Dear Friends and Family,
“Scum bag!” The guy in the airport lounge called me a “scum bag”. I guess, the cross I wore on my shirt offended him, and I was offended at his anti-religion rant. It could have been an interesting evening, but he was so drunk he was ready to fall over without any help from me, so I laughed and said, “You’re right, I believe I am.” and walked away.
I’m really not very religious. Religion bores me. I’m very glad we have theologians, I’m just happy not to be one. I actually prefer to read history. When I do, I inject myself into the midst of it and try to imagine the parts most of us never think about.
For example, take D-Day, June 6, 1944, accepted by most people as the turning point of WWII. The great and victorious landing of nearly 200,000 troops, in 5000 ships, from England across the English Channel onto French beaches. I like to try to imagine General Eisenhower on June 5th. He’d loaded the soldiers onto the ships, and decided to delay the launch for 24 hours due to heavy seas and foggy rain. The forecast was not especially good, but the 6th looked better than the 5th. His soldiers were already sea sick, many experts wanted to delay the invasion, but he knew he could not keep it secret much longer, and it would be two more weeks before the tides would cooperate. He made the decision to launch. ( See Photo) I’m sure he must have wondered, “Where is God?”. It was a time of great risk and pressure, but what he didn’t know was that the storm was so bad that the top German generals had left the front for a birthday party, they knew no one would invade in that weather. The soldiers on the boats were so sick they would risk anything to get back on land. In truth what looked like an act of God’s betrayal turned out to be God’s grace.
During dark days I think about that. Sometimes, terrible things turn out to be good, or at least, good comes out of terrible things. We had 27 of our church homes flooded this past month, our newly planted rice was in peril, we had more than a thousand cases of pink-eye, hundreds of cases of typhoid and strep-throat, and, we were broke, I’d maxed out my personal means to help. I was wondering, “What have I done to deserve this?” ( see photos). Facing $120,000 worth of flood repairs, and $80,000 of orphan support payments due onNov. 1st my bank balance at the close of Oct. 31st was $107.59. It’s one thing to lose a business, or a house, but 3000 kids looking to you for food and shelter when they are knee deep in disease-ridden floodwater? Not fun! And though my burden was light compared to Eisenhower’s, God had me think on his outcome and this gave me hope.
November 1st, I went to the bank, there was a large gift from Union Church in Hong Kong, help form the churches in the USA, help from FCOPI, money from Europe, and a promise from Singapore. We were at least going to survive. Two 40′ shipping containers showed up with a protein drink; 60,000 bottles of it! Two more 40′ containers of nutrition rice meals. ( see photos). This was wonderful, but when I looked back at the unity and compassion poured out by the churches of Cambodia, I felt like a fool for my self-commiserating pity party.
Key leaders are vital. When General Lee (Commanding general of the Confederate army during the American Civil War) lost General Stonewall Jackson at the battle of Chancellorsville, he said, “It was worse than losing a division.” I lost Paul Mok, my trusted rice farm manager. He was forced to quit due to a throat disease that doctors claimed was pre-cancerous. I feared I was finished. But none of us is irreplaceable. And God is a healer. Pastor Muth (our district supervisor from Rattanakirri) brought down a group of over 20 young men from the tribal regions of North East Cambodia to help out at the rice farm. They rebuilt dikes, pumped water, fertilized land, tilled the fields, planted rice, and caught and dried fish for food. Most importantly, Muth penetrated a Lao speaking community near the rice farm, and on the third Sunday of October, 60 of them were baptized. Paul Mok is recovering, and back on his way to the farm with 2&1/2 tons of registered hybrid rice seed, which has the potential to give us seed rice for the next three years. ( see photos)
I believe that leaders can be trained, but honestly, I am convinced that true leadership is a gift, and it can come from strange places. General Grant (the commanding, and victorious, general of all Union Forces at the end of the American Civil War) was a clerk in a harness store in Galena, Illinois when the war broke out. Because he’d studied at West Point ( US Military Academy) and was friends with a local congressman, he was given the rank of brigadier general. He quickly won two victories at forts along the Kentucky and Tennessee borders, and was given his second star. Grant found himself in the heart of the confederacy at Shiloh, Mississippi. Surprised by the enemy, the first day looked like a devastating defeat, the second day Grant rallied his troops, and the third day won a resounding victory. Reporters heard a rumor (never substantiated) that Grant was drunk on the first day of battle. They relentlessly picked this up and pressed President Lincoln, “What do you think about Grant being drunk on the day of battle?” Lincoln paused, and responded, “As to whether General Grant was drunk. I have no knowledge of that. But if he does imbibe, if you would be so kind as to find out what brand he drinks, I’d like to send a bottle to all my generals.”
Thany was found as a ten year old, lapping water from a scum covered pond with his seven year old brother in tow. He was 14 years old when he went to first grade, and was raised in one of our orphan homes. He received his Bachelors degree in Internet Technology this year. Thany, and the son of a preacher, Khemera, are leading our Young Lions on a tear through this nation. In the midst of the floods, the Lions roared in the Southeast corner of Cambodia, and hundreds came to Christ. ( see photos) I wish I could bottle some of that pond scum water and give it to all our youth!
I don’t know what the Young Tigers (our new breed of orphans made pastors) are drinking, but I wish all the churches would find out what it is and have a quart. They have been scrambling all over this country, healings, deliverance, and mass conversions are so common they are expected. Maybe it is a kind of faith, but it sure has been fruitful. Mak Sou has even gotten infected with it and she tells me, “It sure wasn’t pond scum!” Personally, I think she’s been nipping a little on the sly. ( see photos and video).
“What if you pray for someone and they die?” Hey! They do! As my favorite prophet, John Wayne, says, “Everybody gets dead someday!” In fact, if I should, “get dead” don’t you dare pray for me! Last month when I thought I was finally going to heaven by drowning in a water buffalo wallow; my initial shock and attempted escape had failed to produce deliverance. I found that I was looking forward to it, and actually a bit upset, when this farmer opened the door and I came rolling out. There are a lot worse things than being dead. I’ve heard people say, “Every day above ground is a good one.” Well, I beg to differ with you! I prefer heaven to a lot of the junk in this world. We had a district supervisor’s wife that had TB of the spine, she suffered greatly and we prayed for years. She was not healed. Finally we just prayed, “God, this is enough, she either needs to be healed or take her to heaven”. Two days later she died. That is the greatest healing of all! Death is so clean and commercial in the USA. Not so here. ( see photos)
We are so blessed and encouraged by teams that come to help. I honestly don’t know how we’d survive without you! New Life Church from Everett, Washington, USA came and rebuilt our church/home at Trapang Prasat. The physical change is exciting to see, but what they left behind makes me think they might have gotten hold of some of that pond scum. Thanks to “New Life”, the church is alive with new life. ( see photos)
Young people need to connect, and Phil Shipman and Cheyne Jackson, with Mission’s Press, have come up with a hot idea called “One 8”. They were here ( see photos) and I’d like you to link up, because our “Young Lions” are downloading daily experiences that will give you a thirst for pond scum. Download it now http://www.iamone8.com
Cross pollination can be very helpful. It produces hybrid vigor. With this in mind, and with some financial help from our regional office in Singapore, we packed up a few of our lions and tigers and shipped them off to the “Youth Connection” in Indonesia. It worked, they came back more fired up than before. ( see photos)
That’s a wrap. Have a very “Scummy” month! I’m hoping ours continues.
Ted and Sou Olbrich (Pa Thom and Mak Sou)
And those doing all the work,