By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Project: Friendship begins with a hello
Missionary back from Paraguay
Mathes pic
Strong Wall Academy students in Lawrenceville connected with a school in Paraguay via Internet earlier this month. Missionary Ben Mathes of Dawsonville said it was an effort to build “a bridge of understanding.” - photo by For the Dawson Community News

A missionary from Dawson County has returned from his trip to Paraguay, where he was able to connect the lives of young people living a world apart.


Rivers of the World Founder Ben Mathes set out for Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay on Oct. 10 with a suitcase full of supplies for the students there.


Many of the items came from students in a Lawrenceville Christian school — Strong Wall Academy — interested in “building a bridge of understanding” with the foreign students.


Mathes arrived home last week and shared his journey.


One of the most remarkable things, Mathes said, was introducing the students to each other using a live Internet feed.


“The kids in Paraguay said this opened a part of the world they never thought they’d see,” Mathes said. “It was just incredible to be there.”


Mathes said the theme of the project was “friendship begins with a hello.” A student from Strong Wall Academy penned a song and performed it for the students in Paraguay with the theme in mind.


There were problems, however, following the students’ communications.


“The next day, all of the kids at the school had their e-mail and Facebook accounts hacked and destroyed,” Mathes said. “They also came after my sites, but our web master blocked them.”


Ciudad Del Este is home to 25,000 Hamas and Hezbollah groups.


Mathes — a Presbyterian minister and a regular on national Christian radio — said he plans to go back to Paraguay to again visit children in the Lebanese school.


“My intention is to go back and keep this going,” Mathes said.


He added that “the kids down there invited the kids from America to come down and stay in their homes. That would be amazing.”


Since 1978, Mathes has traveled far and wide on behalf of health development, exploration and Christian missions.


His organization, Rivers of the World, focuses on “everything from faith-based Christian missionary work to nation-building and research.”


For more information, visit