ALL THAT IS NOT GIVEN IS LOST

One of the universal principles of stewardship is that I can hold on too tightly and lose everything or become richer by giving away what I have. The spirit of selfishness and hoarding trumps wisdom and blocks me from the subtle insights as to what and when I should let go. The tighter I grasp on to something, the faster it squeezes right through my fingers, and suddenly it’s gone. This principle is equally true for corporations, institutions, and individuals. Stewardship and benevolence just make good sense and good business. 

By watering other people and reaching out to meet their needs, we actually water ourselves. What we hoard we lose; what we give away and plant in the lives of others returns to us in multiplied measure. And in the final analysis, all that is not given away is lost. Project C.U.R.E. is one of the best examples of how this principle works out every day in the real world. 

In the business model and daily operations of Project C.U.R.E., we are dependent upon donations from other people and institutions. The thousands of lives that are saved through the efforts of Project C.U.R.E. are a direct result of the benevolence of others. We work expressly with medical manufacturers, medical wholesale businesses, and end users of medical goods. In a joint effort, we collect, process, inventory, warehouse, and distribute those medical supplies and equipment to needy hospitals and medical clinics around the world. We openly explain the benefits to them and their businesses of our working together. Then we ask them specifically to donate to us from their inventories. They believe in us and  the cause we represent, and for more than twenty-five years they have generously given to us.

The medical industry is very unique in that it deals with extremely time-sensitive inventories. The majority of items we receive are marked with an expiration date. When we receive the donated items, we don’t have the option or latitude to take our jolly-good time to process and deliver them to the needy international recipients. We’re always under the time gun, and we must be good stewards of what we’re given in order to maximize the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. 

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 It would be absolutely and criminally ridiculous for us to receive those donated goods, put them on our warehouse racks, and say, “Oh, look at us and see how very wealthy we are with all the millions of dollars’ worth of goods we have in our warehouses.” Those medical supplies and equipment were given to us to distribute to those with imperative need. We accept the responsibility of being trustworthy stewards of those goods. If we hoard the things we’re given, and we simply sit on those valuable gifts until the expiration dates slip past, we’re accountable for breeching our fiduciary responsibilities. 

It isn’t a whole lot different when it comes to the valuable inventories of our personal lives that we’ve so generously received. Like the time-sensitive medical inventories in Project C.U.R.E.’s warehouses, our personal talents and possessions are time sensitive. All of our clocks are ticking—just in case you hadn’t noticed. Your personal inventories are overflowing, even if you don’t feel so wealthy today.

What I hoard I lose. All that is not given away is lost. What I grasp too tightly, I squeeze right through my fingers, and it’s gone. But what I give away and plant in the lives of others returns to me in multiplied measure.

As much as Project C.U.R.E. gives away each year, every time I walk through our warehouses, I see more there than before. By watering other people and reaching out to meet their needs, we actually water ourselves. We can hold on too tightly and lose everything or give away what we have and become richer in the things that matter most in this life—richer in relationships; richer in quality of life; richer in personal expression, experience, and maturity; richer in wisdom; richer in true wealth, which transcends money. 

In the classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers reminds us,

Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded (see Exodus 16:20). God will never allow you to keep a spiritual blessing completely for yourself. It must be given back to Him so that He can make it a blessing to others.        


MY FIRST TRIP TO BELIZE (Part 4)

Belize: 1997 Travel Journal: Wednesday, February 19: It was after 1:00 p.m. when we left Dr. Ken’s office at the Belmopan hospital. Dr. Joe and I decided to grab a bit of lunch from the locals before starting out on the journey to our next appointment. I really enjoyed getting better acquainted with Dr. Joe. Last year he brought his wife and family to Belize and felt that God was calling them to give at least one year of their lives to doing medical missions here. In my opinion, Dr. Joe Ferguson will play an extremely important role in Belize’s health-care system as the government tries to decentralize their system and help the local and district representatives have more influence in the design and implementation of the national health-care plan. 

Dr. Joe and I talked at length about how he can go about changing the system through influence rather than authority. I encouraged him, pledging Project C.U.R.E.’s support for his efforts. Because the country is so small, everyone was abuzz about how Project C.U.R.E. could be invited to bring a new dimension of quality and quantity to the Belize health-care system. 

From lunch Dr. Joe and I jumped into an old black Ford pickup and headed toward the Guatemalan border town of San Ignacio. We wanted to do a needs assessment of the hospital there, but we also felt it very important to meet another key player in the health-care system, Dr. Armando Betancourt, the chief medical officer at the San Ignacio government hospital. 

To get to San Ignacio, we passed through some of the prettiest country on God’s green earth. We gently climbed toward the Guatemalan border and passed through a lot of land that had been cleared of jungle and planted with citrus groves. The Mennonites have done an extraordinary job of developing and cultivating a lot of Belize, especially the area around Spanish Lookout. 

Dr. Joe and I passed from undeveloped Third World landscape to beautifully maintained ranches and farms where every imaginable crop was being grown and with cattle that would surely have won prizes at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Their houses were modern, and their farm machinery and transportation vehicles were the latest models. 

We kept traveling parallel to the river and eventually drove into the quaint town of San Ignacio. I guess the best way to describe how the town affected me is to say that San Ignacio is to Belize what Estes Park is to Colorado. It is a fun town with lots to do and lots to see. Hotels are fifteen to twenty dollars per night, and there are lots of excursion outfitters who will take you for river rides, jungle adventures, or treks to see the ancient ruins of the Mayan civilization. With the town being so close to the Guatemalan border, I understand that San Ignacio also has quite a dark side, with drugs being smuggled over the mountains and down the rivers to the seacoast. 

