GEORGIA JOURNAL - 2002 (Part 4)

Tbilisi, Georgia: Saturday, April 6, 2002: Following my speech many of the students stood and applauded. Others sat and clapped almost as if they were stunned having never heard anything like that before. Many students came up quickly to me to shake my hand and tell me how they were challenged by the new concept of the “compassionate capitalist.”
Once the students emptied out the lecture hall, we made a quick dash for the office of the president (called rector) of Georgia Technological University.  He had invited us to his office to talk about our plans to work with the University.  He appreciated our willingness to help the University and pledged to help out with influence and contacts wherever needed and where possible.
Dr. Raul Kuprava, chairman of the department of biomedical technology engineering, had become a good friend in the very short time we had been in Tbilisi.  He was like a family member of the rest of the clan and had joined us at several different meals.  Irina, one of the twin sisters, was a professor of computers in Dr. Kuprava’s department.  We were all anxious to see their department and talk about a plan that seemed to be forming by the hour since we had arrived in Tbilisi.  

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Dr. Kuprava’s department at Georgia Technological University was the only place in Eastern Europe where students were trained to install, repair, and maintain pieces of medical equipment.  That service was non-existent in most developing countries.  The only pieces of medical equipment on which the students had to work were old obsolete pieces of Russian-made junk.
When Dr. Archil had verbalized at dinner two nights before that they wanted to start an official NGO organization of Project C.U.R.E. in Georgia, our minds all began to work in high gear.  I suggested that perhaps Project C.U.R.E. could send a partial container load of pieces of medical equipment directly from our warehouse to Tbilisi.  Instead of our Denver biomed volunteers spending time on checking out the equipment we could ship the equipment to Dr. Kuprava’s students to check out.  It would save the Denver people some time and would give the University students a great opportunity to become familiar with pieces of American equipment.
Once the students had checked out the pieces of equipment, Project C.U.R.E./Georgia could place the equipment in targeted medical facilities throughout Georgia.  They would then be able to maintain or repair the equipment at the different institutions in the country.
When the question came up as to how they would fund Project C.U.R.E. /Georgia, it was suggested that the pieces of medical equipment could be placed in the hospitals and clinics on a very minimal lease basis.  Payment would be determined by either a certain period of time or a certain amount per procedural use.  Each time the hospital or clinic charged a patient for a procedure on the machine a portion of that fee would flow to the organization and even some could go to the students for an ongoing maintenance agreement.  It was such a unique situation to see an organization actually training students to be biomed techs in the old Soviet Union.  We had lots to talk about.
Across the University campus there was a medical clinic that served the University students, local community, and a neighborhood of refugees.  Dr. Manana Nasidze, who was Dr. Nicholas’ wife, worked regularly at the clinic as an optometrist.  Project C.U.R.E. had been requested to do a complete needs assessment at the University clinic.  In a nutshell … they needed everything.
We had one last assignment on our list of appointments for Saturday, which was to finish another needs assessment study at the Border Guard Hospital in Tbilisi.  It was already 6:30 p.m.
While the Russian Army occupied Georgia until 1991 they maintained a separate military hospital in Tbilisi.  When they pulled out and went back to Moscow they totally stripped the hospital facility and even used their rifles to shoot out the windows thinking that it would keep the Georgians from being able to use the facility after they were gone.
However, a sharp young Georgian doctor, Dr. Guarm Amiridze, received permission to try to refurbish the facility and make it into a hospital to serve the Border Guard, their families, “high mountain tribe’s people,” and poor refugees living within Tbilisi.  He had already done a marvelous job considering that he had absolutely nothing with which to work.  As we toured the hospital he explained the Border Guard was not part of the regular Georgian military and did not have any medical benefits.  He wanted to help change that, and I promised him that Project C.U.R.E. wanted to help him see his dream come true.
That night we went to Dr. Marina and Dr. Nicholas’ house for Katchapuri and dinner.  The whole family was together again.  We talked and ate again until 11:30 p.m.  What could the possibilities be of Project C.U.R.E. in the country of Georgia?  It was raining and miserably cold as we made our way back to our flat and once again climbed the dark stairwell to the fifth floor.
Sunday, April 7
Dr. Nicholas and Dr. Marina wanted to take me to the open antique market that morning in Tbilisi.  It was so rainy and cold we decided to only stay for a very short time.  I opted to stay at the flat and write until about 1 p.m. when a radio show host came to the flat to do an interview with Jim Marlin and me.  Word had gotten out that international Rotary had teamed up with the local Rotary group of Tbilisi to bring Project C.U.R.E. to Georgia to aid the medical delivery system.  The reporter represented Main Radio of Georgia and was the same station where Georgia and all the surrounding countries heard “Voice of America” programs.  She told us after the interview that the program would be aired the next day between 12 and 1 p.m.

Monday, April 8
We were at the ministry of finance offices discussing Project C.U.R.E.’s desire to ship into Georgia without any taxes, duties, or fees assessed to the donated medical goods.  Jamze Machavariani, the woman in charge, really loved Project C.U.R.E.  Her brother was a Georgian doctor, and before her stint at the ministry of finance, she had headed up the NGO called the Children’s Foundation of Georgia.  She was happy to cooperate with us and was so very appreciative that we would come to the department first in an effort to establish a working relationship.  She assured me that there would be no problem getting our medical goods in as well as being approved for NGO status in Georgia.
Dr. Archil had brought his portable radio with him and the lady was very impressed with hearing the interview while in her office.  It was a good meeting. 

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Next on our Monday agenda was to meet with the ministry of health and get their approval and blessing.  Dr. Gudashavri was very astute and knowledgeable.  She liked very much what she heard and welcomed our efforts in Georgia.  She agreed that the ministry of health would be available to work with us in any way.
Jim and I invited the whole extended family to dinner Monday night at a lovely restaurant along the river in the old city of Tbilisi.  On our way to dinner we made one last stop at an orphanage where 100 deaf, orphaned children were housed.  It was quite an emotional encounter.  The children put on a quick performance for us.  Colorado Rotary had given money last year to put a new roof on the orphanage. 

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The trip to Tbilisi had been another whirlwind trip, but so much had been accomplished in such a short time.  We had been able, with God’s help and direction, to bring together the ministry of health, the ministry of finance, the Georgian customs department, international Rotary, Project C.U.R.E., seven or eight medical institutions, two universities, and one of Georgia’s most educated and cultured families … all for the express purpose of extending love, concern, and tangible items of health care to needy people of the old Soviet Union.
I was almost ashamed of myself for having had feelings of reluctance to go back to the old historic country of Georgia.  They were so needy and so appreciative of Project C.U.R.E.’s willingness to aid and help.  I really believed that we could make a difference in the old Republic of Georgia.

GEORGIA JOURNAL - 2002 (Part 3)

Tbilisi, Georgia: Friday, April 5, 2002: Friday morning, Dr. Marlin and I were picked up at our flat and driven to our first needs assessment at the Emergency Cardiology Center at Tbilisi.  As we entered through the front doors of the gray, drab cement building I thought to myself, “I think I’ve been here . . . maybe it was in a dream.”  After 15 years of needs assessments in developing countries throughout the world, the old hospitals begin to blur a bit into a class of sameness.
Archil spoke to the white-cloaked doctor in charge who was running pell-mell with his stethoscope dangling from around his neck.  He walked over to me and grunted something in Georgian and took off like a shot motioning us to keep up with him.  He walked to one ward, flung open the door and made a sweeping gesture toward the patients.  Without slowing in motion he walked to a double occupancy room where he copied his swinging the door and sweeping of his hand.
At that point I reached out and took hold of his forearm and said, “No!  I am wasting your time and you are wasting my time.  I want to speak for 15 minutes to the director of the hospital and after that be taken on an appropriate tour so that I can efficiently determine the specific areas of this hospital where Project C.U.R.E. can assist.”  He stopped dead in his tracks and his stethoscope flopped limply down to his chest.
Within about four minutes I was ushered into the director’s office where we had a great interview with the director, Dr. Simon Kapanadze, and the chief of the cardio surgery department, Dr. Zriad Bakhutashvili. The rude doctor we had first encountered had completely disappeared by then. Later, as we toured the new heart cauterization laboratory, Dr. Alexander Aladashvili came rushing across the room to greet me.  “I remember you and the good work you have done for our department in the past.  It was Project C.U.R.E. who sent us wonderful cardiology supplies about three years ago when we so desperately needed them.  Thank you a hundred times for your help!”  I quickly recalled that on one of my recent trips to Georgia I had been specifically invited to that department to help them and we had included the materials in a cargo container destined for quite another hospital.  That was a good way to get the day started.

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From the cardiology center we quickly drove to the expert facility of the radiology diagnosis center of the Georgia State University.  Dr. Fridon Todua was doing a remarkable job of assembling an outstanding center for Georgia.  His plan was for Project C.U.R.E. to help them by sending supplies to them for their procedures in order to keep the costs down for the Georgian patients.
On the way to our next appointment I had our driver stop at an Internet cyber hole-in-the-wall to try to check my e-mail messages from home and to send a short message to Anna Marie.  Their equipment was so slow and their phone lines so bad that I finally gave up without making any connections.
One of our hosts, Dr. Nicholas Nasidze, who regularly worked for International Red Cross and his wife, Dr. Manana who worked as an ophthalmologist, had donated a lot of their time to the Georgian Diabetes Education and Information Center in Tbilisi.  Our next appointment was to visit their work with diabetics, especially children.  Their request was for Project C.U.R.E. to help them secure test strips, needles, and other supplies, plus help in procuring a simple laboratory set-up with microscope, test tubes, and simple testing equipment.  They also requested picture posters and updated educational materials that they could translate into the Georgian language.
Our follow-up meeting with the executive board of the Rotary Club went extremely well and we walked away with all the necessary paperwork completed to activate the shipping process.  Project C.U.R.E. would supply up to $1 million worth of medical goods into Georgia and the Rotary groups would cover the cost of shipping. 

