Knowing Others Care

I recently read a story in the news about a woman who got fired from a cafeteria because she gave a meal to a kid who didn’t have money to buy food. I immediately thought of how easy it is for us to spend other people’s money and how many times we don’t even think of reaching into our pockets. Then I quickly realized, if it wasn’t for so many of y’all, Angelica and I would not be able to do the things we do here in Paraguay.

Angelica and I buy a lot of “lunches” in different forms. We help people with medical emergencies, scholarships, unanticipated expenses and, sometimes, even food. While we may be like the cafeteria lady, helping others with someone else’s money, we make sure we invest time in these people as well. We make sure they know of Christ and that they know we are helping them because they are important to God, to us, and to the people who support us. Sometimes the knowledge of knowing others care is more uplifting than the funds themselves.

Angelica and I saw this play out recently in our own lives. Many of y’all know about Operation Christmas Child. For some reason, the boxes are delivered here in Paraguay in April. Several times, Angelica and our group have been asked to help give out the boxes. Not only is this a great experience for the children and their parents, but we have received many invitations to share Christ in public schools after people saw or experienced this work.

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This year, after giving out hundreds of boxes, there were a few left over. Someone asked Angelica if she would like to take one back to our nephew in Asuncion.  Angelica accepted the offer, took one of the boxes home, and gave it to Emiliano (our nephew) the next day.

Let me tell you a little bit about Emiliano. He is 4-years-old and is crazy about dinosaurs. His birthday is coming up and he wants a dinosaur party. He is hoping everyone who comes to his party will bring him a dinosaur. He has a few, but they are hard to find here in Paraguay. His mom told Angelica that he had been praying for dinosaurs.

When Emiliano opened his box, right on top were three dinosaurs. Of all the boxes handed out, Angelica brought back the one with dinosaurs. The funds that made it possible for the box to be prepared and sent are greatly appreciated.  Getting exactly what he wanted and prayed for, well . . .?

Emiliano thinks the box was especially packed for him, and maybe he is right.

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Paraguay Fact:

I thought I was going to have to take this gift away from this child. Then I realized that it was just Illinois!

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It’s Never Too Late to Start Over

It is never too late to start over again. One of my favorite Bible verses is when Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery that He will not condemn her, and then he sends her off saying, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  It can seem as if the family structure and marriage is in a shambles in the United States, but I can tell you, it is much worse in Paraguay. Probably 80% of the youth we work with come from broken families and many couples never even bother to get married. Lack of commitment and responsibility causes all kinds of family problems, but the Bibles teaches us we can start “a new” and that the power of Jesus can change lives.

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Over the past year and a half, Angelica and I have started a new ministry—a ministry of marriage. We have been working with young couples helping to prepare them for a life together. We also have been working with couples who have children and/or have been living together. We share with them the importance of the commitment of marriage and what the Bible teaches about marriage and families. We let them know they can “start over” and experience how commitment and responsibility can change their lives and the lives of their children.IMG_1345

We have done seven weddings in less than two years and are planning several more. One of the excuses couples use is that they don’t have the time or money to get married. They feel like it is just too much to take on. We work with couples helping them understand that the time and money will be well spent. We also let them know this is a ministry for us, showing them that it can be done well with a little help from our team.IMG_3058

Paraguayan Fact

We even do Korean weddings.

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Recognize and Remember

I was home in Alpharetta, Georgia in mid November. This was only the second fall I have enjoyed in the past 17 years, and I was in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. The grass had never looked so green. The trees had never looked so bright, and the air had never felt so crisp. Even when the sky was dark with clouds, the sun shone through. Everywhere I looked was like a picture book.

Not only in nature, but also all that man has created seemed almost perfect as well. Roads with no potholes, buildings set back on well-landscaped lots. It all looked so nice! I spent much of my time driving around in a nice vehicle just looking at all that north Georgia has to offer. It seemed a world away from where I live in Paraguay, almost like two examples: a how to and a how not to.

God blessed me with a great and timely message while I attended church in Alpharetta.  In Deuteronomy, God speaks to the Israelites telling them of the blessings that await them in the promise land, a land abundant with water and fertile soil. He also tells them to remember how he took care of them in the desert, giving them shade by day and light by night. 

My hope is that you appreciate the beauty of the place where you live and the blessing you have through the grace of God (and sometimes through your own hard work and obedience to Him.) It is clear to me, maybe because I have a different perspective, that you are blessed.

The world can seem like a bad place sometimes, which can block our ability to see the beauty of God’s creation and cause us to forget all that He has done and is doing for us.

Angelica and I know that many of you “recognize and remember” what God has done for you, and you have blessed us tremendously. We are determined to pass this on to the people of
Paraguay. We feel the blessings of your obedience to God and thank Him for each of you, especially what He does for us through you.

