The Goddards spent forty three years serving the Lord with NTM in Paraguay, from 1966 to 2009, when they retired. Dean focused on church planting and lesson preparation, while Nellie worked with the medical team, prepared documents, and wrote songs for believers in the tribes. Dean was born in Montana in 1941 and Nellie in West Virginia in 1943.
Nellie attended a mission-minded church and VBS and summer church camps where missionaries were often presenting their work. From an early age she was aware of the importance of sharing the Gospel with others. Dean was saved when he was eight, but did not have a concern for others’ salvation until he saw tribal people without Christ when he and his parents arrived on the field of Paraguay.
Nellie’s outreach experiences were directed by youth group leaders with a concern for missions. She would participate in street meetings where she would play her accordion and hand out tracts, worked with Child Evangelism and taught Sunday school. Dean’s outreach was done while on the field.
Dean’s awareness of NTM came through his parents who were already on assignment in Paraguay. Nellie was introduced to NTM through an aunt and uncle who would often have missionaries in their home. There she would learn from them about their work in remote areas where tribal people had never heard the Gospel. As a result of their witness, she felt called of the Lord to go into the training.
God’s calling on Dean’s life became clear while he was attending New Tribes Bible Institute. He felt assured missions was where he was to spend his life. Nellie remembers wanting to be a missionary nurse from childhood. That was a goal the Lord never let her forget. She went into Bible school where she met Dean.
A difficult challenge came early in their ministry when a fellow Christian suggested they perhaps were not material for the field; that they should return to the States to pursue something different. They were devastated to hear this and went into earnest prayer. Together they confirmed one another that God had definitely led them to missions not for just a few years but until God removed them from the work. As a result, what began as a huge problem and a possible end to their ministry, God used to strengthen their faith and their commitment.
Challenges came later in their ministry as well. At thirteen, their oldest son contracted a virus that brought on a high fever, so they administered an aspirin, unaware he was allergic. He went into convulsions, but a doctor was six hours away overland. Via the radio they were able to make contact to get a plane into their remote area but they had to get their son to the airstrip. Their only transportation was a tractor; and while on the machine, the convulsions returned and stopped his breathing. Dean was able to resuscitate him. He did not have another until he entered the Baptist hospital in Asuncion where he went into a three-day coma. The staff did not know how to proceed, so they joined hands and circled the bed to pray for the Lord’s mercy. When he regained consciousness, Dean and Nellie shared with him how the Lord had undertaken for him and spared his life for a reason; that he should always keep God first in his life. That son is now serving in Paraguay.
Before leaving the field in 2009, some Ache tribal people among whom the Goddards had worked years ago invited Dean and his son Michael to a goodbye conference where they encouraged them their ministry was so fruitful among them and not in vain. Many of the people in church leadership in the tribe were just youngsters when Dean began teaching them. Dean said it is often difficult for missionaries to determine their effectiveness among a tribal people, so that gathering greatly encouraged the Goddards. Michael encouraged them in return to carry on the work his grandfather had begun, making this three generations of Goddards bringing the word of God. The Ache replied that they were in their third generation of Ache Christians and they needed to carry on for the Lord just like Dean’s family.
Nellie’s mission-minded church where her parents were saved and she and her sister grew up, supported them forty three years. Their pastor came to visit as did his son who spoke at a field conference. Church sponsored groups came to do projects. They were prayed for at Wednesday night meetings, and they continue to give half support into retirement.
Looking back, would they do it all over again? “Yes, because Jesus is worth serving for a lifetime.”