Spreading love . . .

Recently, Angelica was asked what little thing she really loves to do, and she said, “Make flower bouquets!”

The question was just an ice breaker, but it touches on something important. There are all kinds of projects we can “do” to help people physically and spiritually; but sometimes it is the little things that touch people.

I have told you before that we minister to couples so they can understand that making a commitment to each other is important, and that having an event to publicly commit, in front of witnesses and God, will make their marriage stronger. For many brides, having an “Angelica” bouquet means the world to them.

Back to Full Throttle

Now that we are almost completely free to meet and travel, we have spent the past six weeks preparing for the next few months of ministry. We are even launching a few new ministries. In February, we resumed our work with one Indigenous group and started with another.

In Indigenous areas where children are frequently abused, we always start with the creation story from the Bible. We want the children to know they are created by God, and that He made them the way they are. We want them to know they have value!

After a few weeks of teaching the children that they are God’s creation, we begin to see new confidence. It is interesting that if you ask these children if they are Paraguayan, they will say, “No, I am Indigenous.” Many times they will not even mention the name of their tribe.

The other reason we start with the creation story, is that most Indigenous tribes have their own religion, usually tied to nature. If we use the Guarani word for God as the creator, they have no problem. But they reject the view of God as the Father. For right now, we are beginning by helping them know they have value.

Many of the Indigenous tribes live in unfortunate conditions, way below the typical Paraguayan; and most have accepted this as their lot in life. There is a tremendous amount of destructive behavior in their communities. Angelica and I, along with our team of Paraguayans, want to help the Indigenous people know that they are important to us and to God.

Paraguayan Fact:

These guys are at all our preparation meetings.

Because of you . . .

I recently watched a video on short-term mission trips, in which a man said many people aren’t content just giving money.” He said, “People want to do more.” It occurred to me, this man doesn’t understand the significance of funding. Almost everything we do here in Paraguay is because of your support.

Paul speaks frequently about the importance of supporting the church and missions. Over and over in his letters, he thanks the believers for their gifts. Angelica and I want to do the same. Truly, you are our partner in sharing Christ in Paraguay.

Though COVID still creates limits on what we can do, Angelica stays busy counseling people in need. In fact, people grab her whenever she leaves the house.

In our last letter, I asked for prayer about an exploration trip to “the Choco.” As it turns out, the trip was much like a story I once heard about a pastor who had an accident while traveling. The accident scattered Christian pamphlets all over the road. Upon seeing the mess, a passerby stopped to help. Realizing the man was a pastor, the passerby asked, “Didn’t you pray before you left?”   

On our trip to the Choco, my adventurist buddies and I made a few miscalculations—including route, time, fuel and money! The roads were much worse than we anticipated, and my GPS had a hard time finding alternate routes.

We traveled 283 kilometers on dirt roads, mostly in 4-wheel drive. On one stretch, we saw only one other vehicle and two buildings in 3.5 hours. The 10-hour drive took over 13 hours, and we saw more wildlife than people on the way. Even though we brought 20 liters of extra fuel, we almost ran out.

The roads were so bad, we never reached the town we intended to explore. But just as God works,

He had a plan for that difficult journey.

Instead of our original plan, we landed in the perfect place, meeting just the right people, including a local political leader. We were able to explain our sexual abuse prevention ministry for children. This trip also allowed us to test our system for maintaining and preparing food for days without electricity, and we learned we can cut six hours off the trip by taking a ferry to Brazil. We are now planning another trip (this time with Angelica) to bring the Gospel to this very remote region of Paraguay.  

Friends, we thank you for your partnership.

Because of you, we are able to reach the most remote parts of Paraguay with the message of God’s love. You can make a year-end gift by giving here online (https://www.tms-global.org/give) by tomorrow by midnight. (Our “Worker ID” is 0445).

Paraguay Fact

If you have a friend who is a chef, you can eat good no matter where you are.

A Life Knowing Jesus

I am writing this the morning after our first real rain in ten months. It has been a long time since I have risen to a clear morning without smoke and dust. Everything has turned instantly green and the sound of birds singing is so prevalent, it is almost distracting.

In an instant, nature can change from desolate to vibrant.

A relationship with Christ can also change lives and, often times, instantly. After years of following Christ, we sometimes forget how desolate life can be without him. Although Angelica and I sometimes settle into a routine Christian life, we are reminded of the power of Jesus each time we share His story with people in desperate situations.

