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.

New Life

Jesus tells Nicodemus the only way to see the kingdom of God is to be born again. This caught Nicodemus off guard. He really did not understand it. We Christians say “we get it,” but seeing it right before our eyes can really help us understand what Jesus was talking about.

I sent out a story a few weeks ago about a young man name Marley who called on Angelica late one afternoon and left their encounter a new man. Every few days we run into people who knew the old Marley and just can’t believe the change.

Three days after Marley accepted Christ, Angelica ran into a youth we work with. He stuck his head in the truck window, saw Marley in the back seat, and couldn’t believe it. Just four days prior, the young man and his girlfriend had to retreat to his house because Marley was in the street yelling and waving a gun. Our first time in church with Marley, he pulled Angelica aside and said he had just seen a man he had punched in the face a few weeks ago. The man and his wife were speechless when Marley walked up and apologized.

Jesus also said, “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” referring to children. When we gave Marley a Bible, he sent pictures to everyone showing off his new gift. Like a child, he constantly texts Angelica, asking questions like, “What do the numbers in 1 Corinthians 15:1 mean?” He bombards us with questions about what Christians should do in various situations. He approaches Bible study with more enthusiasm than anyone I have ever met.

Many have approached Marley on the streets, asking what has happened. They say he just looks different. Several times a week he sends Angelica a picture of someone he has encountered and shared the power of our God with. In a little over a month, Marley has brought seven young people to meet with Angelica. Two of them accepted Christ and are attending a drug rehab program. One young man seems to have the same effect on others as people are approaching him asking what is different.

Through seeing or hearing about our work with Marley and other troubled youth, several others have reconnected with us. For years Angelica and I have worked with girls suffering from sexual, drug, and suicidal problems. One was the girl who introduced us to Marley. We have some victories with these young women, but their spiritual battles seem very embedded. Angelica has started a new Bible study with five girls and they seem to be enjoying it.

Marley has enrolled to finish high school and is very excited. I would like to finish this newsletter with what he wrote when the school asked what his objective was for his studies.

“Finish school with the help of the hand of God and that God will accompany me at every minute. That I will not fall into bad (darkness nor despair). I leave all in your hands God!!! Amen”

Special Request

Every so often Angelica and I are told, “Just ask and people can decide for themselves if they can or wish to give. We believe in the power of Jesus Christ, have seen how he changes lives and know our responsibility as Christians to share the good news. We also believe we are not called alone and don’t have all it takes to make these ministries possible.

Angelica and I are short on funds and need support to continue doing the things that we
believe God had put upon us. Thank you.

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

Alto Paraguay gente

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.

dog

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.

People NEEDS Jesus

Angelica likes to say, “People needs Jesus.” I think she means, “People need Jesus,” but you get the picture.

We have been in the U.S. for over a month now, and we see the good news of Jesus is needed just as much here as it is in other parts of the world. We have enjoyed our first month spending time with people dedicated to living Christian lives and sharing the Gospel.

Our time here is a time of rest and rejuvenation, but also a time for us to listen and learn from others so we can improve what we are called to do in Paraguay. We have enjoyed this first month and look forward to spending more time with all of y’all who so generously support us.

I have a friend in Paraguay named Pedro, and he always tells me that I have something to offer Paraguay just because I am an American. It sounds patronizing and a little oversimplified, but he is right. I watch my wife and our older daughter Camila while they are here and the same is true about them—they have something to offer the church in the U.S. just because they are Paraguayan.

Each and every one of us who claim to be Christian has something to offer and the responsibility to offer it. What do you have to offer and are you doing it?

A Few Things We and Our Paraguayan Friends Are Doing

Although we are here in Georgia, our friends in Paraguay are working hard, living and sharing the Gospel while we are away. Through the marvels of modern technology, Angelica is in constant contact with the youth, counseling them, preparing activities for her upcoming visit to Paraguay, and encouraging the believers we support.

In Paraguay, we use the word “youth” to describe those in the church between ages 16 and 30. We have been developing some of these young people for leadership for 15 years now, mentoring them in their faith and developing them to disciple others. While we are away, they are busy teaching children, adolescence, and other youth both in churches and in the Christian schools. Our friend Guiermo is just now returning from serving in Nepal as a missionary, and our friend Perla is pastoring in Chile.

I have been busy working remotely on different agriculture projects we have going in partnership with Paraguayan businessman and the Paraguayan government. 

Angelica and I and our partners in Paraguay do not take likely the sacrifices made by our donors—we take very seriously the privilege and importance of our responsibilities. We believe our service in Paraguay is the same thing all Christians are called to do and Paraguay is where God has placed us.

We also feel confident God has you where you are, to serve, support ministries, or prepare for service elsewhere.

As Angelica says, “People needs Jesus”.

Perla in Chile

Guiermo in Chile

Guiermo in Nepal

Paraguayan Fact

As it turns out, Paraguayans fit in pretty well with Californian culture.