Mrs. Patten is the matron we found to be in charge of the San Ignacio Hospital. The building structure was very similar to what I had witnessed in Haiti. It was a two-story, wood-sided building with large, screened-in verandahs extending from both levels of the building’s front side. The outside was painted a goldenrod color and trimmed in dark brown and white. The center had been fitted with a copula that rose another level to a third story, and in the back were covered walkways and a large steel water tank perched upon concrete columns. The people who ran the hospital were as characteristically quaint as the building itself. 

After we had waited for about thirty minutes, Dr. Armando Betancourt arrived. He said he had heard a lot about Project C.U.R.E. and was eager to work with us. It was very difficult to categorize the San Ignacio facility as a hospital, unless I wanted to shoot a movie depicting an early 1800s scene. In the maternity ward, the wrought-iron beds still had the original bassinets, which were designed to swing between the iron bedposts at the foot of the beds. The whole place put us into a wonderful time warp, but it really was not very functional. 

There is no lab facility at all in San Ignacio. The diagnoses are all done by guesswork. So the tendency is to over prescribe medications. The matron told us that people are not satisfied to go home from the hospital or even the clinic until they have received some kind of a shot. When they come just wanting a shot, she said that many times the doctors give them a series of placebo shots that are so painful, the people will be discouraged from coming back unless they are really sick. But, I asked myself, Without a lab, how do they know when a patient is really sick? 

The San Ignacio Hospital also does not have an x-ray machine. Dr. Betancourt literally begged for an X-ray machine, some surgical supplies and instruments, and an autoclave machine for sterilization. I told Dr. Betancourt that Project C.U.R.E. would be pleased to work with him. I instructed him to work directly with Dr. Joe Ferguson, who will be able to coordinate filling their basic needs. 

After the meeting, Dr. Joe and I stopped at one of San Ignacio’s picturesque watering holes and had a Coca-Cola. We accomplished more today than we had set out to accomplish. I had been able to meet all the people I felt necessary and had viewed all the main hospitals in the Belize health-care system. Dr. Joe was extremely pleased that he had been able to meet so many of the important health-care players with whom he will be associating over the next year. 

The jungle rains continued. The black Ford pickup truck we were driving punched holes in several of the low-hanging clouds, and we got thoroughly drenched on our return trip to Roaring Creek. The ground was totally saturated, and the surface water was running freely toward the river as we approached the swinging footbridge. 

The iguana that had been out earlier in the tops of the bamboo trees were now seeking safer and dryer shelter in rain forest below. 

I was glad that I had set aside the time to travel to Belize for the assessment trip. I have a feeling that Project C.U.R.E. will continue to be involved with Belize for a long time in the future. The medical team was remaining for a few more days. But I felt I really needed to get back to Denver, catch up on my homework and prepare for my upcoming trip to Africa. Things just kept getting increasingly busier and busier . . . I like it that way!
 


MY FIRST TRIP TO BELIZE (Part 3)

Belize: 1997 Travel Journal: Wednesday, February 19:  One of the pharmacists in the group got up at about 3:30 a.m. and wandered from the sanctuary bunkhouse across the compound to the toilet building. Quite inadvertently he awakened the stupid rooster who rules the entire west side of the river during the daylight hours. In my opinion, a Campbell’s soup can would be too good of a final resting place for that cocky, noisy bird. But the rooster’s annoyance, to say nothing of his annoying cock-a-doodle-do, was way too big to fit into a Campbell’s soup can. At any rate, once awakened, he decided to wreak vengeance on all who were still asleep. It was like he began crowing, “Cock-a doodle-do, if I have to wake up, then so will you!” At 3:30 in the morning, it only served as a frustration to him that he could not get the sun to come up like it usually does twenty minutes after he starts his routine. So he crowed louder and more often from sheer desperation. I think he panicked because he began to believe the rumors from the hen house that he has lost his former machismo. 

The crowing also caused the women in their building to not be able to sleep. So by the time I sneaked out of the sanctuary and headed toward the shower building, I was way at the back of a long line. Stupid rooster! 

After we finished eating, Bill Ruth asked me to share about Project C.U.R.E. and its ministry for the devotional time. I told the team about Project C.U.R.E. and its mission around the world. Next, I bragged on them for being in Belize and allowing Jesus to extend his love through their healing hands and warm smiles. Then I spent the rest of my time just bragging on Jesus. 

The medical team was scheduled for a day of rest and relaxation. They were to take an old church bus to the Caribbean seashore and out to an island on the barrier reef where they could swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear water and view God’s magnificent aquarium from the inside. 

I did not choose the option to go to the beach. Dr. Joe Ferguson and I had made appointments that would take at least all day to fulfill. I am going to leave for home almost a full week before the rest of the medical team will fly back to Colorado. There are many things I need to do to finish my Needs Assessment Studies in Belize.

Our first appointment was with Mary Lee Ellis, head of the Red Cross in Belize. She is a native-born Belizean and probably has a better grasp on the chaotic state of affairs of the Belize health-care system than even the minister of health does. Our meeting lasted for two hours and was extremely timely and enlightening. We discussed Project C.U.R.E.’s potential role in the country’s health-care future and also discussed in great detail how Dr. Joe Ferguson’s being in Belize for the next year could bring about historic results as he works as a liaison and resource person. Mary Lee and Dr. Joe decided to work closely together to influence the direction of the present system, with Project C.U.R.E. coming alongside the situation and donating the desperately needed medical supplies and equipment.

Before we left, Mary Lee and one of her assistants began telling Dr. Joe some of the challenges of jungle medicine he will encounter when he arrives for his year-long assignment. She told him about the centuries-old remedies used in curing centuries-old maladies of the rain-forest river country. Herbs and potions have been found to be far more effective against some of the jungle diseases than the most modern of medicines. 

