Dream Again began one evening in Kolkata, India (Calcutta) following services at the Buntain Church. Mark Buntain had been legendary for his ministry to the poor and marginalized of Kolkata and the nation of India. I had the opportunity to visit the hospital he built, to visit the orphanages, and the home for rescued little boys and girls from prostitution, the schools he had built. He was a friend of Mother Teresa and earlier that week I had visited her home, grave and the home for the sick and dying. He had a gift of faith that saw no obstacles. Mark’s wife, Huldah, gave me a personal gift from his office (see the above photo) to remember my visit. (It sits across from my desk as a reminder for prayer and great faith.) I had enjoyed the morning immensely. It is not an exaggeration to tell you faith, hope and joy were flooding my soul.
I had preached that morning on the subject of Finding God. When I arrived back at my hotel that evening, a young lady came from behind the front desk and asked to speak with me. She had visited the service that morning and told me her story. Her father was a Brahmin from the Northern part of the country. She had given her heart to Christ and subsequently told to leave her home and city. That was how she came to Kolkata. Someone had invited her to the church and that morning she had heard me speak on Finding God. We talked at length about Finding God in the midst of pain, rejection and sorrow. After praying together, she went back to the front desk and I headed down the hall to the elevators.
Walking down the marble hallway with a beautiful glass wall looking out on a shimmering pool and a full moon in the sky, the thought of building a floor on the orphanage of Home of Hope burst into my thoughts. I laughed at myself. By the time I had reached the end of the long hallway and pressed the button on the elevator key pad, I was seized with an urgency about the orphanage. I remember saying, “Father, there is no way we could raise that much money.” Instantly the joy departed as doubt displaced faith. Later during the night with the thought committed to Christ if this is what you want we’ll do it. Loren Triplett once told me, “Dennis, we need pastors like you who love missions visiting the field, coming home and sharing the needs with their congregations.”
I wish that the story of Dream Again took off from there. However, there was an e-coli virus that I was carry home. A three year health nightmare that almost took my life was beginning. It would only be after five major surgeries, a colostomy and a colostomy reversal, and the blessed gift of a Sabbatical by our congregation that the vision for Dream Again would be announced.
During those three years in and out of the hospital I dreamed about it, called missionary friends, and others who had experience raising this kind of money to seek their counsel and advice. Becky and I talked at length. What I thought might have been just a pastor’s missionary romantic dreaming of becoming like one of my heroes, Mark Buntain, was much more.
For during that time, I also began to dream about Woodland Church’s future and the D.R.E.A.M. God had given us. I had seen other ministries’ dreams fail because of indebtedness, the death of a visionary leader, or discouragement displace a dream that once drove a congregation. During those long convalescent days faith was growing that wasn’t going to be Woodland’s story. Our dream was about much more than a orphanage floor, our dream would make disciples that would lovingly care for people around the world to the glory of God.
I preached, met with my staff, and pastored our congregation and was in and out of the hospital. Maintaining my role as my possible was encouraging and strengthening to me. My doctor’s were great! It was one Holy Week when the doctors were disagreeing about a request I made. Release me to go home and preach for the Easter Weekend. Finally they came into my room and said, this is against our better judgment, but we understand why you want to be with your congregation, so we’re releasing you and expect you back in here Monday.
Dreams grow! Tomorrow testing the vision.
Peace and Joy!