November 23, 2011
She was one of the most unforgettable characters I have ever met…
…standing scarcely five feet tall, with a broad smile and full head of curly hair falling in ringlets around her round face, playing an accordion almost as big as she was, and singing her heart out with hundreds of others as our plane taxied away on the tarmac following a crusade mission in Taipei, Taiwan in the early 1950’s. Her name was Lillian Dickson…and it is now legend in the Leper Colony located just outside the city. It was a poor miserable hovel until she asked the government officials for permission to take it over, to raise funds wherever she could to clean it up and make it what it should be. And by her efforts it became a happy place.
She had invited me to speak in their morning service in the chapel just a few days before, and it was an incredible experience. I witnessed a young man with two good legs and feet carrying another lad on his back, whose feet were so leprous he couldn’t walk, but was holding on with two good arms and hands…and they slid into a long bench with a happy smile. After the service another leper came to me on crutches, clutching a wood carving with stubbed hands, holding it out to give to me. Lillian explained that he had been a wood carver years before, and that she had heard him crying and praying in the Chapel just a few weeks earlier, asking God to help him carve again. He wanted to express his appreciation to those who came to the Chapel to speak, and the only thing he had to give was his ability to carve. But, his hands couldn’t hold a carving knife because the leprosy had done its deadly work, destroying his thumbs and fingers.
As she heard him pray, she thought, “Okay, God, what are you going to do about that?” The next day she saw, as she entered the little workshop on the leprosarium grounds, this man standing at a bench with his buddy tying the knife on his stubbed hands, and laboriously, painstakingly, pushing it against the wood to form the object. The knife would slip and come loose, so they would cinch it together again…and he kept at it ever so long. He didn’t quit, as I probably would have done, and he finally finished. The carving he handed me was the third one he had carved – a Taiwanese shepherd boy and his dog, about 8 – 10 inches high. As he handed it to me, I grabbed his stubbed hands, held them in mine, and prayed that God would reward him for his kindness. I also gave my two good hands in a new way to God that day, to be used in service to Him anyway that He would choose. And this little statue, which is on display in our home here in Atlanta, is a constant reminder that what I have is enough to do what God wants me to do, if I just give it to Him.
Lillian established MUSTARD SEED which ministers to the poor and needy throughout Southeast Asia. The story of what God has accomplished through her is incredibly etched in the hearts and minds of thousands of people whose lives have been touched through the years. It has been a privilege of mine to witness the tremendous work in Taiwan firsthand.
God has laid it on the heart of a dear personal friend, Bill Deans (a committed layman from Charleston, South Carolina), to take over the leadership of this organization. He has had a burden for, and been actively involved in needy places around the world (such as Rwanda, Bosnia and other areas) through Samaritan’s Purse. This has acquainted him with hurting and suffering people – particularly those who have needed medical attention, such as the many small children he has brought back to the United States for open-heart surgery. His sacrificial dedication in being willing to give up his business and be absent from a devoted family for long periods of time, is indicative of the call of God upon his heart and life, and his commitment to follow His leading, whatever the cost.
His wonderful wife, Hope, supports him fully in this vision and commitment. I heartily commend him as a dedicated servant of God to the MUSTARD SEED family…and would pray that under his leadership many others would be moved to support by their prayers and gifts this incredible work in needy parts of the world.
I am reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus each time I think of Lillian Dickson and MUSTARD SEED… “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” (Matthew 25:40) Bill Deans is now joining their ranks, and I am privileged to be one of his rope holders and prayer partners.
In His Joy and Peace,