There is a lot of focus on the negative, but Angelica and I, along with our team of Paraguayans, are looking forward to what we can do to make life better. We are making plans to go deeper into the interior of Paraguay sharing Christ and changing desolate to vibrant.

The people who make our work possible will never make the news. People who are obedient to God, caring for people they don’t even know on another continent, are not newsworthy. What many of y’all have done will not be in today’s headlines—but we know.

Heraldo

Heraldo is a 9-year-old that lives in one of the shanty towns where Angelica and her team teach sexual abuse prevention. He has been one of the most attentive students and we see the difference his new relationship with Jesus has made in his life.

He recently asked for prayer for his father who has been a drug addict for 13 years. A few weeks later, his dad committed to entering a program. The same week, Heraldo’s mom won a government lottery to receive a small house, built for families living in “insufficient” housing. The family still has difficulties—Heraldo’s younger brother has cancer—but they are now living life knowing Jesus Christ.

Paraguay Fact:

Big birds really like fruit.

Prayer Requests

  • Pray for Heraldo’s brother Eric who is 8 and has cancer.
  • Pray for more rain.
  • Pray for a “scouting” trip we are taking next week. We have been going deeper into the interior for a couple of years, but now are working to reach some really isolated places.

Donate

You can make financial contributions to our ministry in Paraguay through TMS Global by mailing a check to Christian Dickson, c/o TMS Global, Inc., PO Box 936559, Atlanta, GA 31193-6559 or online below.

Siezing the Opportunity

In the early 1860s, Paraguay fought a war. When it was over, there were no more than 25,000 men left in the country. Later in the 1930s, they fought another war, and towards the end, they began using children as soldiers. This created an environment in which men would not get married and usually had several mistresses.

I recently heard a Hank William Jr. song that says, “Old habits are hard to break.” These might seem like good lyrics for a country music song, but it is also true. Today Paraguay has a very large percentage of couples who don’t marry. This has always been a ministry for Angelica and I. We have worked with couples about the importance of marrying before they start a family, and we have worked with couples who have been together for years, helping them understand the importance of making a commitment.

We have helped couples understand that not having the money to get married is just an excuse. For years we have had a ministry of creating small weddings, providing the decorations and food for the celebration of their commitment at a low cost.

The pandemic has created a unique situation in that no more than 20 people can gather here. This has helped couples realize what we have been saying all along, that their commitment to each other is important, and that it really is better when just family and close friends are there to witness their vows.

Who would have thought that all over the world we would be experiencing such events and that we would be forced to make so many changes? Just like many of y’all, our plans have been completely upended. Angelica and I are adapting to the changes and constantly looking for ways to share Christ. We believe that marriage is ordained in the Bible and that stronger families help us live better lives and more importantly support us in following Christ.    

Paraguay Fact:

In Vegas there are drive through weddings. Here there are drive by congratulations after the wedding.

Please Pray

Pray for the shutdown. Just like in the US, people want to get back to work and they are protesting.

Pray for discernment. We are being asked to help out in new areas, but we won’t be able to do everything once we open back up.

Pray for Camila who has decided to stay here for a while because her school is going online.

Helping Amidst Quarantine

Angelica is always bothered when I notice and comment about things being out of place. Neither her nor my mother-in-law seem impressed with my ability to tell them where things are. They don’t find it useful when I tell them which drawer something is in. They also don’t see the beauty in my perfect understanding of the clock nor do the instructive notes I leave around the house garner the appreciation I think they deserve.

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Both Angelica and my mother-in-law appear to be enjoying this time of quarantine, and the havoc it has played on my daily routine and impeccable organization. Angelica on the other hand has adapted to our new normal and become a wiz at Zoom and other ways to counsel and teach.

In reality, apart from a few minor inconveniences to our schedule, we are getting along fine and adapting our ministries. Unfortunately, many Paraguayans are feeling the effects of not being able to work and earn income. Most Paraguayans don’t have much savings and were feeling the pinch within a few weeks of the shutdown.

Angelica had a great idea of how we could help. We got fruit crates from the local farmers’ market. AnnaBelen painted each of the crates with different designs, and we filled them with food. This not only gave us an opportunity to help families, but we also time to share with them when we dropped off the crates.

I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the country with a young man we have worked with for years, delivering food to pastors. Having a fast truck that can get to remote places has been a blessing. We are thankful to have the resources and time to assist and share with people who are off the beaten path.

We do not know when life will go back to normal, but we are constantly in contact with our team. We will be ready to travel as soon as we are allowed.

Parguayan Fact

Paraguay has some of the best engineers in the world. 

