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.

Happy Endings?

I recently let my 5-year-old daughter AnnaBelen drag me to a movie. Sitting in a comfortable seat in the air condition for two hours is what really sold it for me.

The movie was pretty bad but AnnaBelen seemed to like it. As the movie was ending, everything came together:  The bad guy was caught and the main characters were reunited. In the closing moments of the movie, I had tears in my eyes. Hoping no one would notice and think that this movie had touched me so, I quickly wiped them away.

What saddened me was how in real life, in our ministries, we don’t always have these nice endings all tied up in a bow. Despite our efforts and hard work, people sometimes are not reunited.

girls_web

Left-Right: Meriam, Sheyla, Rosia

As the movie was ending, I was thinking of Meriam, an 11-year-old girl in our Bible class, who has to move back to the Interior. She has not been with us very long but has been very active and always wants to talk. She is always happy to see us and told us that if it were not for our time together, she would be glad to move back to the Interior.

She is like so many kids in our Bible class that get moved around like pawns because their parents can’t get along. We often talk to parents, but it almost always seems to fall on deaf ears. There is only one kid in our class that has not moved in, moved away or moved around because of family problems.

New Experiences

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Pastor Pablo Mora

This past month, The Evangelical Methodist Church of Paraguay elected a new Bishop. This is the third leader that the Methodist church has had in 25 years.

Our former Bishop, Pastor Pablo Mora, has been involved with the church from the very beginning. Angelica and I enjoyed working for and with Pastor Pablo Mora. He was always supportive of the things we wanted to do, encouraging us and occasionally reeling us in. We never had a bad experience with him and felt comfortable working under him. Angelica, like a good Paraguayan, is a little emotional about seeing “Grandpa” go. We wish Pastor Pablo and his wife Claudete the best in their next endeavors.

Pastor Pedro Magellanes

Pastor Pedro Magellanes

Pastor Pedro Magellanes is our new Bishop. Pastor Pedro and his wife Carla are Brazilian and have served here in Paraguay for over 20 years. Angelica and I look forward to working with the new Bishop and the new leadership that comes in with him.

Some Things Get Better With Time

In just a few weeks, classes will start at The Susanna Wesley School. This will be Angelica’s sixth year as Director.  Like every year, the kids will return to nicer classrooms and improved teachers. We have been blessed with a great group of teachers that are dedicated to the children and to improving their teaching skills.

Without spending a little time in the Interior of Paraguay, this may seem like a small triumph, but it is much more. In the Interior, there is often little thought put into improving education and most teachers are under-qualified and under-motivated. Establishing an atmosphere of improvement can be difficult without significant monetary incentives. Angelica has surrounded herself with teachers that see her vision and want to implement and improve it.

Our work in Agriculture is on the cusp of a new era. Up to this point, the project has been a huge learning experience for me. It has also been an outreach of the church and a way for us to come to know and share with the families around us. This year some of our experimental projects will begin to produce. We will also start with our first full year or teaching and training with the help of the government.

Paraguayan Fact:

We no longer mix by hand. Horse_web

Thanks For The Help

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

By Christian Dickson

This year, as we get ready to host a few teams from home, Angelica and I are reminded of how important other people are to the ministries in Paraguay. Sure, the ministries seem like ours. We even sometimes call them “our ministries.” But more and more, both Americans and Paraguayans are playing an important role in what we do here. Angelica and I have been blessed with a few skills, but we rely tremendously on the skills and ideas of other Christians around us. As some of y’all that are coming down to visit us will see, many of our Paraguayan friends are assisting us in ministry.

Youth in Missions

For almost 10 years, Angelica and I have served ministries in the capital of Asuncion and in the interior of the country. For almost four years, one or both of us would make the four-hour trip to the interior each week. These days we don’t go as often, but still spend about seven days a month in the interior. Some of the youth that we have been working with for years in Asuncion are now helping us in the interior.  Many of them have skills that Angelica and I don’t have and will make a tremendous difference in the ministries there.

Youth Leaders from AsuncionLast month we took a group of Paraguayan youth from Asuncion to the interior for 5 days. These are kids (youth) that I have known since my first weeks in Paraguay. It is a treat for us to work together with them in missions as well as a treat for them to see the vastly different world of the interior.

Angelica and I have been busy developing the school and agriculture ministries. We know the people in the area where we work, but have always wanted to spend more time in their homes. With help from the youth, we visited all but five of the 137 students of the school. Here are some things we learned.

  • Family from Paraguay InteriorThe average number of children in the home is six.
  • The average income is a little less than $100 a month.
  • Most hardly ever have cash on hand and usually barter.
  • Only two families have bathrooms with toilets and an electric device to heat water — they are both families who work with us. Most have a hole and a A toilet in Paraguy interiorhose. Some don’t even have a hose and get their water from a hand dug well.
  • Most of the kids share a bed and often the boys sleep with their dad and the girls with their mother. Five or six to a bed is not uncommon.
  • All but two families cook over an open fire.
  • Most of the parents went to school until 4th grade and many can’t read even on an elementary level.
  • The majority of the children that start at the school do not have birth records.

Living quarters of an average family in the Paraguay interiorWe want these children and their families to know about Christ, but we also want to help them have opportunities to advance socially. We plan to continue visiting these families in their homes, sharing with them and learning more about their individual lives. As we begin to address some of their problems, we look forward to doing it with help from Christians in the US and Paraguayans from Asuncion.

God Knows Best

Good decisions don’t come easy. Angelica and I have learned that just because we want to do what is best for the ministries that have been entrusted to us; sometimes our hands have to be forced. Due to financial difficulties, we were forced to let a teacher go. We had spoken often about getting rid of this teacher. She had several shortcomings and a few parents had complained about her. But we wanted to give her a chance to improve and we feared legal difficulties. Because of finances, we were given no option but to make a decision. It has been a difficult decision for everyone, but the school is better off because of it.

Paraguay Fact: Paraguayan youth are weird too.

Youth leaders having in fun in Paraguay

Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the teams that are preparing to come down and serve with us — that they will bless people here and be blessed as well.
  • Pray for our first opportunity to use the agriculture center for teaching, as we are having teachers come from the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Pray for Angelica and I as we think about getting involved with other ministries.