Thanh: I grew up in Bolton, MA ...that's about 35 miles west of Boston. Then in the early 90's moved out to San Francisco for a change in scenery and perhaps more interesting work. What was supposed to be a 2 or maybe 3 years stay ended up to be closer to 9 years...I guess this is my way of saying I like California and the people there...well, maybe not all of them.
When I first moved to San Francisco I attended the First Presbyterian Church over in Berkerley and liked it very much. But after about a year I felt that God was nudging me to move to a church closer to where I was living so that I could be more involved and served better. So around the Summer of 1991, through the help of my friend Sherilyn Stolz, I found The Golden Gate Community Church (GGCC). At GGCC I served as a trustee. small group leader, sound guy, greeter, and a few other roles.
I like all kind of sports...from ice hockey, soccer, tennis, to fly-fishing, etc... Playing is definitely better than watching, but watching is okay if I get to do it with friends who are not too fanatical about their team winning or loosing.
I enjoy good literature. J.R.R. TolKien, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Stephen Lawhead, Walter Wangerin, Francis Schaeffer, and Madeleine L'Engle are some of my favorite authors...though I think my brother Matthew Dickerson is a pretty fine writer himself...and I don't think I am bias either. Actually it was Matt that introduced me to a lot of the authors I like above so I will forever be grateful to him for that.
Music is another thing which I also enjoy very much...and at times feel very passionate about. While living in San Francisco, one of the ways which I lived out this passion was to organize many concerts for talented groups like Over The Rhine, The Vigilantes of Love, Brooks Williams, The Call, Robert Deeble, Jason Harrod, and a few others...These are artists...musicians whom I feel have a lot to say and share through their music. They deserve to be heard by a much broader audience. Do take the time to check them out.
The most significant event that I organized while living in San Francisco was probably the Engaging Culture Through the Arts Conference. The purpose of this conference was to inspire Christians to pursue excellence in the arts, and to discuss arts as a way of exploring meaning as well as communicating meaning in a fallen world. Edward Knippers, Gregory Wolfe, Harold Fickett, Matthew Dickerson, Brooks Williams, and Robert Deeble all spoke at this conference.
When not pursuing my interests and hobbies, I worked as a Civil Engineer in Massachusetts and California as a bridge designer and builder for 10 years.
How I came to Hungary...
Actually my first trip to Hungary was in 1995 (or was it 1996?), when I took an extended vacation and backpacked all over Europe. On This trip I spent 4 days in Hungary and visited my oldest brother Jody and his family who moved to Budapest a couple years earlier to work as a missionary with OMS International.
I thought that Hungary was a beautiful country with a very rich and interesting history. Architecturally it's beautiful with all the old churches, castles, buildings, villages, etc... But I didn't think that there was anything really special about Hungary that would draw me back to visit...at least so soon. So when I got an invitation from my brother a few years later to come back and help out at an English summer camp that his mission group was organizing, I didn't exactly jump at the idea. In all honesty, I was not that excited about spending 2 1/2 weeks of my hard earn vacation time to work as a teacher...even if it was an "evangelistic outreach", but since my original plan for traveling to Africa that summer didn't pan out, I decided to go to Hungary anyway...not necessarily because for the mission thing. The reason for why I went was so that I could spend some more time with my family as I didn't get to see them often.
When I arrived in Hungary that summer, doing mission work was not exactly the first thing on my mind, but after a few days days my attitude began to change. And toward the end of the first week, I was totally excited about doing what I was doing in serving, getting to know the students and sharing the Gospel with them.
I got to witness some pretty amazing things that happened at that camp...spitual warfare, servant hearts, the power of love in bringing forth hope and transforming attitudes and lives...
By then end of that camp all who came got to hear the message of the Gospel. Quite a few student decided to commit their lives over to God while a few renewed theirs. There were some, eventhough were not yet ready to make the commitment, they were at least interested in learning more about Christianity. When I left camp that summer I felt both priviledged about what I got to be a part of, and at the same time sad because I knew that I will not get to see many of the students again.
