In the early 1950s, Joe and Millie Dawson became Christians. Shortly thereafter they felt the call to go to the mission field. Millie Dawson expressed it more as a COMMAND to go. After a year of training to live in the most rudimentary conditions, the Dawsons were sent to Venezuela. They arrived in Puerto Ayacucho on October 15, 1953 with three small children. Millie was expecting a forth child.
Joe and Millie were sent to the Yanomamö tribe who lived in part of the Amazon River basin. They lived among the Yanomamö and learned their language and culture. As the Dawsons learned the language they were able to tell the people about God and His son Jesus. On one occasion they were telling the story of Job and his trials. The natives recognized the story. It had been carried forward orally in their culture for thousands of years!
After many years the Dawsons were able to translate the New Testament into the Yanomamö language, and portions of the Old Testament. In the meantime, Joe and Millie raised ten children in the Amazonian jungle. Their lives are a continual story of the miraculous provision of God. In addition to the hardship of living in primitive conditions, there were many tropical health issues. As the children grew up, they married and had families of their own. In 1992, Michael Dawson’s first wife Reneé died of malaria. But the Dawsons stayed in the jungle. Brother Joe Dawson went to be with the Lord March 17, 2011. Millie Dawson and some of her children are still in Venezuela.
The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, began to force all Christian missionaries to leave the country in 2005. Included in this order was Mission Aviation Fellowship, which provided air support for the missionaries. Had Mission Aviation not withdrawn, their aircraft would have been confiscated. This was a serious blow to the Dawsons. Flights of fifteen minutes could take hours by boat and even longer through the jungle. As a result, many sick and injured natives have died despite the Venezuelan government’s promises of medical air support.
I noted two paragraphs above that the Dawsons are still in Venezuela. The government came to the native village, Coshilowa-teli, to ask why they had not left. Michael Dawson showed them his birth certificate. He and six of his siblings are native Venezuelans!
The Dawsons are raising funds to purchase a plane of their own in order to serve the native peoples of the jungle. Mission Padamo Aviation and Support was founded to serve as their air arm to help in this effort. To find out more about the mission, please see http://www.mpaviation.org/
Millie Dawson wrote a first-person account about her experiences in the jungles of Venezuela; All the Day Long. Also Michael Dawson, who says that he learned Yanomamö before he learned English, has written about his life in the jungle. It is called Growing Up Yanomamö. Both books are available at http://www.mpaviation.org/gallery/store/ .