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.

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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Return on Our Investment

Even though I worked in construction after college, and I have served on the mission field for the past 17 years, I always knew my finance degree would pay off. It might have a little to do with good advice from Angelica, who knows nothing about finances, but I am comfortable taking the credit. We are seeing returns on time and financial investments that we made years ago.

One of the major concerns for missionaries is how ministries we support will survive without us. We invest our time, talent and funds into people and projects, hoping someday both the people and projects will stand on their own. For years, Angelica felt the teachers at the Suzanna Wesley School were capable of operating the school. In fact, she had turned almost everything over to them, but the one thing we were uncomfortable with was funding. We really did not see a good solution to this problem. Thankfully God did.

Years ago, Angelica told me it was going to be hard to find qualified teachers who wanted to teach in the interior of the country. Her suggestion for the Suzanna Wesley School was to identify quality people and help them get their education—not just your typical education for people in the interior, but an education and training that would be considered advanced, even in the capital of Asuncion. After talking with many of our friends at home, we raised money to educate members of the local community. This was a stretch for us, but we were able to support the teachers until they finished their education.

As Angelica and I were making plans to invest our time and money in other areas, we knew if we pulled our financial support, the school would probably close. We prayed a lot about this and just did not see how God was going to work this out. Finally, through someone we met, we came up with the idea that the teachers should take a national test and just maybe the government would help support the school.

Of the four teachers who took the test, three of them made the highest grades. Normally the government does not support Christian schools, but because of the grades and their appreciation for how Angelica has run the school, they decided to support the school.

The community has developed a board for the school and we helped with salaries until the government could step in in March. Who would have thought the decision to invest in these young people would have paid off so well? The school is in operation, the community is involved, and we have moved on.

Now if I can just get this return on my 401K!

Paraguayan Fact

Our vehicles are not only used to get around, but also to sleep in and as dressing rooms.

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.

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.