In the couple days following camp, I felt somewhat unsettled...I knew that something has just happened and got a hold of me...but I wasn't exactly sure of what that was. I knew that I needed some time to pray, think, and sort through in order to make sense of what is happening to me.
On my way to the train station to leave Budapest that summer I asked my brother about what his organization is planning to do with the new believers from camp? and suggested that they should have someone to do the follow up work with them. He agreed that someone to do the follow up work, but unfortunately they didn't have anyone to do that at the time, so their plan was to keep in touch with these student via phone calls, letters, and and invite them to the various discipleship training weekend retreats which they organize every 2-3 months, in hope that these retreats will teach these students more about about what it means to be a Christian, also to encourage them in their spiritual walk.
As I left the train station that day, I felt like a part of me got left behind but wasn't exactly sure of what that meant...so I waved good bye to my brother and left.
For the next 4 1/2 months, the first conscious thought that would come to my mind every morning was about Hungary. I think I realized of that meant fairly early on, but chose to ignore it...or at least tried to. I didn't want to accept it because I knew that it would mean I have to leave all that I worked so hard for...friends, church, job, the city...But the beckoning, nudge, sign, or whatever you call it kept coming, got louder and clearer, until I realized that by igoring it I would in essence...ignoring God. So on New Year's eve 1999 I conceded and told God that I would "give" Him one year to do what he wanted me to.
So at the end of May of 1999, I left my engineering position, got rid of a lot of stuff, said good bye to my life and friends in the San Francisco area, and left for Hungary to embark on a totally new life and work.
...and that was 7 years ago.
Currently Thanh facilitates the International Christian Fellowship of Budapest (ICFB). This is an English speaking ministry reaching out to international students and young professionals studying/living in Budapest. This ministry is a part of the Hungrian IFES students movement.
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Melinda: Originally from Visk, a small city in the south western part of the Ukraine. Although she has Ukrainian citizenship, she considers herself Hungarian as ethnically she is one along with some 4 million other ethnic Hungarians living just outside the border of present Hungary. After the Second World War at the Trianon Treaty in 1919, as a punishment for siding (not necessarily by choice) with the losing side, Hungary lost more than 2/3 of its land mass along with 4 million of its own people to its neighbors like Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, and Croatia. To this day, this remains a very sensitive and emotional issue to many Hungarians living in and just over the border.
Melinda moved to Budapest about 8 years ago through an invitation of a Hungarian family, whom she met a few years earlier, to come and live with them while she continues to further her education. And, it was through this family that Melinda got to know Thanh’s brother's family here in Budapest, and through them…well…you know the rest.
Melinda likes to read, travel, and is a pretty good cook. Thanh thinks Melinda is responsible for him gaining 5-6 kilos since they got married…but Melinda thinks differently. Some of Melinda’s favorite authors are Dostoyevsky, Puskin, Bulgakov, Sienkiewicz, Jokai Mor, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
For now because it’s difficult for Melinda to get the proper travel documents to travel pretty much anywhere outside of the former Soviet Union...and being married to a poor missionary...she doesn't get to go to too any exotic places. So as a cheap substitute, Melinda likes to go on adventures vicariously via the travel channel on TV. Thanh is glad that Melinda is fine with these armchair virtual adventures, but is not sure how much longer until she demands that they will go on a real one.
If all goes well Melinda will get her Master's degrees this year...one in English and the other in History. Though she will have a lot of work ahead of her.
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Chilling with friends from GGCC
After a canoe trip at the Russian River
Thanh with Dana, Sherilyn and Miichael at Young Life Camp
Waiting for lunch at Mt. Herman
My Conversation group, Eger English Camp
At top of Castle Hill, Budapest 2001
Melinda, San Francisco 2003
At the driving range with Michael, Aug. 2003