One night nearly five years ago I had a dream. I only remember bits and pieces of it but that it probably because I was only supposed to remember one piece of it.
For the first time and for the only time in my life I dreamt that someone – I don’t know that I ever knew who – was showing me a Bible chapter to read. The chapter mattered, I sensed, because it pertained to stuff that I was supposed to do – to a calling perhaps. I don’t really know.
Anyway, I woke up and thought about the specific book and the specific chapter and thought that I didn’t really want to go look it up because I was afraid that it didn’t exist. After all, the chapter number I recalled was high – 61. I knew not many books of the Bible had 61 chapters.
So I waited a few days and then I looked… a bit sheepishly… a bit casually… kind of flipping through to find the book and then flipping through to see how many chapters it had.
It turned out that the book had more than 61 chapters because the book was Isaiah. The 61st chapter, though I didn’t really know it as well at the time, was the book from which Jesus preached his first sermon.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
As I reflected on the dream and on the passage I could only conclude that part of what God wanted from me was to do what Jesus said he had come to do – to help the poor and the brokenhearted and the captives. And I also knew that I had to go to sub-Saharan Africa. I’d thought of going before but at that moment I knew I had to go.
The thought wasn’t necessarily a comforting one. After all, I’d been through a brain tumor and had small seizures and was very comfortable in my comfortable world. Going to that part of Africa seemed to be something that might be a step too far – a bit radical.
But as time passed I longed to go. I longed to go for numerous reasons. I was increasingly drawn there. I knew I needed to see outside my world and though I had traveled extensively in the past – including to South Africa – I knew this would be categorically different. Then, as I started chemo, and went through my own dance on the outskirts of suffering, I wanted to go because I wanted – selfishly – to put my own challenges into proper perspective. There is real suffering in the world and mine was not genuinely part of it.
Then came this opportunity to go… to see the work being done by Compassion International – their child survival programs and their HIV/AIDS work. There was a friend now living and working in Uganda. There was the fact that a dear friend had lived there for years and another friend had visited. It seemed the perfect place to go…
…and this morning I am going.
I go with expectation – not unlike Red at the end of the Shawshank Redemption …hopeful …excited …a bit anxious.
I don’t know what the next five or six or seven days holds. But I am ready for the journey.