2014 Lycoming College Spring Magazine - page 25

Christians are
allowed to practice
their faith in public, but
only at sites designated
by the government.
Dawson says those
places are popular –
PCOwas the home to
63 different Protestant
congregations thatworshipped inmore than a dozen different
languages – and onFriday, which is a holy day forChristians
andMuslims, the churches are usually packed. InOman, people
believe that one should remove shoes before entering a holy
place; so, in a countrywhere peak temperatures reach upwards
of 120 degrees, thatmeans a lot of sandals.
“One of themost unforgettable images that I have etched on
mymemory is of the scores ofwell-worn sandals sitting outside
the doors of the church, because the bare-footedworshippers
inside truly believed that, likeMoses in the presence of the
burning bush, theywere on holy ground,”Dawson said.
TheDawsons lived andworked inMuscat for nearly two
years before their recent appointment by theWorldMission
Agency of thePresbyterianChurch to serve as the regional
liaison for SoutheastAsia. The new position tasks themwith
representing the church inMyanmar, Laos, Cambodia,Vietnam,
Singapore,Malaysia, Indonesia, thePhilippines andThailand,
their new home. They now live inBangkok, a bustling city that
has a population ofmore than 8million, which ismore than
twice the size ofOman.
“Ifwewere to describe a typicalmonth, itwould likely
include travel to another country inSoutheastAsia tomeet
withmission personnel and churchmission partners, aswell as
visitingChristian schools, universities, seminaries and special
mission projects,”Dawson said.
InDecember 2013 alone, Dawson and hiswife traveled
toCambodia as part of amedical and health education team,
had ameetingwithmission partners inVientiane, Laos,met
leaders at PayapUniversity inChiangMai, Thailand, and spent
aweek in thePhilippines visitingmissionworkers andChristian
universities. The duo also spends a good amount of time keeping
in touchwith the national PresbyterianChurch headquarters in
theUnitedStates andworkingwith their primarymission partner
– theChurch ofChrist inThailand.
Their official responsibilities include supporting and guiding
all PresbyterianChurchmission co-workers inSoutheastAsia,
applying churchmission strategies throughout the region,
churches throughout
the area, helping
churches in theU.S.
and other countries
build partnerships
with churches and
ministries in their
designated region and interpreting themission of the church in
SoutheastAsia for other congregations.
TheDawsons have been serving in internationalministry
formore than 16 years. In addition to theirwork inOman, they
also served at theAmericanProtestant Church inTheHague,
Netherlands; TheAmericanChurch inParis; and theTokyo
UnionChurch in Japan. They both have been transfixed by
foreignways of life since the early ’80s, when theymet on a trip
toEurope throughwhich they visitedLondon, Paris, Lucerne
Dawson’s interest in crossing borderswas sparked during
aLycomingCollegeMayTerm course that took him through
Russia and theUkraine. Shelly, a native ofNewYorkCity, is a
nursewho is naturally inclined toward helping others. She has
worked inmany positions, including labor and delivery,medical
and surgical, and at a clinic for heroin addicts inNYC.
“She has a compassionate heart that is always ready to
serve others, particularly thosewho aremarginalized or have
experienced emotional trauma,”Dawson said.
After graduating fromLycoming as a political science
major, Dawson, originally fromWesternPennsylvania, attended
PittsburghTheological Seminary and then served as a pastor in
Presbyterian churches inPennsylvania,Montana andDelaware
for 16 years before being called to serve internationally.
He feels that the years of internationalwork for the
PresbyterianChurch have done nothing but strengthen his
marriage and his faith.
“Like all families, our life journey has had its share of
struggles and complicated obstacles, from the deaths of loved
ones to the inevitable challenges that comewith living in an
imperfectworld,”Dawson said. “Yet, it is precisely at those
timeswhen our humanwisdom and emotional strength are
stretched to the limit thatwe can gratefully receive a divine
source of ultimatewisdom, power and love that goes far beyond
our human capabilities. That continual rediscovery ofmy own
limitations andGod’s limitless grace has givenme daily strength
inmymarriage, family and faith.”
Dawson teaches children in a village inBattambangProvince, Cambodia.
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