THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM
"I will pour our my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy.
young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophecy."
Some of you may know that the Volmoed Youth Leadership Training Programme (VYLTP) which begins next week is based on and earlier model, the National Youth Leadership Training Programme (NYLTP), which was initiated by the Methodist Church in the late 1960's. That programme lasted for 20 years and trained many young people who, since then, have become leaders in the churches and wider community. Among them was Edwin Arrison who heads up the VYLTP, and it was because of the impact of that earlier programme that Edwin dreamt up and proposed that we had our own. I purposely say "dreamt up" because I remember that Alex Boraine, who initiated the NYLTP, had a poster in his office in Durban which read "Dream the Impossible Dream." The poster pictured Don Quixote, the famous eccentric character in Spanish literature who dressed as a knight in shining armour, rode a decrepit donkey, and set off on a crusade to change the world. Nothing was more unlikely than that this rather comic even pathetic figure had any chance to make the world a better place. But he set off with determination to do so and, as the song from the movie The Man from La Manche went, he "dreamt the impossible dream!"
Sceptics will tell anyone trying to change the world, to make it a better place in which to live, not to be so glassy-eyed and stupid. "You are living in a dream world!" they say. "Wake up to reality!" "You will fail, big time!" And, yes, that is how we all generally feel as, I am sure, statesmen feel when trying to solve the problems in the Middle East, or committed teachers feel working in dysfunctional schools. "Stop dreaming," we cry out. Working for justice and peace in the world, working to improve social conditions or whatever you are trying to do to make a difference, too often seems like an impossible task, something we may dream about but can never achieve. And yet nothing significant happens in the world, no advances are made, no good is achieved, without some people dreaming about a better country, a better society, a better life. Without dreams about achieving the impossible nothing will happen.
Volmoed would not have been established 30 years unless a few young Christians had had such dreams. I am sure there were those who felt at the time that they were embarking on an impossible mission. But here we are. The dream has become reality. And I guess that Edwin's dream of a youth leadership training programme that will make a difference in the lives of young people and through them a difference to the world, also seems like an impossible dream. But impossible dreams inspired by the Spirit have a way of becoming reality.
This conviction is at the heart of the message of Pentecost which we celebrated last Sunday. Pentecost was the fulfilment of what the prophet Joel said would happen with the coming of the Messiah. God's Spirit would be poured out so that young men would see visions, old men dream dreams, and even slaves, both men and women, would prophecy. In other words, those willed with the Spirit would discern God's will for the world in a new way, young people would have a new vision, old people who might have once dreamt the impossible dream in their youth, would dream again of new possibilities, and even those who were enslaved and oppressed would dream of a new world of freedom and justice for all. The coming of the Spirit created new possibilities, brought fresh hopes, and awakened great expectations of what God would do. And people filled with the Spirit were empowered in order that the impossible dreams God had given them would become a reality. In celebrating Pentecost we claim that promise of hope and new possibilities for our own lives, our families, our churches, our community, our country, and for Volmoed and the VYLTP.
We believe that the VYLTP is God's gift to us for the future, part of the ongoing vision that gave birth to Volmoed, part of the impossible dream for a new and better world that was promised at Pentecost. We believe that Volmoed is being called by God to host, help nurture and train a new generation of leaders over the years to come. We also believe that in the process Volmoed will take on a new lease of life that will help shape its own future. It is not that older folk are no longer important. We too still dream dreams, we still look ahead and hope for the better world. But we need young people of vision, young people with energy to begin to shape the future. Without such vision we will all perish.
The VYLTP may be only a small contribution to what needs to be done given the immense challenges facing our country, but it is an important one, and it is vital for the ongoing life and ministry of Volmoed as God's place for healing and transformation. So we commit ourselves to support and pray for what will be happening here over the next nine weeks. This is not just a programme being held at Volmoed, this is Volmoed once again discerning God's will, catching the vision and living expectantly that our impossible dreams may become reality. Pentecost calls us to dream the impossible dream and allow the Spirit to work in and through us to make it possible.
John de Gruchy
Volmoed 19 May 2016