Sharing Christ Amidst the Corona Virus

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We’ve heard the Coronavirus can’t live long in the heat, so Paraguay should be one of the safer places in the world.

For the past two weeks, we’ve had temperatures between 97 and 104 degrees and no rain in a month; but like the rest of the world, we are under quarantine. Unlike the rest of the world, we are quarantining ourselves in our one bedroom that has AC.

Unknowingly, we have adapted over the years to the long hot days of summer by not staying in the house. I was not aware we had developed a defense mechanism until we became confined to the house. I have been looking for excuses to run errands for Angelica, just so I can get into my truck with the AC. Going to the grocery store is a real treat. AnnaBelen is even missing school, but maybe she is just missing the air-conditioned classrooms.

We have very few cases of Coronavirus in Paraguay. As I write this, only 32 and two deaths. But the country is not set-up to handle the large number of cases happening in other countries, so the government has been very strict. We have been on total lockdown for four weeks. Only one person can leave the house for food and almost no one is working. They are strict about how many people they allow in the supermarket and who can leave their homes, and they have arrested hundreds maybe thousands of people for not abiding by the quarantine.

Not knowing the future can cause us all to live in fear. This is nothing new. Many people who don’t know Christ live in fear—fear of the unknown and fear they will never escape the life they are currently living. Angelica and I believe God has a plan for each one of us, and we believe He can make the impossible possible. God can change any situation, and we have security in His salvation.

Although we cannot leave the house, we are still telling people about Jesus by whatever means we can to communicate. We are also planning and preparing for when we can get out again. We are constantly communicating with our team of believers and we will be ready to travel and share as soon as we are cut loose.

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray for peace and wisdom during this time of uncertainty.
  • Pray for Camila who is staying with her roommate’s family in Arizona.

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Paraguay Fact:

The van arrived without much fan fair because of the quarantine. Hopefully we will be able to send a picture soon of it full of people ready to share Christ.

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Where We Come From . . .

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We enjoy what we do and believe we are being obedient to God’s call. It is a nice feeling to help people, both physically and spiritually. Angelica and I know that a relationship with Christ can change people’s lives and help them make a difference in their little part of the world. These little victories come from the power given to us by other people, in the form of prayer, support, and funds. I know many times the news would have you think differently, but lives are being transformed because of your investment in people.

Fresh cool air, clean streets, orderly traffic, planned development and
college football—what’s not to like about living in Alpharetta, Georgia. When your surroundings are the complete opposite, it is easy to appreciate one over the other. I like my hometown and enjoy every minute I am there. Our family always looks forward to being home. “So, why not stay?” That’s what our daughter AnnaBelen always asks.

Angelica and I firmly believe God called me to Paraguay to meet her and serve this part of the world. We also believe he called the people from my hometown and other parts of the US to support us so together we can change lives and share Christ.

I love my hometown and appreciate all the people that support us. On the other hand, I came from God and He is the one that makes possible all that we do. So I will stay here and share Christ, even when it is not my first choice of places to live.

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Sometime You Just Have Do It

We have been working for years in rural parts of Paraguay, conducting experimental agriculture with the ministry Agrimissions. For the past 16 or so years, we have been assisting local farmers in discovering better ways to plant their cash crops. We involve the Ministry of Agriculture and have other experts come teach. We have made small improvements, but it always seems that the small farmer just cannot get ahead, because they cannot compete with the big farm operations.

Years ago, I started exploring other ways to help the community. Though we were in the country, we realized no one planted gardens. So we started planting gardens. We have made tremendous headway and now there are gardens at almost every other house in the village.

Unfortunately, because of the heat here, gardens can only be planted in the winter. I have been told gardens can be planted in the summer, but I have never seen it. So I decided we would do it.

Our friends the Bakers helped us with the most important part—a well. Now that the well is in, we are working on an irrigation system and learning all that we can about shade and other ways to handle the heat. Our hope is that this will be another way to help the Paraguayans live more comfortable lives.

Paraguayan Fact:

Guess I really did not need the full-size truck that y’all helped me by.

Bike

Sharing Through Tall Tales

You’ve heard of Hollywood and you may even know Bollywood, but have you ever heard tall tales about the land of Paraguay, where a flamboyant and exotic Aurora and her hapless friend Leoncido (a Lion) live?

Aurora, who is a parrot from Brazil and an actor in a weekly production, has become quite a spectacle here in the poor neighborhoods of Paraguay.  She and her friend Leoncido act out stories to teach children about the dangers of sexual abuse and how to avoid it.