Although Paraguay is not quite as pristine as Alpharetta, the love and power of Christ is alive and well here.

Our political, economic, and social structures can obscure the view—Paraguay does not seem as pristine as Alpharetta—but as we interact with young people living Christ-filled lives, we see His work here and continue to look for opportunities to share His truths with people who don’t have that hope.   

Paraguayan Fact

If you don’t have an SUV, a motorcycle and an umbrella will do.

Knowing Our Own Strength

Before college, my life revolved around riding and taking care of horses. My dad always reminded us we should be careful around horses and remember they are animals. Horses don’t know their own strength. It is amazing what a 150-pound kid can get a 1200-pound horse to do. I sometimes marveled at our horses’ unrecognized power.

Sometimes we humans, created in God’s image, told to subdue and rule over God’s creation, don’t know our own strength. We don’t recognize the power we have in Jesus Christ.

Over the past eight months, Angelica and I have spent more time with dying and suffering people. Each week, Angelica meets with young girls whose lives were spinning out of control. She didn’t even know some of these girls when they called in desperation. They call at all hours of the day and night, sometimes wanting to meet with Angelica “right” now

There is no great secret to what Angelica tells these young women when she meets them or when we meet with young couples or people in their last days. We tell them what the Bible says—how we were created, why we were created, and what we have been given. In just a few minutes of sitting with people, teaching them the promises of God, everything can change. I wish y’all understood Spanish so Angelica could tell you about the calls she gets after she has first met with someone. (Take my word for it, you don’t want to listen to it in her English.

People can be changed just by learning who they are in God. They are not only changed emotionally but many times you can see it physically, the very next day.

We all know animals are animals, living by instinct; we tend to think we are better at thinking critically and understanding our abilities. But sometimes we don’t know the strength we have through Jesus Christ. We think He is not sufficient or we are not important enough to live our lives as the Bible calls us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Paraguay Fact

Our dog “Georgia” is a dog of faith. She knows we are praying for another vehicle and has claimed this one for herself.

 

Passing Peacefully

My friend Nia Juana passed away last week—she was 93-years-old.

AnnaBelen asked if I was sad, and I said, “No, not really. I am more thankful I had the chance to know her.”

I always enjoyed spending time with Nia Juana. As she grew older, more often than not, she would say whatever she thought. Like my grandmother, she would tell me when our visit was over. She once told me she thought Angelica was jealous of our relationship.

We talked politics, food, children, health, sports, and the old times. We always finished our conversation with prayer. She would complain quite often about something someone had done and always wanted to know what the Bible said about the situation. She loved to eat and would ask me to bring her things we were growing at the farm. Her birthday was on Valentine’s Day and she always expected a big party.

Nia Juana had a hard time getting around, so for years I would pick her up and bring her to church. It was always a big production and often, we would delay church until she was settled. For the past seven years, Nia Juana could not come to church, so I would visit her each week. Some of you might remember visiting her with me.

Nia Juana was never scared of death. She talked about it as it is—a natural process of life. She told me a life with Jesus is what’s worth worrying about. Over the past few years, she did not talk as much as she once had, but when we prayed, she would come alive.

The first thing Angelica always asked after I returned from visiting Nia Juana was, “What did she say this time?” Her husband died years ago and one time, when she was in her late 80’s, she asked if I would take her to visit her old boyfriend. I asked how long it had been since she had seen or talked to him, and she said, “Around 46 years.”  She still remembered his name and that he only lived about three hours away. “Maybe we could just take a trip to the town.”

As Nia Juana reached her 90’s, she began having problems hearing and, she claimed with her sight, as well. I am sure many times the neighbors thought we were fighting because our conversations were so loud.

Over the past few years, I was sometimes not as faithful about my visits and she would let me know about that. The last time I visited, she reminded me how old I look with my white beard (even though she claimed she could not see.)

Nia Juana is gone now, but I am not sad. I know she knew Jesus—not just who He was but how He is. She is just fine now and this is what Angelica and I want others to know they can have.

Extra Note: The address for sending funds to TMS Global has changed. TMS reports hundreds of support checks were not showing up and they are working with the USPS to resolve this problem. The new address is a Lock Box meant to address this problem.

Christian Dickson
c/o TMS Global, Inc.
P.O. Box 936559
Atlanta, GA 31193-6559

Paraguayan Fact

We have almost 415,000 miles on this truck, many of them off-road.

 

Ayolas: Southern Paraguay on the Argentine Border

Sometimes reaching goals or realizing our dreams seems impossible, at least in the short-term, especially when we find out our goals are more challenging than we even imagined. Nevertheless, God can make our dreams come true.

For years, Angelica and I have dreamed of taking a missions trip with our team of youth—something completely outside our normal ministry areas. Unfortunately, there have always been obstacles in the way, mainly finances. But we have chosen to keep preparing ourselves and the youth, hoping one day God would take care of everything else.