Mary Lee and her assistant Rosa then described how to extract a beef worm from a human body. The worm hatches from an egg laid under the skin. After the egg hatches, the worm burrows into the flesh and around the bones. If doctors try to operate and cut out the worm, they will simply mutilate the patient’s flesh while trying to follow the worm’s pathway through the tissue. Even then the chances are great that they will not have gotten out the whole worm.      
Mary Lee and Rosa gave us the secrets of beef-worm extraction in the jungle. They simply cake over the external hole with Colgate toothpaste. That cuts off the air supply to the worm. But there is also something in the Colgate that attracts the worm to burrow out through the Colgate instead of going deeper into the flesh or exiting somewhere else to get oxygen. Mary Lee told us that she must wait patiently until the worm sticks its head out of the flesh long enough to ensure that she is able to catch its head firmly with a pair of forceps. Then, Mary Lee told us, she needs someone like Rosa with strong thumbs to get on either side of the worm deep beneath the surface of the flesh and begin to systematically squeeze upward on the worm while Mary Lee forcefully pulls the worm out of the resident body. The worms can be very long, and great care must to be taken not to pull the worm apart during the procedure, lest the residual is left to burrow its way even deeper into the host body. The process can be quite fatiguing, but both Rose and Mary Lee instructed Dr. Joe to never back off the intensity once the procedure is underway. 

With that tidbit of valuable jungle medical advice, Dr. Joe and I made our way to our next appointment with Dr. Jesus Ken at the Western Regional Hospital. Dr. Ken is officially responsible for overseeing the administration of the hospital, but with the new health plan in Belize, he was also made director of the regional health-care services. That has left him hardly any time to do his medical practice, to say nothing of the oversight responsibility of the hospital in Belmopan. 

Dr. Ken was still at a meeting when we arrived, so we took the time to get acquainted with Matron III Palacio, who actually runs the hospital. Her first name is not Matron; that is her position. The III that follows her position signifies her rank. So Matron III signifies the highest rank around the place. She has been in Belmopan for eighteen years. 

The matron showed us around the hospital, and when Dr. Ken returned, I began going through the questions for the Needs Assessment Study. I could see that my summary was going to be very simple: “Belmopan hospital needs everything.” The hospital has almost no supplies. Their X-ray machine does not work. They have no modern surgical instruments, and when they try to use the big light in the operating room, it shorts out. 

I set my notebook on the table, took off my glasses, and asked Dr. Ken, “If we were making out a Christmas wish list for your hospital, what would be the three most-needed items on the list?” 

He didn’t hesitate a split second. “Number one, an incinerator to burn our hazardous medical waste, the placentas, and the removed body parts. Right now we are trying to bury them around here. Number two, a commercial stove. We have nothing but a small burner to heat or cook anything here. Number three, a new light for the operating theater. It is so difficult to do emergency surgery when the light shorts out and we are left in the dark. Then if you were to ask about item number four on our wish list, it would be a small refrigerator.” 

While I was writing down his answers, I reflected on all the things people had requested from Project C.U.R.E. In Russia they were demanding I bring them a brand-new lithotripter with a price tag of over one million dollars. Lots of hospitals were begging for the newest model of CAT scan. But three of the four top items Dr. Ken requested for the Belmopan Hospital had nothing to do with new, highly sophisticated pieces of medical equipment—an incinerator, a stove, and a refrigerator. By the way, let me remind you one more time, Belmopan is the capital city of Belize. My heart really hurts for those people in medical communities around the world who have to do without the simplest pieces of equipment or have had to watch their patients die for lack of some inexpensive supplies. 

Oh yes … speaking of medical subjects, I suppose by now you have heard about the woman in Colorado who took her dog, Butch, to the veterinarian. She was certain the dog had fallen into a deep sleep or had experienced some sort of seizure or coma. The vet told her that he was very certain her dog was not asleep but rather was dead. He said, “However, if you want to pay for the clinical tests to see if Butch is indeed dead or alive, I will be happy to perform the procedure.” 

She agreed, whereupon he laid Butch on the floor, went to the back room, and took out of one of the cages a huge tomcat with an attitude problem. The doctor set the tomcat down next to Butch. The cat arched his back and proceeded to hiss and spit at limp old Butch. Finally he walked right up to Butch’s head, extended his sharp claws, and swiped a mean stroke across Butch’s dry nose. Absolutely no response. The vet picked up the tomcat and returned him to his cage in the other room; then he came out and presented the lady with a bill for his services. 

“Three hundred dollars,” she screamed. “For what?”

“Five dollars for the examination and office call and $295 for the cat scan!”

Next Week: First Trip to Belize, (continued )    



                  





 

MY FIRST TRIP TO BELIZE (Part 2)

Belize: 1997 Travel Journal: Ernie and I left immediately for Belize City to meet with an old, cranky Dutchman, Tony Nijssen. He is the chief engineer for all medical equipment and facilities in Belize. He is a very powerful man in the medical hierarchy in Belize because he determines what can or cannot come into the country. I asked to meet with him right away.

Rather than allowing Tony to put me on the defensive with his stories about how different groups had sent in broken and worthless equipment, I stopped him and said, “Tony, I have been willing to come all the way to Belize on a fact-finding mission. Probably I will find in Belize’s hospitals and clinics the finest examples of medical technology. I probably will find, Tony, that since you already have everything, Project C.U.R.E. will not find any way to be of help to you. But even though we will probably not have any opportunity to work together in the future, I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for allowing me the privilege to meet with you and make your acquaintance.” I picked up my notebook and started to stand up.

