Dear Friends and Family,
Things that should not happen, do, and things that people believe should, don’t. An elderly man had passed away, and in his will stipulated an early morning funeral. The grave digger came out the afternoon before the funeral and, in the hard red clay soil of the town cemetery, dug a very precise six foot deep grave. That night the town drunk stayed out until the bars closed down, and because he was a little tipsy, he decided to take a shortcut home through the cemetery. Sure enough, in the moonless dark, he stepped right into the open grave. He tried again and again to jump out, but exhausted himself in the process, and decided to just crouch down in one corner and wait until the mourners came in the morning to help him out.
Several minutes later a young man, who had overstayed his curfew sparking his girl, decided he needed to get home fast, so he took the same shortcut. He too fell into the open grave and tried to jump out several times in vain. The drunk, not wanting to see the young man exhaust himself in useless effort, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “You’ll never make it.” But he did! Nazareth was abandoned in a basket at the round-a-bout, near our training center, eleven years ago. He was so malnourished and abused he could not use his legs. We were told he’d never walk or learn. Yesterday, he stood in front of 600 people and sang a solo in praise to God. He’s doing well in school, riding a bicycle, as well as running all over the place. He couldn’t do it, but he did! ( See Photos)
Ten years ago we dedicated the Training Center. Its existence has led to hundreds of thousands of Cambodian’s coming to Christ. Its campus has grown, it’s outlived three coats of paint, and could use another, but the mission has never changed. It now includes: a 480 bed factory women’s dorm, hospital, tractor factory, weaving arts building, library, outdoor events stage, automotive technology building, and an office complex as well as storage building. It should have never happened. Originally funded by a devout Buddhist woman from Singapore who knew that we were leading people to Christ. It was a miracle in itself.
Built in the center of a rice field, it is now in the center of “New Phnom Penh”. The mission has not changed and though seasoned missionaries told us we were doomed to fail due to our unsustainable model, we chug on, twenty times bigger than we were then, with more than 10,000 children raised for Christ at some point and five times the number of Church Homes. FCOP has survived drought, flood, fire, disease, lies, enemies, curses, and betrayal. Since the Church and child care are growing faster than ever, I believe the best is still to come. The experts said, “You’ll never make it!” But we did! ( See Photos)
The Grinch (me?) is a grouch! Right? Its “Christmas shoebox” time! (If you are not familiar with this program, Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry founded by Franklin Graham, seeks to provide orphans with a shoebox full of small presents at Christmas. ) It’s a sweet idea! I wish I was clever enough to think of a fund raiser that made me come out looking like Mother Teresa, all my critics like Scrooge, and fund FCOP for a year to come. My hat goes off to Franklin!
Now, Samaritan’s Purse does good things with the money they receive, and the kids like the stuff, but the main benefit is to fund Samaritan’s Purse. The participants (you) purchase a shoebox full of a prescribed list of items, and then send in $7.00 along with each shoebox for shipping and handling. This raises a lot of money for the ministry, as the actual shipping cost is small percentage of what is raised. The shoeboxes are sent to a common collection point where they are loaded on 40 foot shipping containers. Once these containers hit port at the designated receiving country, the recipients (us) pay for all local shipping and distribution.
We participated in this once. We won’t do it again. Why? 1) We only received half the boxes that we needed, so, half our kids got nothing, which was a bit of a disappointment. 2) It cost us several thousand dollars of operating money to receive the shoeboxes through customs and distribute them. 3) Christmas is not commercialized in Cambodia, so gifts are not expected. 4) The kids received paddle balls, plastic toys, rubber dolls, and stuff which did make them happy for a short time, but the items were gone or broken in days.
So? What do our kids really want, and need? New school uniforms ( See Photo). For $7.00 we can get everything but the shoes ($9.00 buys it all). They can’t go to school without these. They are sent home! So, you tell me; what is more important? Now, please, here is what I’d like you to do. Send Samaritans Purse a $7.00 donation (they’re a good organization) and forget the shoebox. We’ll all save money. Then, take what you’d spend to fill the box, probably another $7.00 to $10.00, and send it to FCOP via: http://fcopi.org/give . Yet, I fear, that if I ask you to send a donation for $7.00 for a uniform, some of you will think I’m Scrooge for depriving the kids of fun presents. Bummer, I’m a Grinch!
Last month I was speaking at The King’s Harvest Church in Terra Haute, Indiana, and the kids there had purchased 90 uniforms this year with pocket change they collected, and people still sent Samaritan’s Purse some shoeboxes. Win-Win! You’d think they could never do it, but they did! Now, if I could just figure out how to get you to buy a uniform, put it in a shoebox, deliver it to a collection point, and then mail me $7.00 US to boot for shipping and handling, I’d really have it made. I’m just kidding! ( Because the uniforms have to be precise, in both format and color, for specific sex and age groupings.) But, I can dream! Right?
