Dear Friends and Family,
( see photos) This is an “Update” I hoped to never write. We have lost our second rice crop to drought. There is still time for a short season crop, and the heaviest rain of the season is usually September through October, and it’s raining now. So, we must plant for the third time. We have gone to Vietnam and bought rice seed on credit AGAIN and are about 95% planted, but our debt load is almost paralyzing. We are down, but not defeated. It is hard to believe how we had severe drought in rice growing areas when the Mekong River is at flood stage from the excessive rains in the northern parts of SE Asia. The academic school year start in Cambodia has been delayed a month due to flooding! But, as long as we don’t give up, and can withstand the discouragement, and not give in to mental defeat, we will win this thing. We will fight rats, crabs, weeds, diseases, insects, manage water, and see this through.
( see photos) In 1936 my grandfather went through the hardest year for agriculture in the 20th century in the USA. It was total “dust bowl” throughout the country, and the temptation was to project that current disaster into the future. It was ‘climate change’ on steroids. Many did give up, but my grandfather kept going and 1937 was one of the best, and most profitable, years he ever had. We need that kind of turn-around, and we really need your prayers and help! Somehow, we have to find an extra hundred thousand dollars, soon!
( see photos) I’ve got orphans living on nutrition rice and gourds supplemented by what they can raise in their gardens and catch in their ponds. The government and UNICEF are inspecting our homes looking for problems. At the same time, we have opened more churches and seen more people come to Christ in this past month than about any time in our history. I believe we are in a spiritual battle for our lives. It would be unthinkable to lose Cambodia after coming this far. So, how come orphans who have prayed people back from the dead can’t get a rain on their rice? Believe me I’ve wrestled with that, but look at the Bible. Every great victory came from the jaws of defeat. For three days, even the victorious cross Jesus died on appeared as though the devil had won.
Something I’ve learned about leadership is a concept I’ve never seen articulated. I believe it’s like this: Leaders have to project their faith into the perceived direction of their calling, often without a clear telegraphing of instructions from God, and act on that overriding faith in the certainty of the call, pulling from their training and experience which Providence has provided, to pursue this “call”; with the concept of failure not even a remote option (It’s a bit like acting, only the script is real life). If you are involved in building the Kingdom of God, you will face fierce opposition. If not, your work is not significant. The key role of the leader is to find ways to overcome the obstacles, not to make excuses for being overwhelmed by them. The vital component for victory is to keep moving forward, toward the “call”, even when you suffer setbacks, and are unsuccessful. Leaders may change tactics, and even adjust strategy, but they never abandon the “call”, and they never give in to complaining and self-pity.
( see photos So, why, with thousands of orphans, widows, and pastors praying daily for a good rice crop, have we seen two crops die? Have we missed God? Is there sin in the camp? The truthful answer is, “With so many people involved, at times, ‘Yes’, on both counts.” But, as a movement, we are answering the “call” to see Cambodia come to Christ, and that is what propels us forward, not our failures or mistakes. The worst thing we can do is quit moving! God can turn a moving wheel, even if it is headed in the wrong direction, but for the sake of the kingdom, make the best decisions you can, based on the knowledge you have, and move! That’s why we plant rice. I know rice. God prepared me for this. And, I don’t know how to quit. We do need to develop reservoirs, but it will cost $300,000, and we don’t have that yet.
Why so much emphasis on the rice farm? Wouldn’t it be better to take the money and just buy rice? This year that may prove to be true, but in the long haul there is one overriding fact, as Oral Roberts said, “Without a successor there will be no success.” This work in Cambodia must be bigger than Ted and Sou Olbrich; it must change a nation. That means we must transition form being dependent upon outside sources, and foreign leaders, to promote the benevolence of the church, and start to grow internal provision through both human and material resources. Much of this will come from Cambodian giving, but even now, Cambodian church home enterprises, (the tractor factory, car washes, beauty school, fish ponds, carpentry shops, weaving, mushroom production, pig enterprises, and vegetable gardens, etc.) along with internal giving is supplying nearly 50% of the support for FCOP orphans. But, to see this work endure in the long run, we need developed leaders and an internal source of supply and funding. God has given us young leaders raised in our homes, and rice is the one commodity that Cambodians will always be dependent upon, as they eat it three meals per day. There will always be demand for it, and land doesn’t burn down, rot, or walk away. It is a solid foundation for future provision.
( see photos) We distributed more than 120 tons of nutrition rice meals this month, with the hope this can keep us going for two more months. Some of it was tied up at the port for six months due to political turmoil in the country. The ultimate irony is that even the rice farm ran out of rice to eat. We had to go to town and buy it. The heroes are unsung. People like Bill Meyer, Lou Binninger, Eric Rivera, Dave Wilkinson, and others, who work to send hundreds of tons of food to feed kids half way around the world. They will most likely never see them, or even know they exist. Well, at FCOP we know it, and we are eternally grateful! Do you want a 500% return on your giving? Think about this, these aforementioned men can obtain food in 40 foot shipping containers form sources like Feed My Starving Children, Stop Hunger Now, Gleanings for the Hungry, and the Butte Country Rice Producers for free. The purchase value for us in Cambodia, to just replace the volume of rice and protein being sent, with not nearly the nutritional value, would be in excess of $25,000 per container. By the time we pay shipping and clearance costs, each container of food costs us only about $5,000. We need more, but we lack the funds to pay for shipping. It is a great way to multiply your giving power.
( see photos) In Kampong Som, we have 70 people living in a building designed for 40. Why? Because, we have 50 kids graduating high school and attending Don Bosco Technical School this fall, which is right next-door. We’ve had hundreds of students go through this technical university through the years, and they all do well. They do everything from work in five star hotels to weld bridges, but what really blesses us is that the Catholic Order pays for most of this valuable education for us. We buy books and uniforms, and I didn’t have the money for that, for the 50 students coming in this fall. My good friend, Father John Visser, gave us a 30 day extension. We need $7000US to secure their education and a bright future.
( see photos) The 16 years of our operations has been hard on our church home structures. Acid rain has rusted roofs, termites have chewed up wood, and water has caused rot in beams. 15,000 orphans have been raised in these facilities at some point in that time, and hundreds of thousands of Cambodians have come to Christ, but a lot of homes need renovations. Our two floating churches have exceeded their life expectancy and need major rebuilds. Teams are a vital part of our survival, but, what teams bring is much more than money and labor, it’s the sense that “We matter” that is imparted to kids who have been discarded. That is so big, it is impossible to place a value on the benefit! Buildings can rot, and roofs cave in, but a life changed extends into eternity. To this end, once more, we received a great team from Living Water, the Olympia Foursquare church. Thanks for the blessing in money, material and labor, but mostly for the value you have imparted to the kids.
Sorry, once more, too much information. But, we have a lot going on. Be blessed this month, and pray for us. We need a month of blessing as well!
Ted (Pa Thom) and Sou (Mak Sou) Olbrich and those doing all the work, Our Staff of FCOPI Cambodia