Tony just sat there looking at me with his lower jaw about two inches down from his upper teeth. “But, but, but … wait a minute, Mr. James—”

“That’s no problem, Tony. Lots of the forty-one countries into which we shipped last year have nothing, so I congratulate you. You are doing an outstanding job.”

“But, Mr. James … I need everything!”

From that point on, Tony and I got along famously. Our meeting lasted for almost two hours, and he personally took me on a tour of the Belize City government hospital. 

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Ernie drove me through the streets of the old colonial town of Belize City. It was a historic setting in a beautiful location on the sea. Belize has more of the flavor of a Caribbean country like Cuba, Jamaica, or Aruba rather than a Central American country. The population of the country is a little over two hundred thousand, with somewhere around one-third of the people living in or directly around Belize City. The Chinese are coming to Belize by the droves. For about fifty thousand dollars, you can buy full citizenship in Belize. To the Chinese, that is an absolute bargain.

I am very interested to see what will happen to the little country when Hong Kong is turned back over to the Chinese later this year. It is very possible that Belize will be totally bought up by expatriates from China. With the democratic constitution of Belize, it is conceivable that some people group like the Chinese could simply vote themselves into a new country of their own. (Just the musings and conjectures of a red-headed Scotch-Irish economist.)

Belize covers about nine thousand square miles and is about the size of the state of Massachusetts. The northern area outside Belize City is flat, with marshes and lagoons, and the lower coastal areas are covered with mangrove swamps.  
  
As I traveled west and south from Belize City, the land rose, reaching an altitude of three thousand feet in the Maya Mountains. Over 60 percent of the country is forested, and a lot of it I would describe as jungle. It really is a country of beauty and opportunity, with miles of sandy beaches and chances for rare reef snorkeling. But the national mentality and current economic system definitely place Belize right alongside all the other lesser-developed countries to which I have traveled.

Maybe it was because I was super hungry, or maybe it was because the roasted chicken and roasted carrots and potatoes had some kind of special Belizean herbs and spices applied to them, but for some reason dinner really tasted good to me tonight. It also could have tasted good because the antibiotics I am taking for my recently extracted handful of teeth are finally kicking in, and I am actually beginning to feel better.

After dinner Ernie cautioned the group to be especially careful in Belize because of the high crime rate. “Don’t go anywhere out of the compound by yourself, and ladies, even inside the River of Life area, have someone with you.”

He went on to tell us that over the past few years, with the widespread use of cocaine and crack, the area of Roaring Creek has really become quite dangerous. He told us that just last year some men came into the compound, into the room in which we were now eating, and at gunpoint took a young lady volunteer from one of the groups visiting from the US, forced her into the nearby jungle, and robbed and raped her. He said the guilty men had been caught and are now in jail, but we should be extremely careful while here.

Tuesday, February 18
I slept very well last night on my piece of sponge-rubber mattress placed on the wooden platform of the church. The air was heavy and muggy, and my towel was still wet—even though I had hung it out to dry all day and night—when I grabbed it in the darkness to go take my predawn shower. The women were already lined up when I arrived, even though I was the first man to awaken. All of the traveling Anna Marie and I had done staying at bed-and-breakfast accommodations across Europe, England, and Ireland had prepared me for the process of scrambling for an early spot in line for a common bathroom.

After breakfast, I joined the medical team as they went again into the jungle villages to set up their portable clinic. Lots of people had gathered at the old wooden government schoolhouse by the time we arrived.  

The team went to work setting up the blood-testing lab; the eye, ear, nose, and throat area; the general medical-supply area; the different examination areas; and the pharmacy. The area of particular and sordid interest to me was the dental setup. The dentists and hygienists had a very impressive clinic put together. Wooden lawn chairs were used, but of course, they were too low to the ground for the dental people to work comfortably. So they had stacked concrete blocks and placed the lawn chairs on top, securing them with ropes so the chair and patient would not tumble off during the procedure.

A gasoline generator was located about thirty yards away from the old schoolhouse in the hope that the noise and exhaust fumes coming into the school would be cut to a minimum. There was no means of electricity available in the Yalbac, Buena Vista school area except our portable generator. For the benefit of the dentists, who needed air pressure to run their drills, an air compressor was plugged into the electric generator.

I watched the two young, highly skilled dentists place needles into the patients’ mouths and inject a numbing agent to deaden the nerves. Then I watched the dentists proceed with the process of extracting many rotten teeth. Strangely enough I had real empathy for those patients sitting in those lawn chairs atop the concrete blocks. Once again I thanked God for allowing me to be home for my seven extractions over the Christmas holidays.

I hung around the clinic taking pictures and meeting and talking to the jungle people through interpreters. One characteristic of the medical team from the Greeley area is their prayer ministry. They included in the group people whose specific job is to go from one patient to another while they are waiting for their procedures and pray with them. The patients have responded very well to the prayer partners, and quite a large number of the patients have accepted Christ into their hearts. Bibles and Christian literature in the native languages are passed out to all who want to take them home.

In the afternoon, Dr. Joe Ferguson, Dr. Bill Ruth, Ernie Aldridge, and I proceeded to the capital city of Belmopan. There we had scheduled a meeting with Mr. Wayne Usher, the permanent secretary for the ministry of health. The meeting went extremely well, and later Ernie said that Project C.U.R.E.’s presence made it absolutely the best meeting they had ever had with the health ministry. I urged Mr. Usher and Ernie to build a strong bond of friendship between the health ministry and the River of Life mission. They both agreed to getting together on a monthly basis for breakfast or lunch. Christian-ministry folks often don’t understand the importance and necessity of such communication with governmental institutions. But part of Project C.U.R.E.’s mission is to help ministry folks begin to reach out from their own comfortable circle and build relationships. Then when they need something, they won’t feel like the outside world and Satan are beating up on them just because they can’t get what they want. They will have paid the price to establish a relationship. They can then cash in on their relational investments.