Camila in California

Happy New Year

Years ago when I was in college, I had a friend who helped me with my lawn business. I once found him trying to push a 500-pound walk-behind mower up onto a trailer. I tried to explain that machines were our friends and it would be much easier to just drive the mower onto the trailer. He never really got it and went on to make his fortune in other areas.

Today I still believe machines are our friends and they can and should be used to make us more efficient and make our lives better.

This year Angelica and I were blessed by so many of y’all through the gift of a new truck. This has allowed us to travel more, carry more things, and do everything faster. When you think of missions and serving people, machines aren’t the first thing to come to mind; and yet, having access to people in their environment is very important. Now we can go anywhere throughout the country sharing Christ with the Paraguayans.

truck_web

Someone is Always Listening

A few months ago Angelica had a meeting with the parents at the Susanna Wesley School. A mother stood up and thanked Angelica for what she had done for her son. Angelica did not recognize the mother nor did she remember the son.

The mother explained her son had a skin problem for years; he had seen several doctors and they had tried to treat him, but the problem persisted. One day the mother noticed her son’s rash was gone. When she asked her son about it, he said, “I just did what Señora Angelica said. I prayed and believed that God could heal me.”

img_6620Angelica does not remember noticing the boy’s skin problem or speaking to the children about the healing powers of God, but we try every chance we have to let the kids know that a
relationship with Christ can change their lives.

We are grateful this young boy listened to Angelica and that he can now speak of the powers of our God.

Sometimes We Are Listening

Angelica and I are blessed in the ministries we serve. We have seen lives change at the school, we have seen God moving in the lives of the Paraguayan youth, and we have been able to help communities improve their agriculture and medical care. On the other hand, sometimes we feel our efforts in the church we attend, San Vicente, are not as successful.

A few years ago I wrote that we intended to dedicate more time to San Vicente and to the children in that community. Even as we increased our efforts, Angelica grew more frustrated each day. Then she had the opportunity to participate in a two-hour staff meeting at home that changed her perspective on leadership. She witnessed leaders working towards peoples’ strengths, people being encouraged to critique their own performance, and how this creates an environment in which everyone wants to do their best.

Returning to Paraguay, Angelica immediately applied what she had learned in combination with a Bible study. She asked the youth at San Vicente tough questions and challenged them to collaborate with her in improving the children’s ministry. The results have been incredible! The youth have taken ownership of the children’s ministry and the kids in the community have a new interest in coming to church.

children_webbParaguayan Fact

It’s not a party in Paraguay unless there is dancing.

dancers-copy

Luck? Or Divine Intervention?

I pride myself on being able to make good, quick decisions. I often make fun of Angelica for making poor menu decisions then trying to eat my food. I can go into a store and pick out what I want in less than five minutes. I am good at the little insignificant decisions. No one is better!

Unfortunately (or fortunately), Angelica is responsible for most of our good ministry decisions. She has the ability to see potential in people — to see them for what they can be rather than what they may be at the present time. She can see through their lack of confidence or what appears to be laziness. More than once, she has identified someone to assist in ministries whom I thought was not up to par.

We work in ministry with some of the most qualified people I have ever been around. Although they are Paraguayan nationals, I consider them missionaries like us. Almost all of them are young and many of them showed little promise, in my eyes.

I chalk up much of our success to another great decision of mine — the decision to trust Angelica’s ability to choose the people God puts in our lives as partners in ministry.

Mission Accomplished

Doña Maria is grandmother to 11 — or at least that is how many live with her. I have known her for a while but have had few conversations with her because she only speaks Guarrani. Occasionally, I play with the kids and talk with the older ones who speak some Spanish.

family

Their difficult financial situation has not gone unnoticed and we often take leftover food to them. At times, I have given the kids toys but stopped after they returned a soccer ball I gave them, per Maria’s request, because the kids were fighting over it. The kids are students at The Susanna Wesley School but only attend church occasionally.

In all my work and busyness, I really did not give this family the attention I should. I didn’t take notice until a teacher at the school told me all the kids in the family have problems with nose bleeds and they can hardly read.

Angelica and I are confronted with needs every day. We don’t have the resources or, even more, the time to address every need. This is the reason we spend so much time in education and training others — so these people can make a difference in the future. It is a slow process and can seem like we are really not addressing some people’s needs.

After speaking to the teacher, I knew we had to do something to help Doña Maria. I did not just want to throw money at the situation because, potentially, that can cause problems in the future with other families and their needs. I needed a quick solution that did not appear as though we were giving them money.

The answer was their location. They live right in front of the Ag Center, so I figured I could do something with them, giving the excuse I was using their land and proximity to test
new ideas.

With the help of some of our America friends, we planted a small garden, planting some typical things and putting a few “test” plants in as well. We also plan to have a young girl,
who we are helping attend school, work with the kids. She is interested in working with kids who have special needs but never felt she would have the opportunity to use this skill in the Interior because “just providing a school” is all the government can do.

Garden

I know the garden may seem like something really little, but Doña Maria told Angelica that she had been praying for years for a little help and feels the garden is the answer to her prayers.

Paraguayan Fact:

In Paraguay, we keep the most interesting things in barrels!

Barrel