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Collection 593 Papers of Lillian R. Dickson

Identifier: CN 593

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, newsletters, audio tapes, clippings, photo albums, photographs, prayer calendars, and video tapes all related to the life and ministry of Lillian Dickson, missionary to Taiwan under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of Canada along with her husband James and founder of the small independent mission Mustard Seed, Inc. The collection documents as well the mission’s founding and development over the years and in its activities in church planting, evangelism, adoption, childcare, education, medicine, development aid and relief in Taiwan, Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea.


  • Created: 1926-1983

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

Full Name: Lillian Ruth (LeVesconte) Dickson

Birth: January 29, 1901, Prior Lake, Minnesota

Death: January 14, 1983, Taipei, Taiwan


Parents: John & Lillie Belle (Gibbs) LeVesconte

Siblings: Older siblings Harold and Amy and younger brother Lester

Marital Status: Married James Ira Dickson (February 23, 1900 - June 15, 1967) on May 16, 1927

Children: Ronald James Dickson (1930-1982), Marilyn Ruth (Dickson) Tank, Bi-lian “Mei-ling” Dickson


1924 - Macalester College (B.A.), St. Paul, Minnesota

Circa. 1925 - Biblical Seminary, New York City, New York


1927-1940 - First term: Missionary to Taiwan with her husband James under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

1940-1946 - Evangelistic work in British Guiana (now Guyana), South America

1948 - Founded The Mustard Seed, Inc. a small interdenominational sending agency of evangelical tradition partnering with churches engaged in Christian education, childcare/orphanage programs, church planting, theological education, medical work and relief aid.

1946-1983 - Evangelistic work and social ministry in Taiwan especially to the mountain peoples and in Borneo, Irian Jaya, and Papua New Guinea. Established orphanages, tuberculous sanitariums, maternity wards, vocational schools, etc.

Other significant information:

1927-1967 - James Dickson was a missionary to Taiwan under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. Mostly involved in the work of the Theological College in Taiwan.

1958 - Authored These My People: Serving Christ Among the Mountain People of Formosa


2.80 Cubic Feet (7 Boxes (RC), Audio Tapes, Photo Albums, Photographs, Slides, Video Tapes )

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

[Note: In the Scope & Content section, the notation “folder 2-5" means “Box 2, Folder 5"]

Series: Audio Tapes

Tape 1: Message by Lillian Dickson given at Parkway Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington. Short introduction by a fellow missionary (name unknown). Lillian describes the missionary work among the mountain peoples of Taiwan, statistics on the churches, vocational schools, Burning Bush Mission Society (ministry to South Seas tribes), teacher training schools in Indonesia, boys and girls schools in Papua New Guinea, community centers, schools in Irian Jaya, experiences in Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asian schools, and exhorts Christians to be involved Christian work and the need of student scholarships. October 28, 1980.

Tape 2: Mary Goforth Moynan speaking at Calgary. Tape begins with Moynan opening in prayer and describes why God was able to use her father, Jonathan Goforth, a Korean revival meeting, preaching trip with her husband Bob, reads poem Cherish Your Man (encouraging wives to support their husbands). Undated


Series: Photo Albums

The following items are located in the PHOTO ALBUM FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.

DICKSON, LILLIAN. Three sets of photographs pasted on loose pages clipped together. One set contains eight photographs with captions pasted onto seven pages of loose leaf paper with photos of Lillian playing her accordion, doing evangelistic work, a group of Christian workers, Marilyn Dickson on a tricycle, and Steve, a Taiwanese, preaching at the Bamboo Clinic in Sin-tek. Another set includes six photographs pasted onto eight pages of loose leaf paper titled, “The Mackay Memorial Hospital and the Workers Therein.” The third set contains two photographs one of the Theological College teachers and students and another of the Bible school. 1936-1971, undated.


Series: Photographs

The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by folder title (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.