On our way back to the camp, we walked once again over the suspension footbridge. It had rained very hard earlier in the morning, but now the huge iguana were sunning themselves in the tops of the bamboo trees far down along the green-lined river. 

Next Week: First Trip to Belize, continued


MY FIRST TRIP TO BELIZE (Part 1)

Belize: 1997 Travel Journal: (Note: We have sent millions of dollars worth of medical supplies and equipment into Belize and scores of Project C.U.R.E. medical teams have traveled there in the past twenty years. But I want to share with you just how it all got started in Belize.)

In 1996 Dr. Joe Ferguson, a physician from Greeley, Colorado, and a pharmacist, Bill Ruth, also from Greeley, came to our Project C.U.R.E. offices and warehouse in Denver eager to get more information about our organization. They filled out all the paperwork requesting assistance for an organization called River of Life mission in Belmopan, Belize. Later they brought with them the founder of the ministry, Mr. Ernie Aldridge, and introduced him to us. They explained how Ernie and his wife, Martha, went out along the river in the back-jungle country of Belize and established a medical-missions compound for the local Creole, Mestizo, and Garinagu people. The Aldridges provided foodstuffs and clothing for the people who attended the church on the compound. The medical help mostly involved visiting doctors, nurses, and laypeople willing to rotate through the River of Life project and administer inoculations, deworm children, pull or fill rotten teeth, and make sure expectant mothers had vitamins and health-care training. 

I liked Ernie Aldridge right away. He is about sixty years old, and he and his wife have really poured their lives into helping the jungle people of Belize. Before he left our warehouse, we gave him about $100,000 worth of supplies and medical equipment, which he put in the back of a big truck he was shipping back to Belize. I promised him at the time that I would one day go to visit his mission site and perform a Needs Assessment Study. 

Dr. Joe Ferguson and Bill Ruth kept calling and coming to the warehouse and getting acquainted. The pharmacist and his wife had been to the River of Life setup six times previously, and Dr. Ferguson had gone for short-term stints twice before. Their next trip was scheduled for February 16–26, 1997. They began to strongly recommend that I accompany them on their next short-term medical trip and fill out the necessary Needs Assessment Studies while there. At that time it was proposed that they would take on the airplane all the medical supplies and equipment allowable. Thus, their clinics would be supplied when I arrived. 

My schedule would only allow me to be in Belize February 16 through the nineteenth. We all agreed that would be sufficient time, and Ernie would do the advance work to make possible the necessary meetings I need to have with the Belize government officials and health-ministry people. 

Sunday, February 16
By 3:30 a.m., I was out of bed and packing my things for my needs-assessment trip to Belize. It will be my first time to the country that borders Guatemala and used to be known as British Honduras. Fortunately, it does not require as much travel time to go to Belize as it does to Pakistan, Kazakhstan, or Ethiopia. 

Our team left Denver International Airport at 6:55 a.m. and arrived in Belize City about 3:00 this afternoon. The trip included a plane switch in Houston, Texas. There are twenty-eight people traveling in our medical group. Most of them are from the Greeley, Colorado, area. One Greeley pastor joined us, as did a Baptist pastor from the hills of Tennessee. They have both been to Ernie and Martha’s compound many times. 

The River of Life setup is about seventy miles inland toward Guatemala from the Caribbean Sea. Before we got to the village where we would ferry across the river, it began to rain—and I do mean rain! I have been in Cuba when the Caribbean torrents hit the shoreline. But rain is very uncharacteristic for Belize in February. They receive rain up through December and January, perhaps, but almost never in February. However, neither tradition nor almanacs did anything to stop the downpour we experienced. 

The luggage for twenty-eight people plus all the medical supplies and equipment had been loaded in the back of an open truck and in the back of the old school bus by which we were being transported. 

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As we drove from the main highway down toward the river on a rutty, muddy, dirt road, there was conversation among the leaders about the possibility of the truck and bus getting stuck even before we reached the river. They decided that if even we could get to the river, it would certainly be unwise to try to take the bus across the rain-swollen channel. As the river was rising, the ferry would rise, and the long bus was sure to high-center on the low landing leading to the ferry. So, we drove as close as we could to a three-hundred-foot swinging footbridge suspended high above the green jungle and rain-swollen river. We waited in the bus hoping the rain would slow down enough to allow us all to run the distance, which amounted to the length of a football field, across the suspension footbridge. By that time darkness had settled over the jungle. No one had suspected it would rain in February, so all the umbrellas and ponchos had been left in Colorado. Once out of the bus, I decided against the futility of just standing around in the rain hoping something good would happen. Instead, I decided to take off and get started hoofing it across the footbridge.                                       

There had been no footbridge at all across the river until about three years ago, when Dr. Loren Cunningham, the man Dr. Ted Yamamori and I took to North Korea, raised the necessary money through his organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to construct the bridge. YWAM has a missions training camp in Roaring Creek, Belize, immediately adjacent to Ernie and Martha’s River of Life compound. I understand that Dr. Cunningham persuaded the US Army Corps of Engineers or the British army or someone to help with the bridge construction.
         
The step treads on the bridge were made of good Honduras hardwood and were as slippery as an eel’s belly when wet. When I was about halfway across the bridge, several others in our group started across. The bridge began heaving and swaying back and forth. Whenever I took a step, the bridge would come up to meet my foot. My hands were full, so I could not just reach out to grab on to something to steady myself. I could see the steep jungle embankment down to the river about one hundred feet below. Even though there was almost no light left in the sky, I could still see the swift movement of the rain-swollen river. I decided to just hasten right on across the footbridge with an absolute minimum of dillydally.

