Update: November 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

The cause of all (most) wars? Someone’s pissing in your river! In the old movie, “The Man Who Would Be King,” two British soldiers desert the army in India during the 1870’s and cross the Himalayas into Afghanistan. They find themselves in a city that is fighting a battle with the city upstream, they can’t figure out what is going on, when another deserter, an Indian national, explains, “These guys are pissing in the river before the water gets to us.” Then they find out they are also fighting a battle with the city downstream from them. Why? “Because we are pissing in the river before it gets to them.” It’s not exactly a ‘pissing contest’ that is causing our problems, it’s the damn dams! Everyone loves, cheap, clean, renewable energy, but Cambodia has a problem, we’re downstream from China, Laos and most of Vietnam. These countries are damming up the tributaries of the Mekong as fast as they can buy concrete. They want to fill their reservoirs so that they are full in order to generate electricity and irrigate their fields during the dry season. So? Our fields and rivers dry up because we have no water during the dry season, and then when we get deluges like we have for the past month, they open up the sluice gates to keep the dams from bursting and like a giant toilet flush, guess who gets submerged? Our floods? (see photos) Its It’s at least partially a dam problem and there is damn little we can do about it, except pray.

I’d rather be friends. Why can’t UNICEF come alongside those that are actually doing something and say, “What can we do to help you?” Are you thinking of  “Trick or Treating” for UNICEF?  Don’t!  According to Jesus, the Pharisees “…Bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do to be seen by men.” Now, if I can be so bold as to apply that to UNICEF, all I can say is that, “Truer words have never been spoken.” They seem to think they own the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cambodia. Obviously, they do call the shots for some officials. When the largest foreign donor to your budget speaks, you listen!  Fortunately, many of the senior leaders resent the imposition of their Western humanistic values on Cambodian organizations. When Prime Minister Hun Sen put out the appeal in 1999, “Someone do something to help us take care of these homeless kids!” FCOP came with the fastest and largest answer, and never requested any government money. (see photos)

Are we perfect? No, Far from it! We don’t mind oversight, and we don’t neglect any wrong once we are made aware of it. Sometimes we may wait for money. But some things are beyond ridiculous. One example: Beds are mandated for all orphan homes, but in the tribal regions the kids pull off the blankets and sleep on the floor between the beds. UNICEF? They pick, squeeze, demand, show up for random inspections, and  point fingers at anything that does not please them, yet have never contributed anything to help us feed, clothe, house, or medically treat an orphan. Yet how do they operate? It took them almost a year to finally close this disgrace. (see article) I agree with Jesus. To the modern day Pharisees, in the form of UNICEF, I would say the same:”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”  I know, you think I should be nice to my enemies, well I do pray for them, but for now, I’ll just follow Jesus’ lead and let them know what I think, as per Matthew Chapter 23.

We had a couple of visitors come by this month to study our success for being the fastest growing national church movement in the world. (see photos)  They came convinced that it was due to our work with orphans and thus, the way to grow a big church was to help orphans. They felt it went like this 1: Help Orphans 2: Plant a Church 3: Let that be a magnet to draw in the rest of the population. It took us a while, but I believe they know better now. If we did it that way we’d just be broke. Here’s how we did it: 1: Plant a Church 2: Get the members into a relationship with Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. 3: Teach them to meet the urgent needs in their community. 4: Reach the nation. We did not start taking care of orphans in order to build a church! We built a church, and healthy churches meet the urgent needs in their community. That’s it! In 1999 the most urgent need we faced was the homeless kids in our community. We only started orphan homes in established churches, that reached at least 100 people in attendance, and then they voted to take the plunge.

Now, we’re reaching out to our communities with all sorts of projects. How do you keep uneducated young women from being trafficked? Introduce them to Jesus, and teach them a viable way to replace the income that they could earn on their backside. That’s not easy, but it is what healthy churches do. So, along with other things, we raise crickets. Which are sold for a healthy, high protein, snack for about $5.00 per kilogram. (see photos) With some training and about $700 dollars investment, the process perfected by our national president, Petros, can help a young woman make more than her friends working in the bars. In addition, she can take the trade back home and it can support her relatives as well.

The Prime Minister wants Cambodia to become a major exporter of rice. The problem is, that in order to do this the government is giving large land concessions to foreign investors, and this is done by grabbing up large tracts of land from small farmers who cannot afford the “Title Deeds”. Most small farmers cannot pay this fee as it costs about $700 to register half a hectare (a little more than an acre). Land grabbing is also fuel for industrial development, with grants attracting the investors who make government facilitators rich, and antagonize the vast majority of poor Cambodians. If there is an “Arab Spring” in Cambodia this will be the cause.  I know how to stop this, and at the same time help poor Cambodian farmers prosper. I’m a farmer. I grew up on a farm, got a degree in Agronomy, and an advanced degree from the International Rice Research Institute. The answer is in rice production cooperatives. (see photos)

FCOP knows how to make Cambodia a rice exporter and keep the land in the hands of small Cambodian farmers. Forty-three years ago I was in the midst of a three year stint working in Laos setting up rice production cooperatives. I spent 10 years working for one of the largest Agricultural Cooperatives in the US, “Growmark”.  This is before I entered ministry. Virtually all of the rice land in Cambodia is capable of raising three crops of high yielding rice per year. Thirty tons per hectare is achievable verses the current two tons, but it requires land consolidation, flood control, irrigation, fertilization, improved varieties, liming, pest and disease control, and modern equipment. We’re getting close with our small operation but the way to change national production is through cooperatives. One farmer with two hectares can never get this done, but 100 farmers with 200 hectares can. Each farmer would own stock in the cooperative according to their land contribution. Since Cambodian farmers all live in villages, where they can still raise gardens, crickets, mushrooms or quail, as well as work for the cooperative, this is not a physical problem of moving people. The problem is simply getting them to work together. How? I have not figured that out yet. Pray.

It is November, the month for the American Holiday called, “Thanksgiving”. It was set up as a time to thank God for His provision. We would like to say, “Thank You!” You may have seen this before, but it always brings a tear to my eye. (see video)

We are thankful for you! Be blessed!

Ted (Pa Thom) and Sou (Mak Sou) Olbrich
And those who do all the work, Our Staff

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