DICKSON, LILLIAN. Individual photos of Dickson and many with her friends, co-workers, Bob Pierce, Robert Schuller, orphan children, groups of individuals (e.g. graduating class of nurse aides), distributing gifts to children, banquet honoring Dickson (1973), television program “It Could Be You” on which Lillian was honored, program taken at Macalester College (Minnesota), in Taiwan, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, and other unidentified places. Also photos of Dickson’s parents, nurses standing in front of signs to a maternity ward and tuberculous sanatoriums in Taiwan, photo of memorial stone with the history of Chi-Oang Memorial Church (in English and Taiwanese) and Chi-oang, Burning Bush committee (?), Wiren Takko (imprisoned by Japanese for his faith), groups of children, funeral and memorial service for Jim Dickson, Happy Mount Leprosy Colony, native peoples of Taiwan, two interesting photos labeled “leper’s children in Church of Lepers brought back to be seen but not touched by leper parents” and “the Japanese try to rule the tribes-have called a council of a friendly tribe.” Individual images of James Dickson and with Taiwanese women believers (used in the publication of Christian Life, see folder 1-3, at Oxford College (Taiwan?), dedication of new site for theological college, two photos with a group at Student Volunteer Mission Conference in Ohio one labeled “Seventh Council of the S.V.M., Oberlin, Ohio, 1926.” 102 b&w, 29 color, 1924-1980, undated


Series: Slides

The following items are located in the SLIDE FILE. All of the slides are in color, unless otherwise noted.


Information on each slide written by Lillian Dickson or someone else is enclosed in quotation marks.

S1 - “Lillian Dickson, Evelyn McLeod, Khohbar, Saudi Arabia, Mar. 1966."

S2 - “Nov. 15 ‘67.” Lillian Dickson and others standing by James Dickson’s tombstone.

S3 - “Nov. 15 ‘67.” James Dickson’s tombstone in Taiwan.


Series: Videos

The following items are located in the VIDEO FILE. Please request videos by the video number.

V1. Lillian Dickson. One hundred eighty black and white and color photos of Lillian Dickson (and others) with background music but no description of the photos. Undated

V2. Spotlight on Formosa. James Dickson narrates his film footage about Formosa. It’s history, geography, peoples (especially the mountain aborigines), and mission work; circa 1951.

V3. Miracle at Matarah. Information about the country of Indonesia and the Mustard Seed, Inc. school at Matarah, Borneo which was nearly destroyed by a fire on September 19, 1982. See the MSI newsletter of November 30, 1982 (folder 6-5) for information about the fire; circa 1982

V4. While It Is Day: Lillian Dickson’s Taiwan and Matarah. Two programs on tape. While It Is Day describes a typical day in the life of Dickson as she visits the Mustard Seed office in Taipei, Taiwan, orphanages, schools (Bible and trade), rescue home, maternity home, tuberculosis clinic, black foot disease clinic, and prison ministry. Matarah is the same as V3, circa 1982.

V5. The Goforth Centennial, 1888-1988. Part One: Jonathan & Rosalind Goforth in China, Part Two: Mary’s Story. Interview of Mary Goforth Moynan by Sherry McGloughlan and Kathy Peters at Christian Heritage College; circa 1988.


Series: Paper Records (Box List)

Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title assigned by the archivist.

Date Range: 1926-1983, undated

Volume: 2.65 cubic feet, Boxes: 1-7

Geographic Coverage: United States, Taiwan, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia

Type of Documents: Articles, church bulletins, clippings (newspaper & magazine), correspondence, diaries, newsletters, notes, poems, passports, prayer calendars, speeches, telegrams.

Correspondents: Lillian Dickson to her family and others, James Dickson to his wife Lillian, Marilyn and Ronald Dickson to their parents.

Subjects: Life and ministry of Dickson, Mustard Seed, Inc., James Dickson, missionary and social work in Asia

Notes: The bulk of the collection consists of Lillian Dickson’s letters and diaries. The correspondence were written mostly to her family and begin just before she was married and end a few months before her death. The materials documents as well the mission’s founding and development over the years and in its activities in church planting, evangelism, adoption, childcare, education, medicine, development aid and relief in Taiwan, Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea.