Once we made it across the bridge, there was a car to take the first four of us across to the River of Life compound about three-quarters of a mile away. Staff members unloaded the luggage from the back of the bus into pickup trucks, covered the luggage the best they could with tarpaulins, and drove down river to be ferried across in the rain. As you might suspect, by the time they unloaded the luggage, my poor nylon, soft-side bag was pretty thoroughly soaked. 

Eventually dinner was served, and we were informed as to where we would sleep. The women would be in two different smaller wooden structures, and all the men would sleep in the church. All the benches in the church were without backs, so it was easy to slide two six-foot-long benches side by side and lay a mattress on the top of the benches. In the sanctuary, there were twelve such “beds” set up, and then on the front platform area, there were three mattresses set up on the floor. I grabbed one of the beds on the floor of the wooden platform in order to keep my bags off the damp concrete floor. The jungle rain continued to pour. Sometime during the night, I stumbled out of the church into the hot, humid jungle night, watered the jungle flowers, and thanked the dear Lord that I had been born a man-child. 

Ernie and Martha had built only one shower stall and one toilet, and both the toilet and shower were in the room with the washer and dryer. The room was built on the side of one of the wooden buildings. As I was going back to sleep, I was calculating how long the line would be in the morning when twenty-eight people decided to take a shower before breakfast. I knew my odds of getting in were about the same as the man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem who had waited some thirty years for a chance at the troubled waters. I set my mental alarm clock to awaken early. I didn’t dare set my travel alarm, because there were fourteen other guys asleep in the church sanctuary. 

Monday, February 17
When I woke up, I pulled on my pants, shirt, and shoes and quietly sneaked out the back door of the church. I knew I would be first to take a shower at that hour and would be able to clear out for others to follow … Wrong! By the time I got there, I was third in line, and several women had already been there and were outside trying to dry their hair in the jungle darkness. 

After a breakfast of cold cereal, coffee (no English black tea), and bananas, the medical team loaded up and headed out into a remote jungle area to take care of over two hundred patients and distribute over a thousand pills for everything from worms to warts. Lots of bottles of Project C.U.R.E. ladies’ vitamins were given out to mothers or pregnant women. 

Next Week: First Trip to Belize, continued


 

 

A REASON TO BE HAPPY

How could we have possibly known? Who would have ever guessed? What are the chances that a small group of concerned and sincere people in the inland state of Colorado could effectively change the health care delivery systems of thousands of hospitals and clinics around the world and alter the very course of history for so many individuals and families? Just how can that be? 

Well, Happy 30th Birthday, Project C.U.R.E.! 

Our first load of donated medical supplies and pieces of medical equipment was sent to the needy people of Sao Paulo state, Brazil in 1987. That’s thirty years ago! The impact was astounding and the miracle has continued over all the ensuing years. A long time ago we passed the mark of having donated over a billion dollars’ worth of precious medical goods to venues in over 138 countries of the world. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.’s staff, partners, and volunteers. 

Dr. Douglas Jackson has been Project C.U.R.E.’s president and CEO for the past 20 years. Happy Birthday, Douglas. He is an attorney with a Juris Doctorate from University of Colorado. He also holds a PhD in Econometrics and Finance from CU Boulder. Now, he spends his precious time and efforts saving lives and building health care delivery systems for some of the neediest folks in this world. Project C.U.R.E. is blessed to have Dr. Jackson as its extremely talented and compassionate leader. 

Many wonderful things have transpired in the past 30 years of Project C.U.R.E. But I would like to use this blog to highlight just the miracles that have taken place this past year. Our corporate fiscal year begins June 1 and ends May 31. 

Ocean Going Cargo Containers: We deliver semi-trailer sized cargo containers filled with medical supplies and coveted pieces of medical equipment directly to selected hospitals and clinics. Each container load is custom made for that specific institution. This year we delivered a record 180 containers! That’s never been done before. Project C.U.R.E.is the largest handler of donated medical goods in the world. On average, a container load will include about $440,000 worth of donated medical goods. 

C.U.R.E. Kits: This year 53 different countries received suitcase-sized, pre-packed kits that included essential exam and emergency or disaster materials designed for on-location and field procedures. C.U.R.E. Kits are designed to be carried on an airplane as checked luggage. They can be taken directly and immediately to a frontline disaster or trauma scene. 

C.U.R.E. Clinics, Philanthrotravel teams, and Young Professional Trips: Our volunteer medical groups logged new record numbers of team travel experiences providing free patient care for more than 7,500 patients. Other Project C.U.R.E. groups traveled to nine developing countries this year and trained 511 local nurses and selected midwives in our Helping Babies Breathe program. 

Kits For Kids: 6,362 “medicine cabinets in backpacks” were personally delivered in 2017 to moms of village families. Due to lack of access to basic healthcare, millions of children die each year of preventable and treatable conditions. Now moms have a medicine cabinet. 

Ambassador Boards developed in Denver, Chicago, and Phoenix. 

Colorado Governor’s Excellence in Exporting Award – 2017, in conjunction with World Trade Center and Department of Commerce, presented to Project C.U.R.E., in addition; National nomination to Health Right Foundation Award: Partnerships. 

Completion of yet more Medical Management Training Curriculum that will be used worldwide. 