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Between that appointment and our scheduled dinner, we had time to explore the “old town” of Tbilisi and visit one of their orthodox Christian churches that was built in the sixth century A.D.
At dinner Dr. Archil and Dr. Nicholous asked many, many questions about Project C.U.R.E. and its mission.  Finally, Archil said, “Well, we’ve talked it over here and we are so impressed with Project C.U.R.E. and your philosophy of being generous in what you’re doing around the world that we want to start a ‘Project C.U.R.E./ Georgia.’  We want to be a part of this great thing.”  Of course, that brought on a flood of discussion and, again, we talked until about midnight.
On our way back to the flat, Archil asked if both Jim and I would consent to speaking to the students the next day who were enrolled in the master’s degree program at Georgia Technological University.  “Jim Jackson, I want you to tell them about Project C.U.R.E. and the ideas of being humanitarian.”  We agreed.
Saturday, April 6
Twenty-two thousand students attended Georgia Tech University in Tbilisi, and there were 4,000 faculty and staff.  It was no small institution.  I had previously had the honor of being asked to speak at the University of Ukraine in Kiev, the University of Armenia in Yerevan, the Medical University of Brazil in Campinas, and the Royal College of Physicians in London, and now they had asked me to share a bit at the Georgia Tech University in Tbilisi.
We were ushered into the large lecture hall.  Soon the students began filing in.  Dr. Marlin was introduced first and spoke about the communists’ old way of determining economic market price as opposed to the way market prices were determined according to supply and demand in a free market economy.  He did a fine job and it beautifully set the stage for what I wanted to say.
Because only about 60% of the students were proficient in English, there was a translator provided for us.  When I got up to speak I announced my lecture subject, “I want to talk to you today about the ‘economics of compassion’.”  I went on to explain:
“I am a capitalist and a very successful capitalist.  But I am a capitalist so that I can be a more successful humanitarian.  You have no doubt been told in your past that capitalism was bad because it was selfish and greedy.  Let’s explore today some comparisons and some results. I am a lifelong observer and I want to share with you what I have observed.
In the mid-1700s Adam Smith proposed economic theories that included elements of freedom of decision, economic growth, division of labor, free market movement, self-determination, and minimal government intervention.  About 100 years later Karl Marx proposed that Adam Smith was wrong.  In order for a society to be successful Marx held that the economy needed to be controlled at the top by the politburo and subsequently determined by intelligent people who knew what was best for the society.  Otherwise, class struggles would continue between the “haves” and the “have nots.”  The only fair thing, according to Marx, was to take from those who “have” and redistribute to those who “have not,” then there would be peace and equality.
It was a case of free, creative compassion vs. controlled and arbitrary distribution.  Now we have gone another 150 years.  The experiments have had opportunity to run their course and today we can observe, as history, the results of the contest of ideas.
One concept, when having run its course, ended in bankruptcy, poverty, and misery.  The other enabled society to dip into a wellspring of resources to cure not only its own national ills but to reach out and be more compassionate than any other civilization in history.
The results had taken place in our own lifetime and we could observe and draw our conclusions.  You see, ideas have consequences.  Theories and their results find their way into the pages of irrefutable history.  We can judge for ourselves.
I am a capitalist today because it allows and enables me to be successfully compassionate.  I have the opportunity to employ theories and principles that can make the lives of others better.
A week ago I was in India assessing the results of some natural disasters.  In the state of Gujarat an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale killed 30,000 people in about two minutes.  Everything was left in devastation.
I also traveled to the eastern part of India, in the state of Orissa, where some 20,000 people were swept into the Bay of Bengal by a super cyclone.  Who went to meet the needs of the disaster victims?  It was the compassionate capitalists not the bankrupt communists.
Ask yourself:  Which system became more compassionate as the experience progressed?  Did communism?  No, as control expanded so did graft and corruption.  In the final stages there was more greed, selfishness, and class separation between the powerful and the impoverished than ever dreamed.  The military establishment once again became the czars, the very ones against whom they were trying to revolt.
Free market entrepreneurialism has never had a free chance to operate.  But even to the limited degree to which it has been allowed to operate, the results have been astounding.  It has enabled people to generously express their ideals of compassion.  There has never been anything like it in history.
I believe that, built into us, is the need to help one another, as well as the need for helping ourselves.  We would never be truly fulfilled and happy unless we purposefully included the element of compassion into our economic process of capitalism.  But capitalism and compassion are not elements in diametric opposition, as we are often told.  Rather, they are concepts of compatibility.  One strengthens and fulfills the other and makes it possible in a viable and sustained way to give generously to the needs of others.  It is not through controlled direction but through industrial incentive and fulfillment.
When I was a little boy I determined to become a millionaire, and indeed I did become a millionaire many times over.  But I discovered that the pursuit and accumulation of goods did not bring happiness and fulfillment in and of itself.  I have observed that you could never accumulate quite enough to make you fulfilled and happy.
One day I asked God to change me, committing that I would never again use my talents and experience to accumulate wealth just for myself.  My wife and I decided to give our accumulation away, start over, and see if we could get it right the next time.
By still employing the mindset and principles of capitalism and growth and individual expression, but tying it all to the element of compassion, we have experienced 30 years of wonderful fulfillment and worth.  The results of the experiment culminated in part in an entity called Project C.U.R.E. where we collect millions of dollars worth of medical supplies and pieces of medical equipment and donate them to the neediest around the world.  Presently, we have shipped into 89 different countries around the world and just this year alone Project C.U.R.E. will donate somewhere around $20 million worth of goods to the needy.
I know what you are hearing sounds strange and unusual, but here at the university I present the concept to you for your consideration.  You need to think about the concept of “compassionate capitalism.”
I challenge you today to become aggressive in fulfilling all your growth and potential, and accumulate skills and understanding of free market enterprise concepts and entrepreneurialism.  Become excellent.  Become the best capitalists possible.  But do it not for self-accumulation and aggrandizement and selfish consumption, but for the greater good of others around you who are less fortunate.  Allow the principles to work for the benefit of you and others around you.  Do that and Georgia will blossom like a rose in a fertile garden.
I hope you have heard something very different today and I hope you will never forget the words of the happiest man in the world.”
Next Week: Developing biomed technicians in Georgia

GEORGIA JOURNAL - 2002 (Part 2)

Tbilisi, Georgia: April 4, 2002: Tomaz had been quite proud of his recent purchase as he showed us how his new showerhead worked the night before.  Georgian houses didn’t usually have hot running water, but his did!  There was a white plastic pipe running up the wall along the back side of the bathtub.  An electrical cord attached directly to the showerhead.  With a pull on the nubbin in the center of the showerhead, electricity heated a little coil inside of it.  At the top of the bathtub’s single faucet fixture was a hose that carried water from the spigot up to the plastic showerhead.  As the water coursed over the electrical coil it was heated to a tepid temperature and released to sprinkle over my body.
I closed the door to the wash closet behind me and stood for a while looking at the plastic contraption.  Was I really crazy enough to get inside that bathtub, put my feet down in two inches of water and have a Ruskie made gizmo pour water over my body when the water was directly connected to, not 110 volts like American electricity sources, but 220 volts of European electricity?  I was aware of how you spelled “electrocute” but had no desire to get zapped or fried just to prove an electrical engineering theory.
But after a while, the desire to feel the warm sprinkling water over my travel-worn body won out, and I gingerly hunched myself into the tub and under the supercharged plastic showerhead.
For breakfast, Irina and Marina fixed us fresh Katchapuri and black tea, (in fact, I believe I had Katchapuri for each meal I ate while in Tbilisi).  The Katchapuri was like a six-inch cheese pizza with a second thin crust cooked over the top of the cheese as well.  They felt it their Georgian obligation to get us rested up from jet travel on Thursday so that we would be fit and ready to go for the next week of meetings.
While we recuperated, the women suggested that we pay a visit to the state museum of antiquities and treasures.  I told them that I was eager to go but was surprised that Stalin had not stolen all of Georgia’s goodies while he was dictator. 

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“We have been trying to become capitalists since we became independent from the Russians,” Marina explained to me.  “Archil and I now own a small market close to our apartment.  It’s not much, or like you have in America, but we are trying.”
“Can we go to your market on our way home?”  I asked, “I would very much like to see what you are doing.”  The little store was situated on the main level of an old communist, bloc-house apartment building.  Inside, they had built shelves and stocked the store with a wide variety of items ranging from stacks of unwrapped loaves of round bread, cheese, toys for kids, canned meat, kitchen utensils, and soda pop.  The specialty seemed to be the back display counter filled with freshly baked pastries and a juice dispenser filled with vodka.  I was surprised with how busy the little market was while we were there.  “Marina, I am proud of you.  This is the kind of thing that more Georgians will have to do in order for Georgia to successfully change from communist thinking to the free market.  You are now a successful ‘entrepreneur’.”  Both women beamed with delight.
At 2:30 p.m. we met up with Archil.  He had finished teaching his classes at the university and would go with us to an appointment he had set with the customs people.  “Sandros” would go with us to translate into English.
Dr. Manana Nasidze was married to Dr. Nicholas Nasidze.  Manana was the younger sister of the twins, Marina and Irina.  Sandros was the oldest son of Manana and Nicholas, and was finishing his university training at Georgia State University.  Three years earlier he had been chosen to become a Rotary Club exchange student and had traveled to Arizona, where he studied for a year and graduated from Lake Havasu City High School.  Like everyone else we had met on the trip, Sandros was a sharp and intelligent Georgian.  I was confident that he would do just fine as a translator.
The controller and his deputy were very cordial toward us.  They told us that they fully respected anything where Dr. Archil Samadashvili was a part.  I explained what we wanted to get done in preparation for sending loads of donated medical goods into Georgia. I emphasized that we wanted to work with their department and that we would never engage in anything that would violate their wishes and policies.  I explained that before a shipment would be sent Project C.U.R.E. would send an inventory list to them, to the finance minister and to the minister of health.  They could review the proposed inventory and if they found anything which did not meet with their approval to be shipped into their country, they would have an opportunity to strike through the item listing, initial it, and then return the corrected inventory list to Project C.U.R.E.  Only upon receiving the approved list would we load the shipment and send it to Georgia.  But we would fully expect that when the shipment arrived at the border there would be no conflict or hassle since it had already been pre-approved.
“We wish everyone would work their business with us like you are doing.  Most people and organizations just send things and then try to push them through us.  We now know the face of Project C.U.R.E. and we assure you that there will be no problem with getting your medical goods into Georgia.”
“On our way to the next meeting," Archil told us as we got into his little HNBA (Neva in English) car manufactured in Russia, “I want to introduce you to another new Georgian entrepreneur.  He too is trying very hard to become a capitalist.”
We drove through an old industrial complex that had been run by the communist state.  All of the factories had been abandoned and the facilities were in bad disrepair from neglect of the previous 20 years of communist rule.  Through the rusty gates of one complex we drove up to the open shipping entrance of the main building.  Rusty, junked pieces of machinery sat around everywhere.  The waste and inefficiency of the communist industrial complex could be seen everywhere.
We piled out of the little Neva and were met by a graying man in his 50s with nicotine stains on his fingers; he was smoking a foul-smelling Russian cigarette.  He was a gregarious enough chap and obviously a very good friend of Archil.

