Fallbrook residents are having an impact on the welfare of the Cambodian people, especially children, through the Water of Life (WOL), a ministry of Calvary Chapel. Former Fallbrook resident Randy Fleming is the WOL director who oversees the growing complex which includes three homes for children and a church, Calvary Chapel Phnom Penh.
Fleming has worked with volunteers from Australia, Brazil, Russia, and Germany as well as Texas and California, including more than a few from the Fallbrook area over the last eight years.
It may seem an odd place for an American to call home, but Fleming has lived there since 2005.
He started on his path to Cambodia while he was the owner of the Fallbrook Christian Bookstore. He said he was visited at the store by teenagers from different churches who wanted to go on mission trips. He helped them do fundraisers and went on trips with them to places like Belize and Nicaragua.
Fleming said the people of Fallbrook are “good at giving”. He would take six to eight kids for a week-long build each time. He found the trips to be an adventure and a fun thing to do. He developed a desire to keep doing it, he said during a visit to Fallbrook in December.
When there was a need for teams to transport Bibles from Hong Kong to China, he went with then Rainbow residents Craig and Sandy Ohlson. Fleming recounted that, while in China, they were told Cambodia needed a medical outreach team.
Once in Cambodia, they found the weather hot and the people “very poor”. Fleming said he kept going back to help and at some point he decided, “If I was to know the people, I needed to live there, know their government, eat their food…know their hearts.”
He now oversees a team of 40 workers who teach English along with computer science, fine arts, Bible classes and music.
The English classes have been taught for the last 10 years. Fleming explained that the students are first given a written and verbal test in order to place them in the right level class for learning. After six months of lessons, five days a week, they get a certificate.
“It is important for them to get an education and affect the world around them,” said Fleming.
WOL always has a long line of people waiting to learn English because they don’t have enough room for all of them in the classes. WOL has recently opened a vocational high school, teaching vocational/job skills along with biblical values in a workplace setting.
The ministry’s funding comes from a group here in Fallbrook headed up by Frank and Ruby Phillips. Ruby said their motto is “What God guides, he provides”; if there isn’t money for a project then they figure it isn’t in God’s plans.
She and her husband had lived in Hong Kong for two years helping with getting Bibles into China in the 1980’s and have been involved in other Christian missions in that part of the world. The WOL board also includes Pastor Joseph Wong of Calvary Chapel Chinese Fellowship in Chino.
WOL volunteers who have gone to Cambodia include people from a number of local churches including Christ the King Lutheran Church, SonRise Christian Fellowship, Riverview Evangelical Free Church and Rainbow Community Church.
The latest travelers were Frank Phillip’s son David, a member of Calvary Chapel Temecula, and family friend Gary Eikermann of Fallbrook. They flew to Phnom Penh, a 17 to 18 hour trip, on Sept. 19, 2016, staying until Oct. 9. At a meet and greet event during Fleming’s visit to Fallbrook, Eikermann and Dave Phillips talked about their experiences.
They spent a lot of time on the road traveling to villages, seeing various parts of the WOL ministry and the well-known “killing fields” where Pol Pot, the country’s leader in the mid-70’s, tortured one-third of the population to get them to give up the “enemies”, had them killed and buried in mass shallow graves.
While the population is 98 percent Buddhist, WOL has the government’s permission to teach Bible classes and English.
Eikermann said, “English is the key out of poverty, not British or Australian English; they want American English.”
Out on the farms, he said, older men are learning the Bible and become “pastors” who teach their families and neighbors. “We can have an impact on these people even in short trips, showing them the love of Christ,” Eikermann said.
He added that “Americans sacrifice a lot to live there [in Cambodia]” but “they want us there….we want them to be saved, to teach them the Bible. Teaching them English is a draw.”
Phillips said he was “humbled by it [the trip]. The kids rejoice in the Lord and were enthusiastic” even though they have nothing. “Riches cloud our vision,” he said, adding “We’re part of a body; we have to do whatever we can do to help however we can. I encourage anyone else who is interested in going to go.”
A member of the WOL staff, Texan Andrew Martin, taught himself to crochet so he could teach destitute women (who had been trying to earn a living by going through the dump) how to crochet animals to be sold to give them an income.
These animals were sold at some of Fallbrook’s events in 2016, including the Avocado Festival and the Harvest Faire. This is just one of the ways that residents here have helped WOL’s mission. In the past, Ruby said, there have been times when “all Westerners have been thrown out of Cambodia. If the government changes, that could happen again. So, now is a window in time, an opportunity, [for helping the people there].”
Fleming said, “It is important for them to see we are willing to share God’s love….I am so thankful that each person has helped.”
Of the large staff now working at WOL Cambodia, Ruby said, “We didn’t find those people; they just showed up. The Lord is the only one who could bring them.”
To help this ministry, tax deductible donation can be sent to Water of Life, P.O. Box 2022, Fallbrook, CA 92088. For more information, call (760) 731-6682 or visit www.WaterofLifeCambodia.com.