(I know I am missing some additional 2017 miracles) 

Nearly 30,000 Project C.U.R.E. volunteers now work at our Distribution and Collection Centers:
Distribution Centers:                                                           Collection Centers:
Denver, CO (International Headquarters)                                  Cortland, NY
Chicago, Il                                                                               Glenwood Springs, CO
Houston, TX                                                                             Grand Junction, CO
Nashville TN                                                                            Kansas City, MO
Philadelphia, PA                                                                       Rolla/Jefferson City, MO
Phoenix, AZ                                                                             Sarasota, FL                                                                                                                 Harrisburg, PA                                                                                                               Wilsonville, OR                                                                                                              Grand Rapids, MI

Project C.U.R.E. operates on less than 2% overhead and is designated by Forbes as being in the top 20 most efficient large U.S. Charities. 

I have a hard time camouflaging how thankful and proud I am of what God has done through the simple efforts of the compassionate and efficient organization called Project C.U.R.E. 

Happy 30th Birthday, Project C.U.R.E. May God continue to bless and multiply the goodness that flows out to the entire world. You give us all a true reason to be happy!                                                                   
 


STUCK ON YESTERDAY

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev commented, “If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.”

Someone once told me that you can tell when people are getting old: Their eyes start shifting around to the back of their heads . . . and they get stuck looking backward at yesterday. It’s a bit like trying to drive down the highway while looking in the rear view mirror. It might help you see where you’ve been, but it doesn’t help you get where you’re going!

American baseball legend George Herman Ruth, best known as Babe Ruth, understood that past accomplishments don’t guarantee future success. As an American League baseball player for twenty-two seasons, including seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Ruth helped the New York Yankees win seven pennants and four World Series titles. (Ruth won a total of seven World Series championships before retiring.) Babe Ruth became one of the first five players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. During his career, he set the record for home runs (714) and runs batted in (2,213). He was also home-run champion for twelve years.

But Babe Ruth never allowed his incredible successes as a home-run champion to get in the way of his present and future goals. To his great credit, Ruth was able to maintain his focus on each game he was playing, and with true insight, he reminded the world that “yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” It’s nearly impossible to have a better tomorrow if you’re stuck on yesterday.

What each of us has accomplished in the past is a very strong indicator of what we’re capable of doing in the future. Through our past accomplishments, our actions have indeed spoken louder than our words.

Your past accomplishments should be recognized and applauded. You dreamed and visualized what you wanted to accomplish, you identified what you valued most, and then you brought your energies to bear on what you perceived would fill a specific need and make other people better off.

At your time and place in history, you began to fantasize: You dared to dream. You asked yourself, “What if . . .?” Then you began to crystalize: You engaged in dream screening, calculating what it would cost you to accomplish your dream. You became determined and specific. Next, you began to actually visualize that dream: You began to see yourself as having already achieved it. Your dream became such a reality to you that your subconscious mind began to work out the details of accomplishing it.

But that future accomplishment needed to be reinforced, so you began to verbalize the dream to yourself and others. You had to become vulnerable and accountable in order to see your precious dream come to fruition. You depended on that verbal affirmation to maintain your focus and strengthen your confidence. You may even have quoted King Solomon’s observation: “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, nkjv). The dream was working!

All that was left was to actually see your dream materialize: You saw your plans for the accomplishment of your desired goal become reality. The pathway for your accomplishment had gone over, under, and around all the obstacles and impediments that could have become your tombstone. Now they have wonderfully become your touchstone. As your goal was attained, a feeling of fulfillment and worthiness developed. You might even have shouted, “Wow! Just look at what I accomplished!”

You’re to be congratulated and recognized for your success! However, you now stand at one of the scariest and most fragile points in your life. Accomplishments should prove to be not a destination but a journey. Nothing can fail like success, and nothing can be as miserably defeated as yesterday’s spectacular accomplishments, if your success makes you lose your focus.

We all must learn from yesterday’s accomplishments, gain from the confidence acquired, and press on to greet the opportunities of tomorrow. But we must not stop. The temptation will always be to allow yesterday’s triumphs to rob us of today’s opportunity and creativity.

I vividly recall the euphoric feeling I got as Project C.U.R.E. shipped its first million dollars’ worth of donated medical goods to the needy country of Brazil in the late 1980s. There was an overwhelming temptation to just settle into Brazil and rejoice in the success. That would have been undeniably good . . . but it wouldn’t have been best, or smart. We could have gotten stuck on yesterday—and stuck on stupid.

It wasn’t long before other Latin American and South American countries came asking for our help. They wanted desperately needed medical goods as well. I remember considering the choices: We could sit and enjoy the beauty of the mighty oak tree that had grown from yesterday’s accomplishments—the life-changing contribution to the nation of Brazil—or we could take our newly gained knowledge and confidence and help create a mighty forest for the future by getting busy and planting precious acorns today.

I chose to plant for the future, and today Project C.U.R.E. is shipping medical goods to more than 130 different countries, bringing help and hope to thousands of needy people around the world. Even to this day, we’re striving to never get stuck on yesterday. We want to fulfill today’s goals and embrace tomorrow’s opportunities, remembering that “if what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.”
 


A MATTER OF ECONOMICS

It’s an economic virtue to be frugal corporately as well as personally. A strategy of waste reduction, pursuit of efficiency, and suppression of instant gratification just makes good business sense. There is, however, another subtle aspect of responsible economics that is sometimes less obvious: Don’t let things go to waste just because they’re in the wrong place.

Prior to founding Project C.U.R.E., I was involved in economic consulting in lesser-developed countries. While working in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), I was taken out and shown grain-storage facilities that were running over with maize. For three years, the country had experienced bumper crops, and they had run out of room to store the grain. I was shown stacks and stacks of burlap bags filled with maize and covered with black plastic. The stacks were the size of very large buildings. But the rain was getting into the sacks from the top, and rodents were getting in from the bottom. And all the while, the tribes across the Zambezi River in Zambia were starving. The irony was that Zambia was rich in copper production. The price of copper, however, had plummeted, and no one was buying Zambia’s copper, so they had no money to buy the maize.