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Stacks of smelly, bloody cow and horse hides were piled on goop-soaked pallets.  I turned away to catch a breath of fresh air.  About 15 workers were scurrying around in the front part of the warehouse dragging the hides to different pieces of large, yellow equipment.
Within that area of the building they made the old bloody, hairy hides into beautifully, tanned, dyed, flexible swatches of leather. After snapping some pictures of the process I followed Archil into another section of the old building.  There men and women were laying patterns onto the leather and cutting the swatches into little uniform shapes.

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The factory was making shoes.  They were performing the entire process from start to finish right there in the old abandoned buildings.  We watched the rest of the operation as they sewed the pieces together, put them on foot molds of different sizes and stitched and glued the soles onto the shoes and strung the laces through the eyelets. I was pretty impressed. 

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At 6 p.m. we were scheduled to meet with the president of Tbilisi Rotary Club.  There were lots of things to discuss and certain papers needed to be signed for the matching grants being partnered with the Colorado Rotary Clubs, if the medical goods shipments were to be commenced.  Mr. Elavja Meladza, the president, was a short balding man of exaggerated intensity.  Had he been 20 pounds heavier and with a birthmark on his forehead, I would have thought I was talking to Mikhail Gorbachev of yesterday’s Russia. Mr. Meladza promised to convene an executive committee meeting of the local Rotary Club Friday at 6 p.m.
The business day seemed to start in Tbilisi about 10 in the morning and ran until about 7 in the evening.  Dinner was hardly ever planned until at least 8 p.m. Thursday night our hosts had prepared a dinner gathering at Dr. Archil’s flat.  The entire clan – the three sisters, and their illustrious husbands, and all available children, plus the shoe-manufacturing entrepreneur, his wife and sons – gathered together to eat dinner.  All those people were crowded into an old two-bedroom flat, previously made available to the professor for free by the communist party.  It was very cramped.
But the food that was served and the friendship which flowed was something to behold.  The three sisters just kept bringing additional dishes of traditional Georgian food from the kitchen.  The only time they stopped eating was to give a toast to whatever they could think of to toast.  No one seemed to mind that I continued to toast with club soda; it was just a happy, happy time.
About 11 p.m., Irina went to the piano and began to play.  Her teenage daughter, Keti, who aspired to one day be an opera singer, began to favor us with Georgian folk songs.  Soon everyone was joining in, either singing or playing.
Each of the twin sisters had graduated with honors from Georgia’s finest music conservatory before they had gone on in their professional education.  The old Georgian aristocracy was well represented in culture by our newly discovered friends in Tbilisi.  It was past midnight before the party broke up and we were informed that we had a full schedule of important meetings starting the next morning.
Next Week: Considering Compassionate Capitalism 

GEORGIA JOURNAL - 2002 (Part 1)

Tbilisi, Georgia: April 2, 2002: I wasn’t really anxious to head back to the old Soviet Union again.  My last half dozen trips through the strange world of Moscow had erased some of the old original excitement and challenge of exploring the land of the angry bear and the cold war.  I had tromped through nearly every one of the old republics throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  And I had already taken too many photos of cockroaches crawling up hospital walls and antique x-ray machines with broken parts, frayed electrical cords, and unprotected nuclear units that zapped everybody with radiation when a picture was taken.
My dislike for traveling in the old Soviet Union had eased up a little when other airlines started flying around Eastern Europe and I no longer had to fly Aeroflot.  I also learned that I could avoid traveling through corruption-ridden Moscow with just a bit of creativity, and that helped.
When the Soviet Union crumbled into bankruptcy in the early 1990s the hopes of the free world soared, eagerly awaiting the oppressed and decadent Phoenix to begin to rise from the ashes of Lenin’s debauched experiment.  But for ten years the glorious transformation just never took place.  The only thing that rose was the crime rate and the power of the Russian mafia.
Georgia was somewhat different from the other old Soviet states.  Its history had always included the need to fight in order to retain its identity and sovereignty.  Georgia had historically been invaded or occupied at one time or another by Romans, Arabs, Persians, Turks, or most recently, the Ruskies.  But in spite of their hardships and need focus on self-protection, they always saw themselves as powerful, pragmatic, and very positive and proud.
When I first visited Georgia, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, they were really struggling to revive themselves from the cruel Stalinist years.  No one was going there to help with rejuvenating their commerce or economy, and even though they were crying out for the West to teach them the ways of free market and entrepreneurship, most Brits and Americans generally ignored their plight.

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But even then, the Georgians had tried to retain their positive nature about their future and put forth great effort to catch up to the pace of the rapidly moving, technological world of the West.  They had always considered themselves to be linked to European and Western civilizations rather than their Persian or Central Asian neighbors.
Tbilisi, the capital city, was founded in 459 A.D. in a valley along the Mtkuari, or Kura, River.  It was rather nestled down between the slopes and high hills of the Caucasus mountain range and had weather and seasonal patterns not a lot unlike Colorado.
Georgia adopted Christianity about 337 A.D. and in spite of the attempts of their continual invaders they had held on to their Christian heritage as a nation.  Even during the atheist and communist regime, the Georgians believed that the tenants of Christianity needed to be cherished if they were ever to survive as a western culture.  The Georgian Christian Church remained autonomous through the years but had always been closely tied to the Greek Orthodox Church in belief and ritual.

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One of the highest values maintained and stressed by the Georgian people had always been the sacredness of the family.  They really valued family and friendship and continued to emphasize taking rather formal evening meals together and enjoying pleasant times together with their close friends.  As I had often experienced, their “table” ended up being a friendship and eating ritual that could last from 8 p.m. to midnight.  And they had historically prided themselves in growing and consuming their famous Georgian wine.
The population of Tbilisi was about 1.4 million people while the whole country boasted of a population of between 5 and 6 million.  As I had observed on previous contact with the Georgians, their healthcare system was pretty much in shambles when the Russians packed up and returned to Moscow in 1991.  Now, they had the challenge of transforming their communist controlled public health system to a free market-oriented system where they would charge for their medical services.  Most healthcare facilities really needed everything.
Dr. Jim Marlin, a Rotary district chairperson for international projects, had been encouraging Project C.U.R.E., with great insistence, to travel to Georgia and participate in a healthcare project in the Tbilisi area.  He had traveled to Georgia previously and returned to Colorado determined to get Rotary involved.  The plan was for Project C.U.R.E. to donate container loads of supplies and equipment pieces; by matching grants of local Rotary clubs, international Rotary organization would cover the cost of the shipping.
We had tried to schedule a needs assessment trip to Tbilisi with Jim Marlin the previous year, but my travel schedule would not cooperate.  April 2-10 would now be the targeted dates.
I had never met Dr. Marlin in person so I had to guess from the crowd who would be my travel partner for the next week.  He wasn’t hard to spot, a professional Midwesterner in his late 60s with a tall frame and a protruding belly and a “glad-to-meet cha” handshake.  Dr. Marlin had recently retired from teaching economics at the University of Colorado in Boulder and had decided to try to make a contribution to the real world through concentrated efforts within the Rotary organization.  In spite of his impetuous demeanor, I felt very comfortable that we would have a good time traveling together in Tbilisi.
April 2, 2002
Together we boarded United Airlines flight #262 to Chicago.  With just a brief layover we continued on to London’s Heathrow Airport on flight #938.  It was very fortunate that we had caught an error in United’s luggage routing.  While looking at our luggage tags we discovered that my bags were ultimately being sent not to Tbilisi, Georgia, but to Papua New Guinea.  Jim Marlin’s bags were being sent to Brasilia, Brazil.
You could only imagine that when we reached London we were flopping around like two mad hens in the barnyard getting attention called to the mistake that we had discovered.  At the United counter at customs in London we raised a hissy only to be told that our luggage pieces had already been handed over to British Airways’ subsidiary airline called “British Mediterranean.”
Again, having not been there with us, you can only imagine the pressure we brought to bear on the United baggage man behind the counter in London.  If not corrected, the situation would have resulted in our having our luggage parked in an entirely different place than where we desperately needed them while in Georgia.  Finally, the poor little Brit behind the counter who had been totally innocent of having committed the blunder, smiled through pallid lips of his blood-drained face and assured us that our bags had been “captured” and the “destinations corrected.”
My anticipation to reach Tbilisi, Georgia, then centered on my being able to once again successfully touch the canvas textured case of my black Samsonite bag, rather than to meet and greet our future Georgian hosts.  Would I be with or without my necessities for the whole next week?
It was 2:30 in the morning when our British Mediterranean flight screeched its landing tires on the rough Georgian tarmac.  The flight was going on to Yerevan, Armenia, so I tried to gingerly step over and around the sleeping passengers who were staying on.  Still consumed by thoughts of my errant bags, I stepped to the top of the deplaning ladder.   It was like being an innocent embryo forcefully pushed from a mother’s warm, comfortable womb into a screaming blizzard.  I had thought it would be springtime in Georgia not January in Siberia.  “How do these people live in the blasted harshness of the old Soviet Union?” I asked myself.
Walking from the airplane across the runway to the terminal the bitter wind ripped at my lightweight blue sport jacket.  The icy cold was dropping directly down from the peaks of the Caucasus Mountains making cold tears run from my eyes.  “What in God’s green earth am I doing here when I could be snuggled up closely to my warm beautiful bride in Colorado?”  I knew better somehow than to try to answer that question between there and the immigration line.
I eagerly stepped to the luggage delivery box where they had started unloading the bags from the tote cart.  My mind replayed the scores of times when my luggage just didn’t show up, like the time in India a year before when I had to buy an airline ticket and travel all the way from New Delhi to Bombay to retrieve my bags because the airline had made a similar mistake.
But this time Papua New Guinea was not going to be the unexpecting recipient of my bags even though United Airlines in Denver had sent them there.  Our little friend in London had successfully “captured” our luggage and had successfully forwarded them on to Tbilisi.
To meet us at the airport at the uncivil hour of 3 a.m. were two of Jim’s friends with whom he had become acquainted on an earlier trip to Georgia.  Dr. Archil Samadashvili had been a professor at Georgia State University for 27 years; his brother-in-law Tomaz Gugliashidze also had his doctorate and taught at the university.  They had married twin sisters, Marina and Irina, who were both highly educated and possessed extraordinary credentials.
Dr. Tomaz, Dr. Irina and their two teenage children had willingly moved out of their flat located on the fifth floor of an old Soviet bloc-house in the center of Tbilisi so that the two American gentlemen from Colorado could have a place to stay for the next week.
The wind continued to rip through the side streets of Tbilisi and along the thoroughfare that paralleled the main river of Georgia.  The only thing darker than the abandoned streets of Tbilisi was the haunting stairwell of the apartment building where we were to stay.  The folks just didn’t spend a lot of money on lighting up the buildings or streets of the old Soviet towns, even though Tbilisi was actually a city of over 1.5 million people.
Tomaz showed us where our beds were and the room where the toilet was located, which was not the room where the sink and bathtub were located.  At about 4:15 a.m., his parting words were that Irina and Marina would be returning to the flat at about 10 a.m. to fix us breakfast.  I hung out my clothes and fell into the hard Russian-style bed to get a few hours of desperately needed sleep.  It had been a long non-stop trip from Denver to Tbilisi, Georgia, via London Heathrow.
Next Week: We want to be Entrepreneurs 

