Thoughts about and memories of Bill Dickson by Bruce Wilson
Bill was a great friend, an excellent listener, a savvy business partner, a wise counselor, and a thoughtful follower of Jesus.
I met Bill soon after moving to California in 1978. He was part of the Z-Volk post-college group at Menlo Park Presbyterian. He seemed nice enough, and I enjoyed chatting occasionally.
This turned into a much deeper connection in the summer of 1979, when Bill, Bob G and I bought a 4 bedroom Eichler house in Palo Alto, that was soon christened “Middlefield Manor”. Bill’s own business savy as well as his dad’s silent advice, laid the long term health of our business partnership, that could easily have been a horrible mess of broken or strained relationships.
The intentional community that the first 5 guys built, served 20 guys until 1987 when Jane and I changed it from a bachelor pad into a married couple’s home. Bill’s contribution to the communal life showed up in his excellent cooking that shamed the rest of us into significant improvement’s of our own dinner offerings. His steady voice at the Monday night house meetings helped to clear up the inevitable conflicts, and prepare our hearts for the prayer meeting that followed right after. He was a great idea generator for house parties, one costume theme being “Come as your favorite saint or sinner”.
Bill introduced me to cross country skiing in winter and the simple joy of a well planned back pack trip in summer.
During the long years in the house, Bill was a consistent friend to me and the other manorities, always listening first, and then responding with what ever was needed. Bill shared his own needs and received from others. He also gave to others. He was willing to sit in silence to share pain, and not have to give advice. Sometimes he would share his own experience of God’s leading and have a word of prayer. And sometimes, Bill would expound at length on what the full background was of some topic, as well as multiple options to solve the problem at hand.
In 1982, Bill launched out of the house
I got a letter dated July 9, 1982 from Bill while I was in Scotland. It was full of excitement about the impending trip to Seattle, and then going to Pasadena to attend IIS (Institute for International Studies) on Aug 2 to 25. “After this point I have an almost-firm open-ended offer to work on the U.S Center for World Mission staff”
Indeed, the next several years were on staff at USCWM.
His next letter of March 19, 1984 – was on DataServe Inc. letterhead, with the tag line “Information Technology for Frontier Missions” – which showed that he had indeed gone on staff, and become integral to the technical support operations at the center.
April 12, 1984 DataServe support letter starts off:
— Quote —
I give up! For a year and a half I’ve been gathering up ideas for
the perfect prayer letter. It should be all that conventional wisdom dictates,
that is, concrete, concise, upbeat, personal, and interesting. It should
further deal with some unusual requirements that I have, that is, that it
should explain the unexplainably long time it has been since most of you
have heard from me, and give some sensible account of what has taken place
in the interval. It should, above all, recount the truly remarkable things
that God has done here during the last twenty months.
I wish I knew how to write such a letter. This is, unfortunately, a fallen
world in which computers break and engineers seldom win Pulitzer prizes. I
have therefore been persuaded (nay, ordered) by one of my most valued and
wisest counselors (a practitioner of “tough love”) to sit down at a terminal
and write something less perfect. I will promise to keep these letters
readably short, and will try hard to get them out regularly. Please overlook
the lack of style, and join me in praising God for the things He has done,
and in interceding for the things yet undone.
— end of quoted section —
This captures his style and his focus on following Jesus.
The letter goes on to describe:
1. Data serve, Inc being founded as “a technical service ministry
2. Global Mapping Project being formed to make available a global scale database of information on the unreached peoples of the world
3. Group of committed computer technologists has been formed in the Bay Area to develop the computer system needed to handle the mapping aspects of the Global Mapping Project
Four years pass with Bill in Pasadena before the next newsletter I have.
January 1988 – the newsletter now records the transition from GMP to GMI.
Global Mapping has become Global Mapping International..
The font is now proportional, there are graphics, a logo, and of course a map of the world.
There is breaking news of an electronic bulletin board that can be accessed by dialing with a modem to a specified telephone number.
To us in 2017, the modem reference is an archaic throw back to ancient technology, but for the time, Bill was part of the team breaking new ground on information collection and sharing.
More recent memories are the hikes we had at Rancho San Antonio. Stories of past times in Pasadena, Colorado and walking the Camino were told and re-told. His future plans to speed up the pace of publishing various resources books were well thought out and he was drawing me into his dreams.
Now Bill has
– longer faster data links to the new un-reached people in the next Galaxy
– bigger clearer idea containers beyond what we call books, either paper or digital
– time to sit down and continue the conversations with those who got to heaven first
Bill – I will miss you.