Kids line the dirt roads of their little settlements, waiting for Aurora’s arrival by bus or truck. They run after her and chant her name as they breathe in the dust from her arrival. Kids can be heard reciting her teachings in their little wooden houses or along the narrow paths that wind through the settlements. There is even a little pouting when Aurora doesn’t show up. 

Angelica and her group of actors have become well known and are being asked to perform in “outdoor” theaters throughout the country. They captivate children with song, dance and rhyme, speaking in a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, English and Garani. They teach about God’s plan for the children’s lives and that no matter the circumstance, they are important. 

Kids in these poor neighborhoods are being transformed—they are more respectful, attentive and confident. They cherish their time with the actors and many have felt comfortable enough to share with Angelica or others about abuse.

Sexual abuse is rampant in Paraguay; it touches almost every family. Sometimes, it seems part of the culture in the poor neighborhoods and it leads to countless problems as kids grow older. Angelica and I meet regularly with young people locked in sin and unhealthy behaviors
because of sexual abuse.

The actors in this tale may never be on the BIG SCEEEN, but they are positively affecting one little life at a time in places most will never know.

 

Paraguayan Fact

We sure miss the Land Cruiser.

The Right Place and the Right Person at the RIGHT TIME

Angelica and I spend a lot of time preparing ourselves and preparing different activities to serve others and share Christ. As I have mentioned in other newsletters, our preparations often pay off. Other times God uses people we would never expect to do “His” work.

Last month, we hosted a medical team that has been coming to Paraguay for over 20 years. It is a lot of work, because the team is big and we go to the interior. Every year God reveals Himself to us in ways we cannot imagine. I could write pages about the things that have happened over the years with this team.

Angelica’s uncle Miguel always goes with us because, as Angelica says, he is very useful. Tio Miguel’s relationship with Christ is questionable. He certainly knows about Christ, but I am not sure how seriously he takes it. He knows what we believe and is always ready to help, but I
sometimes feel he does this just because he is a good man and not because he is a Christ follower.

When the medical team is here, Tio is our fix-it and go-for man. Toward the end of the week, Tio asked someone in the community if they knew anyone who could wash his clothes. He got a little turned around and went to the wrong house. As he approached the house, he found an old woman (Pastora) in front of the house, hunched over in a chair. She was obviously in pain, so he asked what was going on. She was a little hard to understand, so he asked her neighbor her story. The neighbor said that she had fallen a week ago, was in a lot of pain, and could hardly move. She said she lived alone and that they had been helping her with a little food, but that was all they could do. Other than that she had been left alone.

Tio quickly returned to us and we sent a doctor to her house. The doctor said she needed and x-ray, so Tio made a bed for her in the back of his truck and took her to the nearest X-ray, about an hour away. The X-ray revealed she had fractured her arm in three places. We attended to her, gave her meds for her pain, visited her before we left, and introduced her to a local pastor. Pastora accepted Christ, and we made sure the local congregation knew of her situation and their responsibility. 

This woman was without hope with hardly anyone even considering her plight. We the missionaries and doctors were just a few 100 yards away from her house; yet if not for a chance “visit” by Tio, we would have never connected.

Paraguayan Fact

We share with all down here.

Sometimes Blessings Bring Challenges

In Acts, Jesus tells the believers to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” It’s probably an exaggeration to say that Angelica and I have gone to the ends of the earth, but sometimes it seems like it. With all the rain we’ve had and the miles of dirt roads, we put our vehicles to the test. Last week, Angelica challenged me, suggesting I could not enter where she has with her truck. I am not sure if she doubted me, my truck, or both.

Last week, because of problems in an eastern European country, Angelica and I were asked to host four young men who were supposed to serve in Europe. We already have a young couple arriving soon to serve with us for two months. While we are happy to host these young people, Angelica’s first question was, “How are we going to get all of our team into some of these places.”

Many times, spiritual and physical needs are directly associated with being isolated. There is a tremendous need in the many areas of Paraguay that have been underwater and isolated for months. These are the places we are invited to the most. I have been suggesting to Angelica that we need to explore the flooded areas and, again, she has been “bullying” me about not being able to get there.

One of our main obstacles is transportation. Sometime we lack the vehicles to get everyone in and out, sometimes because we don’t have enough space in the vehicles or because we need better equipped trucks.

We have never turned down an invitation because of transportation difficulties. We always seem to get there, one way or another, but sometimes it seems like there should be an easier way?