RUSSIA JOURNAL - 1999 (Part 2: Russian Rockets and the Power of Goodness)

Moscow, Russia: Tuesday, May 25, 1999: The head of the Russian Federal Space Agency personally directed the tour, pointing out the historical progression of the Russian rockets since 1908. He kindly answered all of my questions and pointed out the difference in basic design between the US rockets and the Russian rockets. It was easy to see why they could get over three times the thrust, efficiency, and payload lift out of their design. What used to take three separate rockets on the end of an American Atlas rocket, the Russians could accomplish with only one of their designs, which relies on fewer moving parts and superheating the fuel before it is reinjected into the chamber.

The director showed me the rocket engine that had thrust Sputnik into orbit and the engine that had launched Soviet astronauts first into space. I asked about the huge, green, clustered rocket engines, and he told me that those were the ones that had been loaded with nuclear warheads and aimed at every major city in the US during the Cold War. I shivered.

When the director concluded my tour, I asked if I could possibly have a photo of the two of us in front of the rocket engines. I fully expected him to laugh and good-heartedly deny my request. But he answered, “Sure, Dr. Jackson, it would be my privilege to be photographed with you in front of the world’s largest and most powerful rocket engines. After all, you are now one of the family.”

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The balance of the day was spent visiting hospitals and clinics for the Needs Assessment Studies. Dr. Levashova and Dr. Fatsarova’s Energomash polyclinic was first. I was very pleased that I had brought some gifts to present to the Russian doctors. I had lugged medical books, Colorado picture books, and new stethoscopes with me all across Africa, England, and Moscow. But it was worth the effort. The doctors were so overwhelmed whenever I presented each of them with a gift.

Next we assessed the largest institution of the eighteen Dr. Alexander Novikov controls. The Moscow city hospital was in pretty bad shape. The doctors I met who were heads of the different departments simply begged for consumable supplies. They couldn’t get their hands on sufficient quantities of gloves, tubing, needles, syringes, sterilization goods, or medications. I was really impressed with Dr. Alexander. He shoulders a lot of responsibility.

Lapel pins are important status symbols in Russia. At one point, Dr. Alexander removed his trophy lapel pin commemorating sixty years of space endeavors at Khimki and pinned it on me. I was moved by his expression of honor and affection. When it came time to present him with a gift, I gave him one of Dr. Netter’s collector’s books on the human anatomy. He could hardly speak.

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We then hurried to Dr. Galina Monastyrskaya’s pediatric hospital. It was getting late in the evening, but her entire staff had stayed to meet us and show us through the institution. We decided to visit two more hospitals before we quit for the day.

Another of Dr. Alexander’s hospitals is the main surgery hospital in Khimki. They perform only surgeries there. I was shocked as I walked the halls and talked to the doctors. They desperately needed anesthesia supplies, surgical instruments, ostomy supplies for cancer surgeries, lab equipment, and reagents. The surgeons in the orthopedic department begged me for bone screws, plates, wires, implants, casting material, crutches, wheelchairs—everything.

It was getting dark when we visited the last hospital for the day—the main city children’s hospital. This was another institution under the control of Dr. Alexander. A lot of children with asthma and upper-respiratory problems, as well as infectious diseases, are being treated at the hospital. I really shouldn’t visit extremely needy children’s hospitals and then return to my hotel and try to sleep. Too many mental pictures came crashing into my overloaded mind. It was late when I returned to the hotel, and I was too tired to even go downstairs to eat.

My time was running out. My Russian visa expired midnight tomorrow. I had figured that the departure date on my Russian visa could very easily be extended for one more day. I was so wrong. The officials at NPO Energomash had taken my passport and visa as soon as I arrived and approached the customs and immigration folks in Moscow on my behalf. Even with all the clout and influence of the Energomash officials, the visa people said “Nyet! If he remains in the country without a valid visa, he will go to jail and pay a very huge fine.”

The Moscow airport declared that all flights were full and would not even talk about selling me a ticket for an earlier flight than my originally scheduled flight for Friday. It looked like I would be whisked off to jail and digging for some financing to pay a hefty fine. I decided to give it one more try. I called Douglas in Denver and asked him to try to contact United/Lufthansa airline direct and get them to sell him a ticket and reservation for me from that end either to Frankfurt or Munich, Germany out of Moscow at about 10:30 p.m. on the 26th. A few minutes later he called back, “It’s a done deal.” Now I had a legitimate reservation in the system that the folks in Moscow would have to acknowledge. No jail for me this time.

Wednesday, May 26–Friday, May 28

Wednesday morning I got up, ate breakfast, packed everything, and checked out of the Aerostar Hotel even before Jim Sackett arrived. As we climbed into his car, I explained that whatever we were planning to do in Moscow, I needed to do it in time to catch my evening flight out of Moscow before my visa expired at midnight.

It was perhaps the most beautiful day I have ever seen in Russia. Before I arrived, it had been cold and rainy. But Wednesday was gorgeous. The flowers began to pop out, and the grass and trees started to turn bright green. I caught myself almost enjoying Moscow.

There were two very important appointments to be completed before I could leave. First, I had saved until Wednesday morning the Needs Assessment Study at Novogorsk Hospital No. 119, which is located just outside Khimki. The hospital is completely surrounded by a beautiful birch-tree forest. The hospital was built twenty-five years ago for the Russian Federal Space Agency employees. Before the collapse and bankruptcy of the Soviet system, it was considered a premier hospital. It still boasts 250 of Russia’s best doctors and lots of high-quality medical equipment, but it also suffers like all the other Soviet medical institutions.

Dr. Boris Pavlov personally met with Margarita Kirillova, Jim Sackett, and me and hosted our tour. As we walked the halls, Dr. Pavlov not only described the superb health-care services that once existed within the complex but was also eager to point out something quite new to the facility. He just grinned at me when he showed me the new Russian Orthodox chapel that was recently built in the hospital. Doctors, nurses, and patients alike go there to pray to God. I thanked Dr. Pavlov for showing me the chapel. He had sensed from my presentation about Project C.U.R.E. at our introductory meeting that I am a sincere Christian.

Following lunch, Margarita, Jim, and I returned to the Energomash headquarters for our final meeting. I had requested an official meeting with the customs authorities to thoroughly discuss the logistics of shipping the donated medical goods to Russia. The meeting with the woman director proved to be one of our most productive meetings in Moscow. She estimated how much value to declare on the load and offered other absolutely necessary tips for a successful delivery.

While sitting at the conference table drinking a cup of terrible coffee across from the customs official, I began to think about Project C.U.R.E. and the methods and procedures we’ve adopted over the years. One of the reasons we’ve been so effective around the world is because we insist on meeting and doing business with government officials, as we did at the meeting on Wednesday. The very fact that we’re willing to go to the various countries around the world, personally meet with the decision makers, and work with them directly makes Project C.U.R.E. unique. Project C.U.R.E. doesn’t follow the customs and procedures of other humanitarian organizations that simply want their staff to sit in their trophy offices in Washington, D. C. or New York and send supplies to places they have never gone and to people they have never met in person. I breathed a prayer of thanks to God for helping us see new and creative ways to get the work successfully accomplished and for the energy and good health to actually go and fulfill the necessary requirements to guarantee the success and appropriateness of the donations.

After some hassle from the airlines and customs folks, I was able to board a 7:30 flight and leave Moscow for Frankfurt, Germany, before my visa expired. Because of my change of flights and overnight stay in Germany, the airlines managed to lose my luggage. So instead of flying through Washington, D.C., to Denver, I had to change flights again and travel through Chicago and on to Denver.

Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not venture. It is because we do not venture that they are difficult.” I am coming to understand more and more that there is great strength in kindness and gentleness, and our acts of kindness are really stepping stones to our own fulfillment. At any rate, I have decided to see if we can continue to significantly shake our world with kindness and gentleness. On this present trip, I’ve been away for nearly the entire month of May. I’m really tired and ready to go home. But God honored our efforts with the medical clinics in Diorbivol, Senegal; performed miracles in Nouakchott, Mauritania; brought about results in England that we never could have hoped for otherwise, and blessed my efforts once again in Russia with incalculable success. I’m returning home tired, but I’m still the happiest man in the world.

END NOTE TO READER: It really was an historical event of great significance when the two nuclear superpowers of the world were now joined in a common program of peaceful achievement. Project C.U.R.E. had been able to play a very small, but very key, part of what had transpired with the NPO Energomash and Lockheed Martin joint venture.  I was told later that not only did President Boris Yeltsin approve and sign the deal, but encouraged the process, because of the love and compassion that the American scientists had shown for the struggling Russian rocket scientists of the aerospace program. Hearing later of the successful inaugural launch of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas III rocket powered by the Russian RD 180 rocket engine was very rewarding for me.


RUSSIA JOURNAL -- 1999 ( Part 1: Russian Rockets and the Power of Goodness)

NOTE TO READER: On May 14, 2000, I received word that the very first American rocket equipped with a Russian RD180 rocket engine had blasted off from launch pad 36B at Cape Canaveral, Florida. My eyes raced to read the details. The propulsion system designed and built by the Russians had launched the inaugural Lockheed Martin Atlas III rocket carrying a Eutelsat W4 communications satellite into active duty. I shivered. In 1996, I had the opportunity of becoming friends with Robert Ford, Lockheed Martin’s program manager. He loved what we were doing around the world with Project C.U.R.E., and teams of employees and executives from Lockheed Martin would frequently come to Project C.U.R.E. and help us sort materials, pack cases of medical goods, and help us load the ocean-going cargo containers. One day, Robert explained to me that they had recently been dealing with the scientists at the highly secured Khimki scientific complex near the Moscow airport. Since the political demise of the country and the economic bankruptcy of their system, even the most respected scientists and technicians of the old Federation had been cut off along with their families from any access to medical services or salaries. The hospitals were empty of the most basic medical supplies, and even their polyclinics were without simple essentials. “As a community of fellow scientists,” said Robert, “we would like to come along side our new Russian acquaintances and their families and help them out in their time of medical need. We have worked with Project C.U.R.E. in the past and would be proud to have you partner with us to see if we can make a difference.

