Memories of Bill – Carol Yuke

Meeting Bill

I met Bill sometime in the early 1980’s in a side office on the second floor of Hudson Taylor Hall, the main building of the U.S. Center for World Mission. Bill had come down from the Bay Area to explore the possibility of joining DataServe, a newly formed IT agency in the service division of the USCWM. He was interviewing various staff members, and somehow, he found me.

At that time, the USCWM was only three years old. Founded to finish the task of world evangelization among the unreached or “hidden” peoples, it attracted visionary Christian volunteers who came with faith, dedication and high ideals. But the USCWM was a maverick upstart with a grand vision that greatly outstripped its budget, a highly questionable business plan, strong-minded leaders whose philosophies conflicted with managers, old school missionaries working alongside young people with little or no work or ministry experience, everyone with their own human frailties.

Working at the Center was a little like blasting into space in a hypersonic aircraft. Lots of people couldn’t handle the G-forces and ended up throwing up before the X-plane left the atmosphere. Some moved on after a short stint to work with other mission organizations. Others left full time ministry altogether, frustrated, disappointed, or disillusioned with organized religion. With such a high turnover, longer term staff used to say that if you could last six months at the Center you had it made.

I had already worked at the Center for two years when I met Bill. I felt it my role to give prospective staff a realistic perspective, to dispel any rose-tinted illusions about life there. But I didn’t have to worry about Bill. Bill already had a secular orientation and a natural skepticism that inoculated him against a presumptuous faith that could be harmful to self or to others. He had faith, but he was not naïve. He believed in God, but he never confused himself or anyone else with God. He had clear eyes and a strong rational bent. But though he sometimes talked like a cynic (and more on this later), he walked like a man of faith, and that is what he was.

 

Backpacking

One of the first things Bill did after he joined DataServe was to share his love of the outdoors with his new friends at the Center. My first backpack trip, easily the most beautiful hike I ever made, was a three-day trip that Bill organized:  Big Pine Lakes on the Palisade Glacier: seven glacier lakes high in the eastern Sierra.

Our group was three single women and Bill. None of us knew each other very well. For Linda C. and me, it was our first trip carrying anything on our backs. There were relational difficulties, funny in hindsight because we all became close friends in later years.

We took the North Fork Trail, hiking the switchbacks in the blazing afternoon sun. Liza W. was way ahead of anyone on the trail. Linda C. was next. I trailed last. Bill, the scout leader, cheerfully brought up the rear. At one point on the trail, I asked no one in particular, “How long is this going to be?”  Behind me Bill said, “Well, you see across that meadow? And the waterfall at the far end?  On top of the waterfall there is a bridge. The trail is nice and wooded there. A mile from the bridge is First Lake. We are camping at Second Lake!”

I have the most precious memories of Fifth Lake, waking up just before dawn to the smell of hot chocolate Bill had made, and watching the moon nestle itself down like a lustrous pearl between the peaks of Temple Crag, all splashed with pink. “I think I shall never see this again.”

We had hoped to get to all seven glacier lakes. But the clouds were turning dark higher up, and Bill realized we had to get down the mountain before the rain began. So we came down the mountain, singing songs through the golden aspen woods.

It was on this hike that I recognized that quality in Bill that forever characterized him to me:  Joy.  Later I came to appreciate his deep love for family and culture, which was nurtured in the outdoors. “Land of my high endeavor, land of the shining river, land of my heart forever.” To this day, whenever I hear “Scotland the Brave” I think of Bill.


Knowledgeable

Bill was exceptionally knowledgeable. Being a librarian, I have many friends who love knowledge, and I treasure them. Bill was like the World Book Encyclopedia. His knowledge base was full of organization, outlines, clarity, and pithiness. Yes, he could go on and on about the workings of a topic, until one would say, “Okay, okay; I get it already!”  But I learned a lot from him.

I learned about food from him. He taught the librarian how to appreciate the Joy of Cooking as a reference tool, not simply a book of recipes.  Being ethnically Chinese, I grew up eating and cooking Chinese food. But it was Bill, not my mother, who taught me that the best way to make fried rice and any Chinese dish flavorful was to add a little chicken powder. To this day, that is what I do! Bill taught me how to peel a banana the way his mother taught him. I paid him back by teaching him how to eat a ripe persimmon, which totally grossed him out.