Cambodian orphans may not expect presents at Christmas, but they do want a wedding. Right now, I need a wedding fund. How do you get 3000 orphans married? Two at a time! Two of our kids went to the altar last week. Can you put a wedding in a shoebox? Someone figure this out for me. Please! ( See Photos)
She was a “Hooker” who gave “False witness”. Certainly, according to religious experts, a woman bound for hell. Right? Wrong! She made the “Hall of Fame of Faith” in Hebrews 11:31. So, what is it that the commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” all about? It is about destroying someone through false testimony. I don’t know who said this, but it’s a good quote: “A lie’s true power cannot be accurately measured by the number of people who believe its deception when it is told, it must be measured by the number of people who will go out after hearing it trying to convince others of its truth.”
We’ve had plenty of “whoppers” thrown at us, the cruelest cut of all is that we are just trying to amass a great deal of property in order to sell it and be rich. ( See Photos) Trust me, if that were the case, we’d be gone! We’d like to be with our grand-kids, but there is no provision for “not-for-profits” or churches to own property in Cambodia. One of the big problems in Cambodia is the lack of good land ownership law. If it were easy to build and own churches, the countryside would be covered with them. Everything done with the Cambodian government requires great “flexibility”. Every Christian ministry I know of, which has attempted building in Cambodia, has lost property. We lost two churches about ten years ago, but, have survived, and thrived, by doing whatever it takes to continue to establish church meeting locations throughout the country. Now, if our methods offend you? Take a number, pick up a pail of rocks, and get in line. You’ll find a lot of company.
Solutions to problems like this take prayer, time, money, and legislation. Sou and I are committed to spending the rest of our lives here, if it takes that long, to assure that every church building remains in the Lord’s service until He returns. And, that’s all I have to say about that. The liars? Well, they can just repent, or go to where the religious would like to send them. I’m sure they’d expect to meet us there.
This just should not be in an orderly world! “They’re not fit to preach; they’re untrained and ignorant. Some can’t even read; you’re sure to fail!” Or, so the religious scholars told us. “You’ll take anyone to be a pastor in your church!” scoffed the “Pharisees”. Half a million souls later, they’re still trying to tell us it won’t work. But, after seeing the results, I’d take a God anointed ignoramus over the most highly decorated Doctor of Divinity on earth. We do train our leaders, but it never replaces hearing from the Holy Spirit. ( See Photos)
We were out of rice in July. “You guys will all starve!” gloated the enemies of FCOP. It didn’t happen because you came through! We now have enough rice to get us to harvest. The critics accused us of selling rice from our mill. Well, they should know! Because the corrupt former manager allowed about 25 tons of stored rice to mold because he was too lazy to level and aerate it. Yes, we sold it to a distiller in July, and bought back good rice. We never kept that a secret, but the truth is that without the benevolence of our supporters, we’d be starving. We’ve never missed a meal and, what’s more, all the dire projections of our financial demise have been proven wrong as well. Giving is up, and so are the numbers of children under our care. We’ve added 218 orphaned and abandoned kids since July, almost all referred to us by the government. FCOP received the highest rating of excellence the Ministry of Social Concerns ever awarded us. We are held up as examples over much more lavishly funded institutions. Thank you to all who helped us feed these kids! ( See Photos)
The last thing in the world we expected was a good rice crop. The first good seed was stolen then sold. Portions of our rice crop died twice. Once to drought, and again to flood. We just finished planting some of it for the third time, but all the lime, fertilizer, weed-insect-disease control, ditching and diking is beginning to pay off. This crop should have been dead twice over, but thanks be to God we are looking at what may be the best crop of rice this region has ever seen. This should not be happening, but the pictures don’t lie. Take a look! ( See Photos)
When our former national leader abandoned our Isaiah 58:6-8 values for a life of manipulating foreign money, I wanted to die. The term “Con Man” is an abbreviation for “Confidence Man”, which means one in whom you trust and confide. No one is more surprised at the revelation of the true motives of the deceiver than the duped believer. That’s me! Guilty as charged. But this change of leadership, painful as it was, has been a huge blessing. We see in excess of 1000 souls per week coming to Christ just in Sunday services. New churches are popping up all over Cambodia. Like doctors sometimes using maggots to cleanse an untreatable wound, God has used these “self-servers” to make us stronger. Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” Well, it wasn’t predicted, but our groans have turned to shouts of joy! ( See Photos)
“You can’t educate all these kids!” I used to let the devil keep me awake at night with that accusation. I’d stare at the ceiling and just pray with no concept of a solution. The improved Cambodian job market, our need for pastors and the help of partners like Don Bosco have put me in the position of Mark Twain, “I’ve been afraid of a lot of things in my life, fortunately most of them never happened!” A big “Thanks!” to Father John Visser for taking a chance on kids who had no chance! We have thirty of our post high school students studying at the school in Sihanoukville. ( See Photos).
Be thankful, enjoy your turkey, and be blessed. We are, and we shall!
Pa Thom (Ted) and Mak Sou (Sou) Olbrich.
And those doing all the work,