 I have chosen to share here with you the Travel Journal of May 1999 to give you a taste of our involvement in that historic occasion.

Monday, May 24, 1999: London England: I was up at 3:15 this morning. I needed to pack, check out of my London hotel room, walk the length of St. James’s Park and Green Park, and catch the Airbus to Heathrow at Hyde Park Corner Station. My flight was an early flight to Munich, Germany. From there I transferred to a flight that took me directly to Moscow’s central airport. I was presuming that Bob Ford, supervisor at Lockheed Martin in Denver, would be at the Moscow airport to pick me up.

Moscow, Russia isn’t my favorite city in the world. I’ve been in and out of there many times, and I find myself feeling irritable and apprehensive each time I prepare to visit. I have many good friends in Russia and throughout the old Soviet Union and have fond memories associated with many of my trips. But there’s something about the city of Moscow that leaves me with feelings I can only describe as “dark.” If the Russian officials can hassle you over the slightest detail, they will. If they can take advantage of you as an American, they will. I have found that many Russians are rude even toward their own people.

Because of my previous experiences there, I was really hoping that I would spot Bob Ford just as soon as I stepped out of customs. While I was standing in line to clear customs, my mind went back to the time the customs official at Moscow arbitrarily took out of my passport my visa for Kazakhstan. I protested loudly and told him the visa was my property, and I needed it to enter Aktau as I continued my journey. The official gave me back my passport but without my Kazakhstan visa, and the only explanation I could get was that they didn’t like or approve of Kazakhstan, since they had withdrawn from the union. My further protests got me absolutely nowhere, and eventually I had to go through the process of purchasing another visa at the border of Kazakhstan.

Then my mind quickly jumped to another time when the customs officials searched me and made me count out all my money in front of them, not believing that what I had written down on the entry form was true. And then there was the time my military officer friends from Tver, Russia, fully armed with semiautomatic weapons, escorted me from Tver all the way to the Moscow airport and even stayed with me through customs because they didn’t trust their fellow Russians, especially in Moscow.

Well, when I exited customs, I didn’t spot Bob, but I did see a nice big sign reading “Dr. James Jackson.” Jim Sackett, Lockheed Martin’s representative in Moscow, and his driver were there to meet me. Bob had been detained in Denver and had to cancel the trip.

We went directly to the Aerostar Hotel, where I checked in. The accommodations at the Aerostar were superior to any I had experienced on previous trips. Jim Sackett, an American engineer in his thirties, has been in Russia for six years, living there with his American wife and four-year-old daughter. He speaks Russian quite well but told me he still relies on translators when he’s involved in technical meetings. Jim will be my host during my stay in Moscow.

Allow me to review Project C.U.R.E.’s involvement with Lockheed Martin, the American industrial giant; NPO Energomash; and the aerospace rocket complex of Russia.

A couple of years ago, Lockheed Martin officials in Colorado contacted Project C.U.R.E. to see if we were still donating medical supplies to people in the old Soviet Union. They had run across a group of Russians who desperately needed medical help, and they told us that if Project C.U.R.E. would furnish the medical goods, Lockheed Martin would underwrite the shipping expense.

The joint project was very successful. The top Lockheed Martin officials pitched in and helped load the container of goods out of our Denver warehouse. Their public-relations cameras busily clicked away, and it became a humanitarian gesture of some distinction for both Lockheed Martin and Project C.U.R.E. The targeted recipients were the rocket and aerospace families of Russia who had been disenfranchised and abandoned when the Soviet Union split and went bankrupt.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin once again contacted me and wanted to talk about a five-year program of helping the hospitals and clinics of Khimki, the NPO Energomash community.

The purpose of this trip to Moscow is for Project C.U.R.E. to conduct a complete Needs Assessment Study of the hospitals and clinics in the area to better determine what would be appropriate to send to them over a five-year period.

Once I checked into my hotel, I sat down with Jim Sackett and reviewed the agenda for the days I will be here. Before I went to bed, the personnel at the front desk notified me of a potential problem I might have with my Russian visa. The woman said, “Dr. Jackson, you say you will stay with us through the night of May 27 and check out on the 28th. But it’s against Russian law for a hotel to rent a room to a person whose visa has expired. Your visa expires at midnight on May 26. I think you have a big problem.”

I thought to myself, Why am I surprised that I’m being hassled over a technical problem here in Moscow? I told the lady at the desk that I’ll look into the problem tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 25

This morning Jim Sackett and his driver picked me up at the Aerostar Hotel, and we drove to the gated city of Khimki . Some of the tightest security in the world exists within those walls and beyond those fences. It was there the Russians designed, developed, prototyped, built, tested, and installed the world’s most powerful and most efficient rockets. US scientists developed their products with an entirely different design and philosophy. No one has ever disputed the superiority of Russian rockets over any others developed to date. And over the years, it had all taken place right where I was now standing.

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Lockheed Martin never needed to be convinced of the superior design and function of the Russian rockets. Lockheed had produced the American rockets that put satellites into orbit and launched American astronauts into space and even onto the moon. And they had developed military systems with rockets capable of delivering megatons of nonnuclear and nuclear warheads anywhere in the world, So as soon as the economic and political systems of the Soviet Union crumbled, Lockheed immediately sought to purchase all the remaining Russian rocket engines in existence.

By purchasing the inventory of Soviet rocket engines, Lockheed Martin accomplished at least three things within the global market and aerospace culture: (1) The US aerospace program was able to sop up all the inventories of rockets in Russia, adding to national security in the US; (2) Lockheed Martin would be able to corner the market on supplying rocket engines for future space travel and launching commercial satellites and exploration vehicles; and (3) the advanced technology of the Russian aerospace program, including hard-metal merchandise and Russian intelligence and manpower, would be available to the American space program for development. Perhaps an additional benefit is that when Boris Yeltsin signed the agreement with Lockheed Martin, certain sums of money and benefits began to flow back into the Russian aerospace community to keep the scientists and their families from starving.

The thing that amazed me when I became involved in observing the huge, historic agreement that took place between the Russian space industry and the American space industry was how encompassing and successful the cross-country venture became in such a short period of time. Driven by such basic free-market economic principles like scarcity, choice, and cost; division of labor; supply and demand; and just the simple profit benefits of a compatible deal, the transaction in itself became a great example of free enterprise for the world and, especially, the old Marxist-Communist diehards to see in action.

As I’ve become more and more involved in the venture, the more proud I’ve grown of the strength of the free-enterprise system I stand for and believe in. I have promoted such concepts to eager learners here at home through books and seminars, but never knew I would play even a small part in global free enterprise through the agreement between the US space industry and rocket scientists here in the old Soviet Union.

At 10:00 a.m., I had the opportunity to meet with some of the main players of the Lockheed–NPO Energomash joint venture—Dr. Victor Sigaev, the general director of NPO Energomash; Dr. Vasily Vaculin, deputy general director; Dr. Arthur Boitsov, deputy general director; and Lockheed Martin representatives. The meeting was scheduled for a full two hours, and we took every minute. 

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I was briefed on the NPO Energomash rocket venture and then was introduced to the top medical officials from Moscow and Khimki. I was then given an opportunity to explain what Project C.U.R.E. will be doing to further aid and encourage the venture by supplying medical goods and equipment to the hospitals and clinics in and around Khimki and Moscow. I probably don’t need to tell you how well Project C.U.R.E. was received when the Russian officials realized that their families could soon be receiving humanitarian aid in the form of medical supplies, which they have done without since before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Dr. Alexander Novikov is the chief director over eighteen hospitals and polyclinics in Moscow, including the 1,200-bed city hospital; Dr. Boris Pavlov is the deputy chief of the 800-bed Novogorsk hospital, which is the flagship hospital of the Khimki community; Dr. Galina Monastyrskaya is chief of the children’s polyclinic; Dr. Gorbachevsky is chief of the entire Khimki area; and Dr. Ludmila Levashova and Dr. Nina Fatsarova serve respectively as director and deputy director of the NPO Energomash polyclinic. They have all joined together to work with Project C.U.R.E. 

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Margarita Kirillova, who has been a career space official for the Russians for over twenty-five years in Khimki, was our translator. At her insistence, we broke for lunch at noon, but our discussions regarding the medical needs around Moscow could have extended well into the afternoon.

Lunch was lovely and was spiked with generous toasts that left me creatively figuring out how to dodge having to drink their vodka and other alcoholic drinks. Afterward, I walked into an experience I shall never forget. Passing all kinds of security, I was led right into the building complex where the designing, building, and testing of the famous Russian rockets takes place. Jim Sackett, the Lockheed engineer, leaned over to me and said, “You are now among a very small handful of officials from the West who have ever been permitted to pass through these doors and see what you will now see.” I thought how much James Bond would have given twenty years ago to be in my shoes!

