2nd November 2016
Back in 1967, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was visiting the Cambodian capitol Phnom Penh and made a memorable comment to King Norodom Sihanouk, telling him: “I hope, one day, my city will look like this.” History unfolded in quite opposite directions for these two countries. Singapore has far exceeded the dream of Mr. Lee but Cambodia has suffered in ways that defy the imagination.
In late 1998, missionaries Ted and Sou Olbrich arrived to a Cambodia that was just emerging from 30 years of civil war in which one third of the population had died. The capitol city and the nation was in ruins. A flood of NGO’s, relief agencies, United Nations workers, soldiers and missionaries had come to help rebuild this broken land. Sou was originally from Laos and this was not an advantage since Laos was still in the grip of the same communism that had devastated Cambodia. Ted was a pig farmer turned pastor who had no idea how to move forward but carried a vision in his heart to see Cambodia come to Christ. They were unlikely people and the country was less than 1% Christian so the prospects of seeing significant change looked bleak.
Looking after children was not part of their plan and when these most vulnerable members of society started arriving at their doorstep, everyone told Ted and Sou that orphan care was a big mistake. Leaders in the US discouraged them and international organisations like UNICEF have consistently opposed Christian orphan care. The children, however, kept coming and after renting an abandoned brothel and bringing in widows as caregivers, the first home was established. Also, God began to move in unusual ways. A ministry in the USA heard about their situation and sent the first of many containers filled with basic meals and essential items for the children. Soon after that, a visiting Christian businessman offered to help construct the first “Church Orphan Home” which would become the model for 105 others. Also, evangelism exploded and many signs and wonders took place leading to amazing growth and multiplication of churches.
17 years later, over 18,000 orphaned, abandoned and children at risk have spent part of their lives in one of the FCOP church orphan homes (Click here for Thany’s story). Many have married other orphans and nearly all of them have become Christians and are serving the Lord in every part of the country. They have helped to start churches (when you grow up in a church you learn to do everything needed to be in the ministry) and today there are several thousand churches and meeting places where Cambodian pastors and believers are bringing the gospel to their countrymen.
When it comes to facing opposition, the story of Nehemiah offers some insight into how to overcome adversity. As Nehemiah was leading the oppressed and defeated Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, opponents tried many ways to intimidate and stop them. At one point they pressured Nehemiah to come to a meeting (where they planned to ambush him). His response is a classic lesson in leadership: “So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’” (Nehemiah 6:3).
Ted and Sou have refused to abandon the great work of seeing Cambodia come to Christ. Today a key project is to build a sustainable rice farm that will not only feed the children and widows, but provide support for the work as well as help other Cambodian rice farmers to form agricultural cooperatives to increase their productivity (Click here to see the rice project video).
In Deuteronomy 24:19, there is a promise of unusual blessing for those who offer help to orphans and widows: “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do.” Want to learn more? The FCOP website is helpful (http://fcopi.org/).
I am so grateful to be involved in seeing the transformation of a nation!
P.S. Donations to the ministry of Ted and Sou can be sent through the church.
Make cheques payable to "Community of Praise Baptist Church" and include a note that you are giving support for FCOP Cambodia.