Exceptional items: In folder 1-8 she describes her future husband’s desire to do missionary work in Taiwan and her plan to take medical courses in preparation to be the “family doctor” (September 28, 1926) and tells of the lack good medical care for lepers (December 31, 1927). In a letter (May 20, 1928) in folder 1-9 she describes the Nationalists soldiers and the shelling of the city of Amoy. Two letters from Lillian’s nurse tell of the stillborn birth of her son (September 15, 1928). Folder 2-1 contains letters in which Lillian tells about her new home and includes a floor plan (April 2, 1929), counseling with a Ko-niu woman and problems of unmarried men (February 23, 1930). Folder 2-2 contains letters which describes the difficult time missionaries and native Christians had in China (August 25, 1931), progress the Japanese brought to Taiwan (October 14, 1932), teaching English in a college (June 18, 1933), and the varied and many jobs she has (January 23, 1934). She describes preaching at a Taiwan churches women’s meeting (folder 2-3, May 20, 1938) and visiting with native Christians in Guiana (March 14, 1942). A few letters (folders 1-9, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3) have been transcribed and are attached to the original letters.

Folder 2-4 includes several letters addressed to “Dear Friends” which were probably sent to her prayer supporters. She describes the reasons Chinese aren’t willing to continue their education (June 30, 1947), her evangelistic work (September 20, 1948), outreach to mountain people living in Taipeh, Taiwan (January 31, 1949), and the work in a medical mobile clinic (May 1, 1950). Folder 2-5 contains a letter from DeWitt Wallace (July 5, 1972), founder of the Reader’s Digest, who mentions he was glad to hear she was “carrying on so successfully” and enclosed a $10,000 donation for the work of Mustard Seed, Inc., a letter (July 28, 1970) from Mrs. Shia-ek-lan thanking Dickson for allowing Shou Pin (her daughter?) to “learn the work of God.” Also described is her rescue home ministry (August 4, 1964), and a telegram listing the needs of the Hwalien babies home, school chapel, and tuberculous sanitarium as a result of Typhoon Nina (August 6, 1975), Lillian’s work in helping foreign prisoners in Taiwan jails (March 20, 1978), copy of letter (May 4, 1982) to Madame Chiang Kai-shek telling of the death of Lillian’s son, Ronald Dickson, and a copy of letter (August 27, 1982) written five months before her death to Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship in which she describes prison work. Folder 7-3 contains telegrams mostly sent by Lillian to her daughter, Marilyn.

Many of James Dickson’s letters in folder 1-6 were written to Lillian during his 1953 trip to Asia and Europe. His letter of June 5, 1946 describes the deplorable conditions at a hospital, leprosy colony, college, and middle schools which were being occupied at that time by Chinese soldiers. Folder 2-6 contains a few correspondences of Lillian’s children, Ronald and Marilyn.

Lillian’s diaries in boxes 2, 3, 4, and 5 contain mostly her writings related to the work of Mustard Seed, Inc. The diaries do not record descriptions of daily events but contain her inner thoughts about these events. Some passages were used in the monthly newsletters of MSI (folders 6-3, 6-4, 6-5). Part of the diary entry for June 1974 (folder 3-4) about Indonesia was published in the June 29, 1974 newsletter (folder 6-4). The diaries that are dated cover the period from 1966 to 1982 although there are twelve undated diaries in folders 5-2, 3, 4. In her small 1973 diary (folder 3-3) on the February 22nd page she writes, “Another day in court. Another child to be ushered in to a Safe Harbour.” In her red 1973 diary (folder 3-3) is a business card from Madame Chiang Kai Shek address “For Mrs. Dickson.”

Five pocket calendar diaries of James Dickson, which appear to have been used mostly for keeping track of meetings and appointments, are in folder 2-7.