Next Week: One of the Family

TANZANIA JOURNAL - 2006 (Part 6)

Malolo, Tanzania: Thursday May 19, 2006: Following a “seminary student breakfast” at the vacant Carmel College, we performed a little Catholic politics.  Father Shabas felt that it would be very important for us to visit the diocesan center and do a little “show and tell.”
We made an official call to the office of the Rev. Father Mafuataa, the African vicar who was the chairman of the health care committee for the diocese.  The vicar was so very happy to see us and followed us clear out to our car expressing his gratitude for our coming.  Now he would be able to make a good report about his activities to the area bishop.
After Father Shabas finished running some of his errands and arranging for me to go to an Internet cafe to send an e-mail to Anna Marie and let her know that I was still alive and surviving in Africa, we were ready to move on.
We headed Father Shabas’ old tired Land Cruiser toward another needy Catholic dispensary located at Malolo.  Sister Mary Jo of the Kihondo facility would accompany us, as would the head of the Carmel College Seminary.  The old vehicle did not have even a hint of air-conditioning, and the Tanzanian sun was direct and very hot as we were quite close to the Equator.  But, Father Shabas said he would drive very fast to make up for the inconveniences.  I didn’t necessarily need to hear that. 
It took us almost four hours of very hard driving to reach Malolo.  The route took us for about five of those miles through the Mikumi National Game Park.
As we were driving through the game park we were able to spot four elephants, about 50 giraffes, gazelles, a water buck, and lots of ugly baboons.  Certainly no one would argue the fact that Tanzania is one of the most beautiful countries in Africa.  And I have motored across a lot of the continent!
I mused at the way the Catholic fathers handled the sisters when they got a little pushy or overbearing in their suggestions.  They would simply answer, “Look, if I would have wanted a woman to tell me what to do I would have married one.”  That usually would put the conversation back on track.
We had come to a village just before we had crossed a large bridge over a river.  When Father Shabas turned off the roadway and started “four-wheeling,” I thought for sure that he had gotten lost.  After 45 minutes of dodging around huge boa trees and down into dry creek beds through narrow passageways through the giant thorn bush trees, I could conclude nothing less than the fact that truly he was lost.
But, out in the middle of “nowhere at all,” we came to a large village of brown mud-brick houses.  Just dirt trails connected the hundreds of mud dwellings.  Meals were being cooked over open fires built on the dirt just outside the doorways into the shanties.
At the end of one of the trails toward the outer limits of the village the missionaries from India had cleared a large plot of ground.  The plot had been covered with heavy bush undergrowth of thorn bushes and savanna grass.  The largest forest of “candelabra trees” I had ever seen grew on the perimeter of the cleared plot.  I was told that they had to clear and burn thousands of the trees.

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 But, on that large cleared plot of land the Holy Cross Sisters and the Carmelite Friars had built an impressive campus of buildings that presently formed a Christian boarding school.  The first year of existence was just coming to a close.  But I was privileged to see the school in full action under the intense management of the sisters from India.  The first year had opened with 66 students from across Tanzania.  There were classroom buildings, administration buildings, water wells, and storage tanks.
As we drove up to the school the girls were playing a game resembling soccer but allowing the use of the hands.  All the boys were burning up their energies with shovels, rakes, and hoes, and planting trees and bougainvillea plants and hedge rows for the beautification of their new school.  The next day the boys would be spending that block of time playing sports while the girls did the watering and planting.
The sisters had every minute of every day planned out in curriculum and activities.  I was there talking to a group of students about their most recent debate competition when the big bell began to ring and immediately the students ran to take their baths and prepare themselves for the dinner meal.
I needed to hurry to the Holy Cross Malolo Medical Dispensary to get some pictures while there was still some African daylight.

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At the dispensary, I was met again by an Indian sister and three African sisters who were in charge there.  The nearest hospital to that Malolo village was over 100 kilometers away.  If there were ever any serious trauma or accident that required the transporting of the patients, it was just understood that more than likely that patient would die en route to the nearest help.
Again, the plan was to enlist the help of Project C.U.R.E. to help furnish the Malolo facility with necessary pieces of medical equipment and supplies that would allow the dispensary to become a completely recognized hospital way out in the bush.  Surprisingly, there were over 15,000 people in the catchment area.
As I toured the facility with Father Shabas and the sisters I often caught myself cringing when I saw something shocking me.  In their lab they had a hand-crank centrifuge and a beat-up, old microscope.  They were trying to do blood and urine tests for diagnosis with almost nothing but courage and creativity.  They simply needed to go back to the beginning and count on starting fresh with everything.
But I could see in my mind’s eye what two container loads of donated medical goods could do if shipped from one of Project C.U.R.E.’s many warehouses in the US. It could miraculously transform their ambitious dream into a life-giving and life-saving station.
When we finished, we all met in the building where the priests lived.  It was just across the dusty trail from the lovely little parish church.
The sisters prepared dinner for us, and then I was shown to my sleeping cot.  That night things were really hot and very sparse/missionary.

Saturday, May 30
When my alarm went off I was greeted by the delivery of a five-gallon bucket of water and a dipper.  I tried to do a diligent job of washing the shampoo out of my hair with one hand while pouring with the other.  Somehow it all worked out okay.
It was necessary for us to not delay our return trip because of the length of journey we had set for ourselves.  We would drive back through the Mikumi game park as we made our way from Malolo to Morogoro.  There we would eat a late lunch and drop off Sister Mary Jo from the Kihondo Dispensary and our Indian priest who headed up the seminary.
But it would be necessary for Father Shabas and me to continue our long journey all the way back to Dar es Salaam.  My flight back to London was early enough on Sunday morning that I would need to already be in Dar es Salaam to safely catch it.
So it was back over the busy and dangerous highway to the port city.  There was no room for me at the parish house where the Indian priests resided so once we arrived late Saturday night I was taken to another Holy Cross convent and school where they had a spare room.  But that time I was not fortunate enough to have a mosquito net.  I had to simply pray that the mosquitoes eating my blood didn’t have malaria and weren’t giving it to me in the exchange.  And I would simply have to trust in the effectiveness of the malaria medicine that I had taken as a prophylactic.

Sunday, May 21
I was up dressing and packing by 4:15 a.m.  The kind sisters took me to the parish hall where I was passed off again to Father Shabas, who successfully transported me to the Dar es Salaam airport to catch my British Airways flight back to London.
It is difficult for me to relate how very much I was looking forward to leaving Africa and going to London.  My first trip to Africa had been nearly 25 years earlier, and there had been so very many trips between.  I sometimes wondered if there was a threshold extending out on a cumulative fashion.
But I was looking forward to landing in London where I could experience orderliness, neatness; utility of capital assets; value of law, civility, planning, respect; repaired streets; the idea of maintaining and fixing something that might break; people actually obeying the law; advancement based on achievement and not on favor or someone you knew; and a dose of good old civil and personal respect.
And about the time I thought I was dangerously reaching that supposed threshold that would be the time that God unexpectedly let me experience a direct blessing from Him.  It was in Kinshasa, Congo, that God had come to me and had helped me work through my future relationship with Project C.U.R.E.  It had been in the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, that God had personally come to visit and comfort me.  And now, it had been in a Catholic enclave in Tanzania where he had poured out His love and blessing on me through a group of dedicated and holy sisters.
Africa had played a huge part in my personal spiritual maturation.  But there were so many aspects of Africa that could “simply wear you slick.”
I was so glad to be going home!
While I was in London, God directed me to a verse in the book of Psalms.  The verse helped put all things back into perspective.  It was as if London would be a point of re-entry adjustment before I made it back to Evergreen:
            “Thou wilt show me the path of life:
            In thy presence is fullness of joy;
            At thy right hand there are pleasures
            For evermore.”  Psalm 16:11
God had revealed to me over the past 30 years the path of the good life.  He had allowed me to experience fullness of joy, and I was now looking forward to unspeakable eternal pleasures.  I had become the “happiest man in the world.”

TANZANIA JOURNAL - 2006 (Part 5)

Morogoro, Tanzania: Thursday, May 18, 2006: Thursday was sort of a happy/sad day.  It was happy for me because I was one assignment closer to getting to leave Africa and return home to Colorado.  Only Anna Marie and the Lord would know and understand how strongly I loved to head for home.  And that was because they had both extensively traveled with me to some of the toughest places in this world.
It was a sad day for me because I was going to be leaving my new friends with whom I had bonded so quickly.  Over the years I had learned to reconcile within myself that probably I would never return to the same place, and even if I did, expect to see the same people I had been with on the previous visit.  It was simply impossible to place your feet twice in the same river.