Bill was a mechanical genius, a miracle worker to those of us not so gifted. Much has been said about this by others.

 

Linda

Linda and Bill had both been part of Z-Volk, the fellowship group that grew out of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. Not long after Bill joined DataServe, Linda moved down to Pasadena, where I met her. I remember being impressed by her spiritual depth, empathy and compassion for others. And her sensibility. She was already Bill’s best friend. They were very compatible. She had a deep love and respect for him, understood and accepted him better than anyone else, and she was committed to deepening their relationship. The odds seemed to be better than not that she would be the woman he would marry. I don’t think Bill realized this at the time, but eventually he came around. As a single man Bill was a wonderful person. But as someone during the memorial service observed, he seemed to come to his fullness and become everything he was meant to be after he married Linda Eldridge.

 

A caring heart

Bill had a way of making every person he knew feel exceedingly valued. I knew I was not the only one who felt this way. Perhaps it was his ability and willingness to be transparent and to share his heart with us. He was genuine and honest about his thoughts, feelings, shortcomings, failures, hopes, accomplishments and joys.

Even though he married and became a father, and moved away to Colorado, Bill still had enough time and interest to stay in contact with his single friends. For me it might have had something to do with the fact that I was a financial supporter, but it was more than that. I have supported others for years who rarely took the time to communicate with me. But whenever Bill and Linda were in the Bay Area, they would take the opportunity to connect with me. I always felt happy and blessed when they did.

On one of their visits we all went to the San Francisco Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito.  The Bay Model had no water in it that day, so it wasn’t visually inspiring. But the boys were still in grade school, and they ran excitedly all over the place. It was fun to see Bill as a father. Another year Bill and Linda invited me to his parents while they were visiting for Christmas. When the boys were adults, Bill and Linda would visit by themselves. Or maybe just Bill himself on occasion.  Like many others I was delighted when they decided to move back to the Bay Area.

 

Helper and Catalyst

Bill always used to say he was not a specialist, but had just enough information to be dangerous. This was very true, because he wouldn’t just sit there with that information, he would act on it. He could be helpful, too helpful at times. And he could be catalytic without even trying.  (Example mercifully omitted here. 😉)

 

Optimism and Hope

Last week I was weeding our library collection, and came upon a Stephen Colbert quote that made me think of Bill.

Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So, for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

In the 1980’s Bill belied these words. He was wisdom in youth, a wise old man in a young man’s body. He was exceedingly rational, clear-eyed, intellectually rigorous and honest. But he was no cynic. His very presence at this fledgling, upstart Christian mission organization was a sparkling and resounding “Yes!” He was constantly learning and growing, stretching his boundaries, constantly optimistic, constantly hopeful.

“Yes” is not just for young people; it is for young spirits. The older Bill got in years, the younger and more sparkling he seemed to become in spirit. He seemed always to be finding new ways to say “Yes” to God, to people, and to life.

I remember my last, hour-long phone conversation with Bill last fall. He was excited about the second trip to the Camino de Santiago he and Linda would be taking, this time as hosts at a hostel along the way. He spoke of his clear sense of calling to share his faith with travelers whose secular language and worldview were so native to him. I was excited for him, and for Linda as well. Bill was in no way done with living or with serving God and his fellow humankind.

That is really the way to go, full of passion for life, with battles to be fought, and goals yet to accomplish. As John Wooden said, “Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time.”  But here lies the great comfort of Bill’s faith – that when the clock stops, it is followed by victory and glory, purchased by the blood of Christ almost two thousand years ago.  And we will have plenty of time to enjoy that.  Amazing!

“And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
*****
With each year heaven is dearer. This year Heaven will be splendid — because Bill is there.

From George Halley, GMI

There will only be one frugal Scot named Bill Dickson.  More than most, Bill lived a life of unique passion and courage leaving his own special mark on us all.

Bill will be well remembered for his particular idiosyncrasies.  Typically, he would give me a fun, formal greeting when we would see each other, like “Good Day, Sir”.  I loved responding with something like, “Good Morning, Good Sir”, and as soon as I called him good, he would reply with “There is no one good except one”   This is just a touch of his humor and style.  Often times, his personality was grating – he could talk too long or off subject for the social context or the work being done.  It is not always easy being with someone with such a strong personality, but the times were special and something which were uniquely Bill.

