Douglas Dicks has served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a liaison to the Middle East for 18 years, and is now concluding his service.
I found these words from his final report to be stirring, for they have inspired him: “It is not your task to complete the job of perfecting the world, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21 – “Ethics of the Fathers”).
Doug is a realist who maintains hope, which is no small task. He says: I fear for the next generation of young people in the Middle East. What will their lives be like? Where will the good jobs – and good paying jobs – come from? Yet our challenge for the sake of the people in this region – indeed, in the world – should be that we continue to be a source of hope and optimism, and healing, whenever and wherever possible. For to give in to hopelessness and despair would be to watch their world – our world – descend into chaos. That is simply not an option we can afford.
I will post the full text of Doug’s letter below. I continue to believe that it is crucial that we listen to people who are on the ground in the Middle East, rather than the politicians. It is easy to watch from afar and feel a sense of despair. How can we support the people of faith who are in the middle of the situation?
Dear Family and Friends,
How do you take eighteen years of a life, and condense it into a few boxes? That is the process I am going through these days, as I sort through papers, books, photos, cd’s, cards, letters, and the like. Not an easy task, as many of you know!
As the pictures come down from the walls, the cupboards emptied, the furniture sold off and carted away, the boxes sealed, and I look around at an empty apartment, I am reminded once again of what servitude is about; for to empty ourselves and our lives of worldly goods and possessions allows us to be opened up to the endless possibilities of good that God has in store for each and every one of us.
As I prepare to leave the Middle East, I am left with the feeling that there is so much more left to be done. Yet a quote from the biblical mishna, which has hung on my refrigerator door for years, has served as a guideline – and a reflection of my own, personal convictions as well – these many years: “It is not your task to complete the job of perfecting the world, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21 – “Ethics of the Fathers”).
What will I miss the most about the Middle East? The people, of course. What will I miss the least? Politics, both political as well as church. And dust!
What do I regret the most? Those cups of coffee I was offered along the way, yet seldom paused to partake of. There was always a legitimate excuse, mind you. “Later. Another time. I’m in a hurry. Too busy right now. Not today. Perhaps next week?” What rich conversations were missed!
On May 23rd, in a special communion/prayer service, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center honored both me and Kathy Bergen, from the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), for our years of service in the region, and in particular, in Israel and Palestine. The Thursday noon service was attended by friends, colleagues, partners, and well wishers. Following the service, a delicious meal of Palestinian cuisine was served to everyone in attendance.
Just weeks ago, at the October meeting of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I was honored by my friends, colleagues and supporters, and presented a thirty minute power point presentation, highlighting some of the key events of my life, work and ministry in the Middle East on behalf of the church. Many thanks go to Ted Settle, who poured over dozens of photos in order to pull together this presentation!
I can never repay the debt I owe to so many of you. You know who you are. Those of you who were faithful supporters, both spiritually as well as financially. The cards, the letters, the words of encouragement and support throughout these eighteen years. The visits and the visitors. May God richly bless each and every one of you, just as you have blessed me. You were, and will remain always, a special part of my life.
I only hope that my presence here has, in some small way, made a difference, for our church, for our partners, and for our ecumenical friends and colleagues.
I was 35 when I arrived in Jerusalem in September of 1995 Today, I am 54. Some of the best – and richest – years of my life have been spent here.
Eighteen years ago, there was a sense of hope and optimism in the air. Today, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict has yet to be resolved; both Yitzak Rabin and Yasser Arafat are dead. King Hussein of Jordan and Hafez al Assad of Syria are also gone. The rulers and leaders are different, yet the key issues remain. A civil war rages within Syria, as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis. Egypt exploded in February 2011. Today, it is imploding, as new violence threatens to destabilize an already volatile country. In Iraq, suicide bombings have once again become an almost daily occurrence, in what has been called an “accelerated surge in violence.” The entire region teeters.
I fear for the next generation of young people in the Middle East. What will their lives be like? Where will the good jobs – and good paying jobs – come from?
Yet our challenge for the sake of the people in this region – indeed, in the world – should be that we continue to be a source of hope and optimism, and healing, whenever and wherever possible. For to give in to hopelessness and despair would be to watch their world – our world – descend into chaos. That is simply not an option we can afford.
When I visited Cairo in 2012, not long after the year anniversary of the “revolution,” Tahrir Square was still full of people, espousing one political view or another with their posters, banners and graffiti. However, the most striking slogan I saw was on a t-shirt being sold by a young vendor. It said simply “The power of the people is stronger than people in power.”
I hope and I pray that I find some of that conviction in my own country as I return home. For it, too, has also changed in the years I have been abroad.
Godspeed, and blessings to you all, Doug
Doug Dicks – End of Service – November 2013
The 2013 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 298
How to support Doug: You are invited to continue supporting Doug’s work through prayer and encouraged to get to know him through updates like this, personal letters and emails. If you are able, please support his ministry through financial gifts. Individual donations may be made on-line at www.pcusa.org/give, or mailed to the address below. Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site.
Presbyterian World Mission P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
On the memo line, please write “Doug Dicks” and ECO number, E200332 (individual giving) or DMS number, D506222 (church giving)
For questions about supporting Doug, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org Read other mission worker updates at: www.pcusa.org/missionconnections. Thank you for learning about Doug’s ministry.