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I used to leave some place in Uzbekistan, Russia, Argentina, Serbia, or Guatemala and fully expect to, one day, return and greet my friends once again.  But it had become obvious to me after traveling internationally since 1979 that chances are almost 100% that I will never meet again on this earth the hundreds of thousands of people I met and with whom I had shared love and friendship.  I would simply have to look forward to the first million years in heaven to renew those friendships.
I was leaving my Catholic friends of Tanzania at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro who had so graciously and unselfishly included me and showered me with every bit of love within them.  Yes, I would miss them.
At breakfast I could tell that some sort of pecking order was taking place to see just who was going to get to fill the seats in the van that was to deliver me to the Kilimanjaro airport.  I smiled to myself and thought, “This is so absolutely pretentious!”  And even now as I relate the Kilimanjaro episode in the journal entry it all sounds too pretentious doesn’t it?
The clouds had drooped over and around the entire profile of Mt. Kilimanjaro for most of the time I had been in Tanzania.  But Thursday morning there was not a cloud in the sky, and for our entire trip as far as Arusha, the old, snow-capped mountain straddling the African equator could be seen in its full beauty.  I couldn’t remember any other time I had been in Tanzania and had such an unobstructed view of the profile of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I had really appreciated the opportunity to get acquainted with Father McCormick.  I could hardly wait to get home to Denver so that I could meet with his brother Dick and others in the family and relate to them how very proud they should be of Jim’s nearly 20 years of mission work in Tanzania.  He had been a blessing those long years, and his example was still an inspiration to those of us who were just getting acquainted with him.
My Precision Airways flight landed on time at the Kilimanjaro airport and after lots of warm goodbyes I was off in flight back to Dar es Salaam.
At 1:30 p.m., I was hoping to be met by Father Shabas at the Dar es Salaam airport.  He was there with another one of his friends, Father Malan.  Father Shabas explained to me that Malan’s name was spelled with a letter “r” as in Marlin but the letter “r” was silent so his name was Malan … spelled “Marlan.”
“Okay,” I said.  “I’m so glad to meet you, Father George.”
I had been introduced to Father Shabas while he was in Denver, Colorado.  Father Shabas was an Indian, born in the southern section of the country.  He had decided to become a Catholic priest and had asked to be sent to Africa as a missionary.  Some folks whose home was in Colorado had been traveling in Tanzania. They had invited Father Shabas to come and visit them in Denver.
While Father Shabas was in Denver, he met Father Hoffman, the pastor of the Church of the Risen Christ located on South Monaco Street.  Father Hoffman was a well-loved priest in Denver and was quite influential in the Catholic community.  Father Hoffman asked if Father Shabas would be interested in staying in Denver and assisting him at the Church of the Risen Christ.  The decision makers of the archdioceses smiled on the whole idea and for nearly three years, Father Shabas took leave from his mission work in Tanzania and served in Denver.
One day a friend from my past dealings in real estate in Denver, Mr. Sam Perry, called me and asked to get together for breakfast and meet this needy priest from Africa.  When I went to the meeting I took Douglas with me.  We both expected to meet a black African priest.  Later, we all met at the office of Father Hoffman and learned further about the Holy Cross Sisters and their medical work in the area of Morogoro, inland, and almost directly west from Dar es Salaam.
Father Shabas told us about the work of the sisters and also the Carmelite Friars.  Most of the leaders of the orders were missionaries who had come from India.  They served under a black African bishop, and many of the priests and sisters were African, but the real energy and leadership was being engineered and facilitated by the dedicated folks from India.
I was intrigued by the mission work and promised Sam Perry, Dick Campbell, and other laymen in the Denver archdioceses that Project C.U.R.E. would love to go and assess the situation and see what could be done in Tanzania.
It took us over two years to put the trip together.  The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization in Denver, even raised some money to aid the project.  It was a natural conclusion to try to coordinate both projects in Tanzania with one trip – one for Father Jim McCormick and one for Father Shabas.
Actually, before we were able to set final plans for the trip, Father Shabas’ time in the US had ended and he returned to Morogoro.  But that would make it more effective to have him there to host me for the Holy Cross Sisters and the Carmelite Friars.
We drove through the crowded, dirty, unorganized outskirts of Dar es Salaam toward the main junction of highways.  One highway led to Morogoro City and the other back to the area I had just left.  I certainly didn’t want to start driving back to Moshe, Kilimanjaro, and Arusha.  I had just flown from there.
The highway was lined with parked transport trucks.  Thousands of “rat trap” businesses had sprung up along the truck routes on the outskirts of the city.  One of the biggest businesses was that of prostitution.  Everywhere the truckers pushed their big rigs across Africa, they nurtured and supported the plague of prostitution and HIV/AIDS.  It seemed that the truckers always had spending money and the desperate young women always needed the money.  But the African society certainly didn’t need all the evil and ills that accompanied the truckers’ culture.
The huge trucks had completely blocked the entryway of a small drive that led from the highway toward a gated complex.  Father Shabas had to vigorously use the horn of the Land Cruiser to get the people and trucks moved out of the way so we could exit the highway.
Almost swallowed up by the roadside crowds was a Catholic enclave consisting of a church, a school, and a home for the priests of several nearby parishes.  We would be stopping there to meet some of the fathers who had kindly invited us to take a belated lunch before we traveled on to Morogoro.
The thing that once again surprised me was that all the people I met were Catholics who had agreed to come as missionaries to Africa from India.  Only the head superintendent of the schools, Mr. Adam Kagoye, was a black African.  But the principals of the schools were sharp Holy Cross Sisters and the priests were Carmelite Friars.
The Fathers who had gathered to have lunch with us were very intelligent, high-energy, sharp young men who were very focused on what they were doing in their mission work.  Needless to say, I was very impressed and felt that I had received a huge and valuable insight that day.
I would be returning to Dar es Salaam on Saturday night to stay with the diocesan members.  So I really enjoyed getting acquainted with them.
We were back on the road again.  It would take us about three hours of hard driving in the heavy traffic to make it from Dar es Salaam to the mission station at Kihondo.  As we approached Morogoro we pulled off the highway and through the iron gates of the Carmel College.  It was a Carmelite Theological Seminary, which had just been built in 2002 and was run by professors and priests from India.  They wanted us to join them for tea and get acquainted.  The seminary students had mostly already gone home since the classes had ended for the year.  The previous Friday had been the last day of the final examinations.
From the seminary we were scheduled to go to the convent of the Holy Cross Sisters and meet Sister Mary Jo and Sister Bindu, two more sisters from India who were helping run the Kihondo Holy Cross Dispensary.  My communication in setting up the Tanzanian trip had been with Sister Mary George, the director, but she had been scheduled away from the convent and the dispensary during the days that were finalized for the May trip.
A lovely Indian curry/African dinner had been planned for us at the convent.  It was getting late and I was asked if I wanted to proceed with the needs assessment at the Kihondo Holy Cross Dispensary that evening or wait until Friday morning.  I opted to proceed with the assessment that night.

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The sisters helped me answer all the questions and then took me on a tour of the facilities.  The Holy Cross Dispensary served a population of 100,000.  Just recently the government had closed one of the area hospitals.  That was putting a strain on the under-equipped, under-staffed, and under-supplied institution.
The desire was to get the dispensary upgraded to a full health station and then push for qualification as a “hospital.”  But to receive that qualification they had to meet requirements for their laboratory, procedural rooms, operating theaters, etc.  They simply could not afford the necessary items that would help them achieve the status.  They were really counting on Project C.U.R.E. to work a miracle with God’s help.
The humble little dispensary would need lots of medical goods if their dreams were to be realized.  But the sisters and fathers from India had a plan and had the energy and desire to see it accomplished.  I liked what I was seeing.
It was late.  Father Shabas took me back over to the seminary and put me in a vacant room of an absent seminary student.  Once again, the designer motif was very primitive, turn-of-the-century, (which century certainly wouldn’t make any real difference), peasant, abbot accommodations.  But at least it did come equipped with a mosquito net!
Next Week: Come on London and USA!

TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 4)

Moshe, Tanzania: May 15, 2006: Following dinner that evening at Rauya we were welcomed by another group of black sisters who resided and ministered at the Rauya Convent.  That night the women got Betty Jo McCormick out on the floor dancing.  They brought a brightly colored piece of cloth material and wrapped it around her.  Betty Jo cooperated wonderfully and kicked and skipped and bowed and swayed with the dancing Nuns.  Before long they brought another piece of material and wrapped it around Dr. Cathy.  The beat went on.  They sang and clapped and danced and laughed and hugged.  Of course, our hosts would not be satisfied until we were all out in the middle of the room participating in the fun.
Before the celebration was over for the evening they had insisted that I speak to them.  After all, the main business of the sisters and the convent was spirituality.  But, oh my, they did enjoy the fellowship. It was as if the seriousness of the discipline of the convent had worked to bottle up the innate rhythm, clapping and singing and trilling and unique movements of the native feet.  Once given a holy excuse to uncap some of that God-given emotion and excitement, it displayed itself in some pretty remarkable expressions of worship. The visitors from America had finally come to evaluate and see if they could help the nuns in their ministry.  That was enough to uncork the bottle of joy and let the excitement just bubble out everywhere.
I took the cue from the joy of the situation and talked to them about “putting a smile on the face of God.”  I could only hope that my Catholic theology was correct and properly stated.  But it was a time to capitalize on the experience of joy.
I talked to them from the passage of Scripture in Jeremiah that admonishes:
            “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
            Let not the strong man boast of his strength
            Let not the rich man boast of his riches
            But, let him, who would boast, boast of this:
            That he knows me and understands that I am God
            Who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness
            On this earth and in these things I delight
            Saith the Lord of hosts.” (Jeremiah 9:24-24)
I bragged on them and how they were spending their lives promoting kindness, justice, and righteousness.  They had pledged their entire lives – every breath, every ounce of energy, every emotion, and every thought – exclusively to Jesus, the Church, and to a needy generation of mankind.  When they took their oaths and had agreed to a life of discipline and holiness, they were concentrating their efforts on kindness, justice, and righteousness.
“God has declared in his word,” I continued, “that he delights in the promotion and dedication to kindness, justice, and righteousness.  Delight means that it makes him happy.  He enjoys that.  So when you live your life of kindness, justice, and righteousness, it makes God smile.  There are a lot of things in this old world that God sees that make His heart hurt.  But you are putting a smile on the face of God.  And tonight you have topped off your worship very uniquely.  You have topped off the whole situation with the unique expression of joy.  You have worshipped with ‘joy.’  You have indeed put a smile on the face of God tonight.”
Of course, a little pep talk like that, with more encouragement, appreciation, and acceptance, only worked to trip their trigger.  They all returned to their duties having experienced a lot of joy and expression.

Tuesday, May 16
At breakfast at 7:30 a.m., we met up with Father Benedict, who was the bishop’s right-hand man in charge of all the medical operations and activities of the dioceses.  We would be traveling with Father Benedict to visit and evaluate the Catholic medical facilities in the Moshe area.
Our first trip would be from Rauya Marengo to the large Catholic hospital in Huruma.  In order to get to Huruma we left Moshe and traveled directly east toward the Kenyan border.  The rough, “washboard” board took us right up the western side of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We passed through the base camp village where all the climbers begin their trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We continued bumping along on the road for another hour after that.
The lower slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro were lush and green with jungle trees, plants, and unique flowers.  Banana trees and plantain trees grew prolifically.  The soil was rich, and it appeared that anything the people stuck into the ground would grow quickly.

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The Huruma Hospital was a 300-bed facility, and including the outpatient traffic, it welcomed over 10,000 patients per month.
Dr. Wilbrodi Kyejo, the director, helped me with the needs assessment and explained to me that there were only two fully qualified doctors there, but they also had on staff nine doctors who were finishing their residency.  They served an area with a population of 275,000.  They desperately needed anesthesia machines, ventilators, suction machines, cauterizers, and supplies for their operating rooms, as well as a large autoclave for sterilization and all kinds of other equipment for the hospital.  Dr. Kyejo had even prepared a very extensive list of needed items in anticipation of my visit to his old, campus-styled hospital.
We returned with Father Benedict to Rauya for lunch at about 2 p.m.  At 3:30 p.m., we started out again in his Land Cruiser.  Back again we went to the base camp village.  But this time we traveled north to the town of Kilema where there was another 120-bed hospital belonging to the Catholics.  Dr. Ignas Masawe and his assistant, Sister Chalis, helped us with the assessment.  As I walked the halls, assessed the laboratory, and talked with the doctor, it was hard for me to grasp how they could run a hospital, treating over 5,000 patients a month and delivering over 120 babies a month without the basic necessities.  There were only a few supplies.  I did not see one monitor of any kind, no anesthesia machines, otoscopes, baby incubators, respirators or even a decent birthing table.  Project C.U.R.E. could really make a difference in their healthcare delivery system.
At Kilema was located the first Catholic cathedral built in Tanzania.  The parish had begun in 1890, and construction of the cathedral had taken place shortly after the turn of the century.  All the buildings were still in good condition and in full use, including the large edifice that had been the home of the first bishop.  Now, however, it was being used to house a school.

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We entered the unique cathedral and had the good fortune of hearing the choir rehearsing for the Sunday mass.  The choir director was getting a most beautiful, four-part harmony blend from the members as he pumped with his feet the ancient bellows that supplied air to the organ.  It was actually a rare experience to listen to the choir and pump organ make the old cathedral vibrate with acoustical grandeur and exuberance.
It was quite late by the time we returned to Rauya Marengo.  Usually the leaders were very careful to make sure none of their people were out on any of the roads after dark because it was so unsafe.  But the sisters had patiently held dinner for us in spite of our being so very tardy.