At the beginning of this year, two different people approached us asking if we’d be interested in making a mission trip to help them. Neither knew we were actively preparing for just such a thing. Within a few weeks, God began removing obstacles including our financial concerns. He began to supply funds from home but much of the money came from Paraguay, including personal funds from the youth that just “seemed to appear” in their laps.

The challenges of this trip were more difficult than expected. Each time we overcame an obstacle, two more were unearthed. In a country with limited resources, much of what we as Americans take for granted are real problems down here.

One of the most amazing things that made this trip come true were donations, through discounts and free services, from people who are not even Christian. So many people appreciated what we wanted to do in their barrio (town), they wanted to help. Once again, God demonstrated to Angelica and I that He has a plan and that nothing is
impossible for Him.

When I first decided to become a missionary, I wanted to share a little about what God had done in my life. It was not long before Angelica and I started to disciple a small group of young people. I am so grateful that these young people now are working alongside us and while looking towards answering their own call to missions.

Paraguayan Fact:

There is no Toys “R” Us here either.

The Best Thing We Have to Offer

This week I thought of the story of the little drummer boy, that’s a true story, right? What do you give when you have nothing to give?

Things have changed a good bit for Angelica and me over the past few months. We are no longer attending worship or serving in all the places that we had for years. Angelica and I are still serving with TMS Global but are working independently in Paraguay. Our goal remains the same, to share Christ. We are still working with youth and in agriculture; we just don’t have the facilities we had before. Sometimes people have different visions and goals and it is best if they pursue them separately. That’s even Biblical (Paul and Mark).

What Angelica and I have learned is that churches, facilities, and projects are good but the best thing we have to offer is the Gospel, the good news and our relationship with Jesus. Over the past few months, Angelica and I have met with people in coffee shops, in homes, in cars, and outside under shade trees. We have had more access to people who don’t know Christ than ever before. For the first time, we have experienced a close look at what life is like without knowledge of the Bible—what life is like without a Savior. People we have known for years are approaching us, asking us to work with them, and we have been given many opportunities to travel throughout the county just sharing.

New Missionaries

As you know, Angelica and I have always viewed the young Paraguayans we work with as partners in ministry. We rarely do anything without them. We have learned so much in serving with them. Our new circumstances are now forcing us, even more, to rely on these young partners in ministry. We are all stretching, stepping out together.

In May we visited the southern tip of Paraguay, invited by a friend whose father is a pastor in a town called Ayolas. We are now planning a mission trip to Ayolas in July and have begun raising funds and preparing with our team. We are so excited about this new area that we have committed to one of us (or someone on our team) visiting Ayolas every three to four months until we establish new leaders in this area.

For years we have worked with our team in areas familiar to us, but this is the first time we are traveling are to a completely new place. We look forward to building up and training the people we meet. It is our hope that one day some of them will be called to international missions. Lookout! One of the may be coming to you one day!

Paraguay Fact

In Paraguay, there is always a hammock waiting.

God is Full of Surprises

I have served on the mission field for a long time, but in the past three weeks God is doing things that awe even Angelica and me.

Last night Angelica strolled in around midnight, and I was a little perturbed she was out so late and woke me up. When she told me what happened this morning, I couldn’t wait to share the good news.

About three weeks ago, a youth we know asked Angelica and a friend if they could visit his brother. The brother had lost his job due to addiction. Though the family had him locked up in the house on watch, the young man was not making progress. Angelica and her friend spent an hour telling the young man about the power of our God. This had a profound impact on him and he asked if he could attend the youth camp we had planned for the next week.

At the youth camp, we were surprised to also see a girl (Sheila) we have been working with for years. For the past six years, Shelia has suffered from sexual and drug problems, and though we have spent a lot of time with her, she has seemed unable and/or unwilling to change. We leave the door open, but we have been discouraged by our lack of influence on her. At the youth camp, Sheila felt the power of the Holy Spirt and said, for the first time, she was dedicated to changing her life. Angelica spent hours praying with her and she left the camp a new person.

Yesterday, Shelia reached out asking Angelica to call her friend “right now!” The friend had called Shelia, asking her to get together and do drugs. Shelia told him she was changed and didn’t do those things anymore. The friend asked how and Shelia told him “through the power of God.” The young man said he wanted that power and asked where he go, so Sheila quickly called Angelica.

When Angelica called the young man, he was at his stall in a local market but said he could close up immediately and go to a church. He wanted what Sheila has. Angelica and her friend quickly went to meet the young man in the market. They invited him to a local coffee shop where he expressed how surprised he was to see Sheila changed. He told Angelica about his life of drugs, robbery, and even his role in the death of several people. He said that no one had ever taken interest in him unless they wanted something and he even mentioned that no one had ever invited him to a restaurant so nice.