Three magazine articles about the Dicksons appeared in Christian Herald (folder 1-2) titled “Lillian Dickson of Taiwan,” “Candlelight and Compassion,” and “Escape,” and one in Christian Life (folder 1-3) “Formosa Story.” Folder 1-4 contains an assortment of magazine clippings from various magazines several of which describe the work of the Dicksons. Some of the titles are “Orchid Island - the Formosan Paradise” by James Dickson, “The Lady and the Head-hunters” (evangelistic and social work of Lillian), “The Gospel in Formosa,” “Our Impromptu Visit to Formosa” by Mrs. Lyle Caspell includes a draft manuscript of the article.

Original and photocopies of newspaper clippings in folder 1-5 contain information on the work of both Lillian and James. Two clippings reprint excerpts of letters the Dicksons sent to Lillian’s parents in Minnesota.

Typewritten manuscripts in folder 5-6 were mostly written by Lillian. “History of Nipa Homecraft Center” describes the mission work in Papua New Guinea., “James Dickson” gives a chronological account of the educational and missionary work of James Dickson, and “Out in the Fields with God” describes Lillian’s visitation ministry.

Undated notes and outlines in folder 6-6 were probably used in talks given by Dickson. Three loose-leaf notebooks (folder 7-2) contain a few of Lillian’s speeches in outline form (most are about the work and needs of Mustard Seed). A spiral notebook with published poems by various authors pasted into it and loose pages of poems are in folder 6-8. Two of Lillian’s passports are in folder 6-7. Folder 7-1 contains prayer calendars for British Guiana and Taiwan and three address books of Lillian are in folder 1-1.

The monthly MSI newsletters (folders 6-3, 6-4, 6-5) contain articles on the preaching of the gospel and educational, medical, vocational, orphanage, and children homes work. Most of these were written by Lillian until just before her death and then by her daughter, Marilyn. Folder 6-2 contains advertisements, booklets, brochures, and other materials related to the work of MSI in Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and the South Seas Islands. Two record books (folder 5-5) lists donors to Mustard Seed, Inc. There are eighty-three individuals listed in the 1983 book and four in the 1977 book.

Some miscellaneous items in folder 6-1 include materials about the Taiwan Theological College and Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto (Dicksons’ home church), Dicksons’ missionary certificate for service in British Guiana as educational missionaries, booklet commemorating the 80thbirthday of Lillian (Great Social Services Rendered in Taiwan, R.O.C. by Mrs. Lillian R. Dickson, President of Mustard Seed, Inc.), memorial folder with information on Lillian’s career, two letters from Mustard Seed, Inc. concerning the death of Lillian and future of MSI, photograph of a typed letter from Chiang Kai-shek giving support to the work of the Pocket Testament League, poster of the Burning Bush Mission Society with photos of the first four missionaries from the mountain churches of Taiwan to minister to the people of Sarawak, Borneo, and Lillian’s 1960 will.

A small loose-leaf notebook (folder 6-9) contains bulletins for the Randeholl Memorial Church (British Guiana) where Rev. James Dickson was moderator of the session. Also in the folder are dedication service bulletins for the Palmyra and Dharam Ashram (Albion Plantation) Canadian Mission Churches. An unusual item in this notebook is a one page sheet titled, “Service of Prayer and Supplication on the Occasion of the Commencement of the Invasion, Tuesday, June 6, 1944.”

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Mustard Seed, Inc. (Ontario) in December 1984, Mustard Seed, Inc. (California), and by Marilyn Dickson Tank in July 1986 through March 1996. Books received from Mrs. Tank have been given to the Missions and Evangelism Collection, Buswell Library, Wheaton College. A list of these books is available by request.

Accession 84-159, 86-66, 86-74, 87-19, 87-22, 89-59. 89-70, 89-102, 90-39, 90-44, 91-30, 91-40, 91-53, 91-65, 91-70. 92-5, 92-14, 92-48, 92-112, 96-5, 96-19, 96-20

November 2, 2004

Wayne D. Weber

Collection 593 Papers of Lillian R. Dickson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US