Wednesday, May 17
At 7:30 a.m., Father Benedict accompanied us to the city of Moshe where there was located a large Catholic diocesan center.  There we were required to wait and cool our heels until we could get an audience with Bishop Amadeus.  At the meeting, the bishop blessed our work and encouraged us to continue our efforts in helping the needy hospitals and clinics in the Kilimanjaro area.  The bishop had been a good friend with Father Jim while he was there.
From Moshe, Father Benedict took us on another long and bouncy journey back into the jungle where I would have supposed that no one else regularly traveled.  But to my utter amazement, at the end of the terrible road was located a most wonderful African Catholic hospital called Kibosho Hospital.  It served a population of over 250,000 living in the area, hardly any of whom you could see, I might add.  But there they were doing some splendid work.  Some Catholic doctors from Germany had even come and set up an eye surgery department and trained the African doctors how to successfully perform cataract operations and inner ocular lens transplants.  I was amazed.
The hospital facility was neat and clean, and Dr. Henrica, who was a Catholic sister, had prepared several lists of urgently needed supplies and pieces of equipment for their hospital.
On our return trip to Moshe, Father Benedict and Father Jim wanted to stop and let me see what the Lutherans were doing at their large hospital.  We did not perform a needs assessment there but it did give me a good idea of what was and what was not happening in the area of healthcare delivery in Moshe.  Believe it or not, the Lutheran hospital actually had a two-bed ICU department with monitors and ventilators for the fortunate patients.
Wednesday evening would be my last time meeting with the entire group of sisters at Rauya.  I was in for a very special treat.  I guess that the Lord must have known that this tired and weary “road warrior” for Project C.U.R.E. needed a special blessing.
That day the sisters had written two songs about Dr. Jim.  They expressed some beautiful thoughts, and in them they pledged to pray for me and for Project C.U.R.E. every day.  They also asked that we would remember to pray for them.  The songs were sung as if they had practiced them for months, even though I knew they had just been composed that day.  The harmonies were beautiful and the sincerity oozed out of every phrase.  I listened and I cried.  I had come to try to be a blessing to those in need, and God had turned it around, realizing that I was the one “in need.”  He had ordained to bless me by these African Catholic sisters.
After I had bragged on them and Father Jim and presented to the sister superior and Father Jim some Project C.U.R.E. gift clocks, the sisters all gathered around me, extended their hands toward me, and sang a blessing that I shall never forget.  I sat there thinking, “You just can’t out-give God.  I try to give out as much as there is within me to give … but God continues to give back even more than I can ever comprehend.”

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The love and support was flowing like a deep and strong river over all our souls that night.  I expect to spend eternity with those sisters and look forward to once again listening to their sweet voices fill the banquet rooms of heaven.
Next Week: Good-bye, Kilimanjaro; Hello, Morogoro

TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 3)

Moshe, Tanzania: May 14, 2006: Just out of Moshe, in a village called Sanya Juu, the Holy Spirit Sisters Convent operated a large dairy business. On the 1000-acre farm they had also developed a very unique “piggery.”  Additionally, hundreds of acres were planted in maize and other crops.  Fruit orchards and garden vegetables seemed to grow abundantly wherever they planted a seed or pushed a stick in the ground.  They even grew my favorite variety of short, sweet bananas there.

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The thing that impressed me about the pig operation was, first of all, how clean they maintained the facility.  But, secondly, they had figured out how to cook their own maize crop, which they fed to the pigs to enhance their digestion and ultimately their growth rate.  They also had it designed where the pig excrement was scraped into closed pits, and they were able to capture the methane gas and pipe it for use in cooking the pig food and also on into the kitchen for other heating and cooking needs.  I was pretty impressed.

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The enterprising sisters ran the entire operation themselves and hired local villagers to help with the heavy labor and planting and harvesting of the crops.
Another part of their operations included running schools and maintaining a parish for the locals.  Of course, the sisters had their own chapel as well.
Our tour lasted right up to dinnertime.  Most of the sisters ate at tables in their regular dining hall area.  But the sister superior and some of the leadership joined us in a guest dining area.  As we finished our meal the drumbeat started again and into our dining area came the happy sisters dancing, clapping, bending, and swaying to the steady cadence of the nun pounding on the Guernsey cowhide.
The sleeping room that had been assigned to me was clean but decorated in an “extremely sparse, monastic motif.”  I was, however, thankful that it offered a candle and mosquito netting that I carefully draped over the rack frame above the bed and meticulously tucked in along the edges of my one-inch-thick foam rubber mattress.

Monday, May 15
I was up at 5:15 a.m.  Consistent with the monastic motif, I bathed myself in the corner of the “bathroom” by dipping a cup into a five-gallon bucket of cold farm water and pouring it, a dipper at a time, over my head to wash out the shampoo and over my body to wash off the soap.  I kept promising God as I was gasping that I would never complain again about simple things like lack of desired water pressure or height of the shower head whenever I was afforded a regular hot shower.  By the time I finished and dressed, the whole rest of the community was involved in prayers and mass in the chapel under the direction of the returned priest, Father Jim.
After breakfast, the van, driven by the dignified and unflappable Sister Elizabeth, delivered us to the Magadini Health Center also run by the Holy Spirit Sisters.  The facility was also known as the Kilari Clinic.  It too was part of the Sanya Juu complex, and the 40-bed facility served about 25,000 of the local population.
The sisters were doing a lot with what they had available, but they needed almost everything to just keep up as a 40-bed health center. Their ambitious goal was to expand the present facility and build it into a 100-bed hospital.  For that expansion they would desperately need Project C.U.R.E.’s help with donations of supplies and pieces of necessary medical equipment.
After I had finished the needs assessment questions and tour of the facility, we were served tea in a conference area.  Down the hallway I heard the soft steady drumbeat of a sister pounding on the bottom of a five-gallon plastic pail.  We were in for a surprise!  The musically inclined nurses had written a couple of songs especially for Father Jim and Dr. Jim, their two guests.
About 25 of the sisters, most in their nurse uniforms, swayed and clapped and sang.  They were so appreciative that we had come to see if we could help.
They had remembered when, two years before, they had thought we were to arrive but the trip had not been possible.  Now we were here.
Father Jim spoke and explained how he had become acquainted with Project C.U.R.E.  He related how he had come to Denver to visit his brother, Dick McCormick, who was a childhood friend of Mr. Dick Campbell, who had served on Project C.U.R.E.’s board of directors for a long time.  So Dick Campbell, Dick McCormick, Father Jim McCormick, Douglas Jackson, and I all met for a breakfast meeting in Denver.  There we had decided to investigate the needs of the community of Holy Spirit Sisters in Tanzania.
After Father Jim had talked awhile, he asked me to speak.  I referred back to the previous afternoon when we had taken our tour of the farm and we had seen all the big stones that had been removed from the farm’s fields as they plowed the ground for the crops.
I recalled how they had taken those same stones and used them to build walkways and retaining walls and even memorial gardens where some of the sisters who had passed away were remembered.  They had chosen to take those stumbling blocks and make them into helpful and functional things of beauty.  Then I quoted to them one of my favorite bits of poetry:
            Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
            And clowns who caper in sawdust rings,
            And common folks like you and me
            Are builders of eternity?
            For each is given a bag of tools,
            A piece of stone and a book of rules,
            And each must form ere life has flown,
            A stumbling block or a stepping stone. (1)
I congratulated them on their work at Sanya Juu and especially the Magadini Health Center.  The sisters clapped and “trilled” their unique sound of high-pitch and rapid tongue movement.
I’m certain that the announcement had nothing to do with our being there at that given time but it certainly was a unique serendipity to experience.  While we were at lunch with the medical sisters the announcement came by telephone from the health minister’s office that the application had been approved for the Magadini facility to be upgraded in its official designation.  They could now build their 100-bed hospital! You could only imagine how that had “supercharged” those joyful sisters!
Our final destination for Monday was Rauya Marengo near the Tanzanian city of Moshe.  There the Holy Spirit Sisters had another large Catholic enclave that did not include a dairy farm or a “piggery.”
On the way to Moshe, Father Jim wanted us to stop and complete a needs assessment on a government hospital at Kibongoto.  During his time spent in the Kilimanjaro area, Father Jim had become acquainted with the people at Kibongoto.   Often, the sisters would need to take cases that were too complicated for their facilities to the hospital in Kibongoto.
If it were possible that Project C.U.R.E. could also include the government facility in the future, Father Jim felt that it would be a great gesture of friendship.  He also understood that for any medical facility to be able to receive help from Project C.U.R.E. there needed to be an official assessment completed.
Our meeting with the director revealed some changes that had taken place since Father Jim had returned to the US.  The health ministry was trying to change the status of the Kibongoto facility.  During the assessment I suggested to Father Jim that I really didn’t think that the hospital would be ready for Project C.U.R.E.’s involvement until the government had formalized their plan for the future of the place.  He agreed completely and we quickly brought the assessment to a halt and courteously got back into the van and continued toward Moshe.
The next facility that Father Jim had formally requested for Project C.U.R.E. to help was also on the way to Moshe.  The facility was a district hospital run by the government in an area called Bomangombe.  Following the assessment and a lengthy discussion with the director and his assistant, I suggested to Father Jim that I would approve of the Bomangombe facility receiving help from Project C.U.R.E. because they had a good plan for expansion and could really use our help.  But, I suggested that our immediate concentration should be on the facilities of the Holy Spirit Sisters and perhaps an x-ray unit or other token items could be included in a container load headed for the Catholic institutions.  Once the designated items had arrived they could be taken out of the load and transferred to the government facility.  We would leave the option open in the future to further concentrate on the government facilities at a future time.  We were in complete agreement.  There certainly was no question as to the desperate need of the government facilities, however.
Finally, we reached the Rauya Marengo enclave near the city of Moshe.  It was a beautiful sunset but we had exhausted the hours of daylight for Monday.  We would be staying at the Rauya facility for the balance of the time.  I would be with Father Jim.  We would simply travel to the other nominated areas and return to stay there.
Rauya Marengo was where Father Jim had spent the majority of the 18 years he had served in Africa.  It was like “old home week” for him and for Betty Jo and Dr. Cathy.  They were enjoying sharing what they had only heard about over the many years regarding the famous Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania.
Next Week: Overwhelming Medical Needs of Tanzania