After thirty minute with Angelica and her friend, the young man accepted Christ. He was so loud and boisterous that people in the coffee shop took notice and Angelica believes several customers and employees accepted or reconfirmed their relationship with God as well. As they walked out of the restaurant, the young man got down on his knees and proclaimed he had never felt freer in his life. Customers and the parking attendant became teary eyed. The young man asked where he could attend church and how to start studying the Bible. Tonight Angelica and a few of her friends will accompany him to a class for people suffering from addiction.

Angelica also received a message this morning from another girl who suffers many of the same problems as Sheila. In seeing Sheila changed, she too wants to talk with Angelica. Yesterday, the young man who lost his job because of his addiction found a new job.

We know the power of the awesome God we serve, but still He catches us off guard. We are looking forward to working with these and other troubled youth in the next few months.

God Has a Plan

Moving to Paraguay, changing careers, learning a new language—it all seemed like a big deal in the beginning, but it didn’t take me long to get into the groove and feel comfortable in ministry and with the Paraguayan people. It sounded like a big deal but it really wasn’t. I guess that’s why we Christians say, “God has a plan.”

For 16 years now Angelica and I have been doing much of the same things, sometimes adding here and there. For the most part, we have been successful in ministry. You could even say we’ve been comfortable. Well, things are changing.

At first I fought change, thinking change as negative. I also over emphasized the importance of our role in ministry. Now that has passed and we are eager to see God’s plan for us in new areas.

Angelica and I have always considered the young people we work with partners in missions. We have worked with them for years in our familiar ministries and we are now beginning to move into new challenges with these young partners.

paraguay mapThere’s a northern region of Paraguay called Alto Paraguay. About the size of South Carolina with a little over 17 thousand people, Alto Paraguay has no paved roads and no electrical power. In fact, their only power comes from generators, that is when fuel tankers can make it in. For the past 14 months, many parts of this region have become even more isolated because of flooding. The government has made little progress in reaching the inhabitants and there are no private operations either. I have been researching this area, looking for ways to help. I am putting together a team of Paraguayans to travel to Alto Paraguay to see what we and maybe a few America friends can do.

Alto Paraguay calles

The roads of Alto Paraguay

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People trying to navigate through Alto Paraguay

Angelica and I have also begun to explore international mission training and opportunities for our youth. Though these kids are discipled by us and have served with us for years, we feel many could benefit from additional training with other people, as some are being called to missions outside of Paraguay.  We have explored several training options and are planning a short-term trip to Brazil. Many people have been dedicated to preparing and sending Angelica and me, and we want to do the same for Paraguayans called to missions.

If I just glance briefly at my first few years here and even my last year in The States, it would seem everything was clearly laid-out and that I had all the answers. Upon further examination, I see this was not the case. There were many unknowns and I really had no idea.

Angelica and I are not sure how these “new ideas” are going to play out, we don’t have all the holes filled in, but we are sure—God has a plan.

Paraguayan Fact

Our next door neighbor asked San Roque (The Catholic Saint of Dogs) to heal her dog. In return, she fixed a “Holy” meal for the dogs in the neighborhood. Our dog Georgia is not Catholic but she still enjoyed the meal.

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Our Visit to the U.S.

One of the great things about living in another country is the ability to pick and choose the things you want to emulate from your home country and from the country you live in.

I love the preaching and teaching in the U.S. but the music and prayer in Paraguay. I enjoy my time in the U.S. relaxing and watching football, but enjoy the work I do in Paraguay. Here in the U.S., it is so nice to be able to travel on paved roads, but I miss the miles of dirt roads in Paraguay. It is good to see old friends while we are here, but we miss our team of youth in
Paraguay.  Some things are the same—I love the food and hate the traffic in both.

We Are Teachable

Angelica and I have had opportunities over the past few months to listen to great sermons, ones that challenged and motivated us. We have enjoyed Bible studies, small groups, and conferences that have better prepared us to serve in Paraguay. We are even more committed to God’s call to share what Christ has done in our lives as well as the lives of so many people we know.

We can see the benefits that Christians enjoy here in the U.S. because they chose to honor God’s plan for their lives. It is very clear to us that a life lived with Christ is a life better lived. We want everyone to have the opportunity to respond to Christ.

Travel Plans

When Angelica and I return to Paraguay, we will join with our fellow Paraguayan missionaries in working in the same areas that we have for years, but the work will be different because Paraguayans are now in charge of the day-to-day operations at the school and with the agriculture project. 

Angelica and I will spend more time traveling the country with other Paraguayans, disciplining and sharing how God has worked in our lives. We hope to go further and reach more diverse groups of people. We hope to spend more time training Paraguayans to serve in Paraguay and other parts of the world.

Paraguayan Facts:

Traveling almost always includes “assistance” vehicles.