Secondly, Bill will be remembered for his mercy.  Bill was a man who helped out so many people, sometimes at the determinant of his family life.  He would leave the front garden unfinished, but rush off to help an elderly widow with a home issue or join a work gang of fellow Presbyterian’s.  He spent endless hours with children, teaching them new skills in electronics and making them feel special.  In particular, he would continually put pieces of hardware on the side for Eli Farney and help him with specific problems.  One day, my daughter came to GMI and Bill immediately put her to work as a cable tester.  She will always remember him this way – the kindly man who found something which she could do to help and took the time out of a busy day to teach her this skill.  He was known for training people throughout the world and helping out the new interns as they passed through GMI.  Personally, I felt his mercy in a great way.  More than anyone, Bill would check in with me on how my family was doing and managing my hectic work schedule.  My situation seemed to be ever present in his mind which gave me great comfort.

As I said, he was a man of great passion and courage.  To be a US based missionary living through donations is very difficult.  It is extremely hard to understand how difficult this is until you actually live it.  For Bill, he had a constant reminder of how dependent he AND THE FAMILY HE LOVED were dependent upon the good graces of others for their daily bread.  I wonder how many times Bill and Linda wondered if this was really worth it.  Bill had to be so strong (I’m sure many people thought stubborn!)  Yet, this is who God made him to be and he was true to his good, good Father.

I didn’t meet Bill until six years ago, after Mike O’Rear died.  I cannot imagine how horrible and hard this was.  Bill lost a friend, felt the need to help the O’Rear’s in any way, while having to run a ministry who was not prepared for this setback.  The fact that the O’Rear’s began to thrive again says much of who they are, but also about the support they received in prayer and materially from the Dickson’s.  In my limited viewpoint, this was the beginning of some very difficult times for Bill.

See, Bill and the rest of the board members decided to give over the leadership of this ministry that Mike and he had built to someone new to take it in new directions in the hope that it would flourish.  He supported the move, but over time many of the decisions made for the sake of the ministry were not the same as Mike and Bill may have made.  One of the hardest things for a man to give up is to give the work of his years to another person.  Bill handled it mightily, but there were decisions which were slowly rusting out his core.

Finally, this is what I will remember about Bill – the great grace which God gave him to push through those last years of GMI.  In those times when he was unintentionally hurt, he was able to run to the cross and find God’s immense arms to hide in.  There are some days, I don’t know how he did it, but he did.

You know, one of his biggest regrets was that when he got married that he was able to do all of overseas missionary trips while Linda stayed home.  Before they were married, Linda had been the world traveler.  How he was looking forward to spending more time going overseas with her and seeing her gifts being used.  Linda, I want you to know that everything is known in heaven.  You need to still do those trips and he will see them and experience them with you in a special way (that is if he isn’t too busy worshipping Jesus).

Both Mike and Bill died unexpectedly.  I don’t understand why God took Bill at the time that GMI closed because I saw a great future for him at LightSys.  I guess his memory will always be linked with that great mission agency and his future is for Kathy and Loren to live out.

When I heard that he died in a car accident hitting a tree, I immediately thought of Rich Mullins.  I believe Bill had a great respect for Rich and discussed his death with an intern at a one time.  They died the same way and in such an unexpected time.  After his death occurred, a simple vision came to me of Balaam and his donkey moving off the path because of the Angel in the way.  Well, it feels as if God said Bill’s its time to come to my mansion and his mechanical donkey took him home.

I won’t presume this is what happened, but for such a wonderful man, I can think of no better way to think of his death.  Tonight, my cup is full of tears.  Tomorrow, I will have one of those little Frosty’s at Wendy’s in his memory.  You will be missed, good friend.

Shalom,

George Halley

719.237.3072

“‘If it is for this world only that we have hope, we are of all men most to be pitied’.  Sorry that in this fallen world it counts as good news that in order to live to a normal age we seem to have to let go of our minds and bodies bit by bit.  May the Lord maintain your joy and sense of humor through the un-fun stuff ahead.”