ during a special Easter Service, while another newly appointed missionary couple approached Mak Sou in order to rent a house where they could study the language and culture for two years before they attempt anything “bold.” Something to ponder? ( see photos)
That should get me into enough trouble for one month. Oh! One more thing! After 60 days, our hostage was released. Finally, after a two month struggle and after it was too late to accomplish anything this dry season, our earth moving scraper was released from the Cambodian Port of Sihanoukville. We look forward to seeing it do some work next dry season. ( see photos)
Be blessed! We are!
Ted (Pa Thom) and Sou (Mak Sou) Olbrich
and those who do all the work,