There was nothing wrong with having the maize, and there was nothing wrong with having the copper. The commodities were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they weren’t being utilized. It took a third party who wasn’t involved in their tribal problems to help them structure an exchange whereby Zambia could receive the needed maize for their hungry people, and Zimbabwe could take Zambia’s copper and put it in warehouses in London until the copper prices returned to normal. Everyone then came out better off!

Adam Smith, sometimes referred to as the father of modern economics, sought to explain that markets emerge out of the division of labor. When people divide up the labor and perform only certain specialized jobs as occupations, instead of trying to do everything for themselves, it’s necessary for them to depend on others to fulfill most of their needs. An efficient market will make those services and goods more readily available to meet those needs.

The word entrepreneur is sometimes a difficult word to pronounce—and even harder to spell. The function of the entrepreneur is simple: to help the economy’s markets run more efficiently. The entrepreneur will see an opportunity to make the market run more smoothly by taking something from a position of “lower” value out of the economy and placing it back into the economy at a “higher” value. The idea is that the services or goods were simply in the wrong place in the economy.

For example, our company Jackson Brothers Investments (JBI) developed real estate in the ski areas of Colorado during the 1960s and 1970s. We would purchase large, economically struggling ranch sites and develop them in accordance with state and county regulations. We would also provide roads, electricity, water and sewer districts, and approved tracts of land overlooking the ski slopes. The completed projects brought happiness to a lot of new owners, provided jobs, generated handsome profits, and greatly increased the tax base for the counties and the state.

Project C.U.R.E is perhaps the best example I can think of to illustrate the economic principle of “Don’t let things go to waste just because they’re in the wrong place.” Since its inception in 1987, Project C.U.R.E. has aggressively collected, managed, and distributed more than one billion dollars’ worth of medical goods and services to the neediest people around the world. 

At the beginning, millions of tons of medical supplies and countless pieces of medical equipment were in the wrong place. They were all subject to waste. At one time, they took up space in someone’s warehouse, with no plan for utilization. But Project C.U.R.E. pursued and secured these items, and some of the most talented and devoted volunteers in the United States—medical nurses, doctors, physicians’ assistants, and paramedics—have spent countless hours sorting and distributing them to bring health and hope to sick and afflicted people in the right places in over 130 countries around the world.

Of all people, I’m most fortunate to have been on the scene in university teaching institutions, hospitals, surgical centers, and clinics where those medical goods arrived at just the right time to save the life of some precious mom, dad, or child who would have died without the needles, syringes, sutures, IVs, scopes, monitors, and anesthesia machines.

I am, in another respect, one of the most fortunate people on earth. The economic principle of “Don’t let things go to waste just because they’re in the wrong place” works in a spiritual realm as well. I clearly recall when I was personally in the wrong place and headed for the nearest Dumpster, but the Eternal Economist graciously gave me another chance.

Whether you use this tested economic principle at your next garage sale or to save the lives of thousands of hurting people around the world, never ignore this admonition: Don’t let things go to waste just because they’re in the wrong place!             
 


FOLLOW YOUR HEART

 I would like to dedicate this blog to Nicholas Muller  I became acquainted with Nick through Jim Peters, who was President of Samsonite International until his retirement in 1989. Nick served as Vice President and General Counsel for Samsonite starting in 1972. These two men were not just friends to me, but are heroes of mine in the business world.  Like Jim Peters, Nick Muller did not waste his time living someone else's life.  He lived out the beauty of his own calling, and let his heart guide him.
                                                 
                                        * * *   * * *    * * *   * * *   * * *   * * *   

Jacob Petrovic was my friend. I knew him by his Americanized name Jim Peters. He knew his life was limited and didn’t want to waste a single moment living someone else’s dream. He had dreams of his own, courage enough to follow his heart, and sufficient confidence to trust his seasoned intuition. Jim wanted to return to the unstable federation of Yugoslavia, but the civil war in the 1990s, the bloodshed, and the violence made the political climate throughout the Balkans extremely tentative.

American essayist James Baldwin once advised, “Be careful what you set your heart upon, for it will surely be yours.” For more than fifty years, Jim had his heart set upon returning to his birthplace in Belgrade, Serbia. Jim was sitting in the audience where I had just delivered a presentation on my recent trips to North Korea and Iraq.

After the speech, he approached me and said, “You’ve been to Baghdad, Iraq; Havana, Cuba; and Pyongyang, North Korea. Have you ever been to Belgrade, Serbia, in Yugoslavia?”

“No.” was my answer.
“Why not?” was his rapid response.
“Because Project C.U.R.E. only goes where we’re invited,” I answered.
“Then would you go to Belgrade if you were invited?”

Three days later, the two of us met in my office to discuss the possibility of traveling together to Belgrade to arrange the donation of needed medical goods to the hurting people of Yugoslavia. This wasn’t the first time Jim Peters had followed his heart where there was no pathway to lead him. But he had learned early on that wherever you go, it’s necessary to go with all your heart, because the intuition of the heart has reasons that even reason doesn’t necessarily understand. You see, Jim had escaped Yugoslavia in 1944. Germany had wreaked havoc on the Balkans during the First World War; then during World War II, Germany, Italy, and Russia had unleashed their cruelty on the area.

Young Jacob Petrovic and his brother were part of a prominent Belgrade family. They had joined up with the resistance movement to protect their homeland from the Nazis and Communists. When Allied pilots from America or Britain got shot down over Yugoslavia, the resistance group would try to get to the pilots first and, through dangerous and clandestine strategies, eventually deliver the pilots back across enemy lines to the safety of the Allied encampments.

Jim and his friends had been able to save the lives of more than two hundred American and British pilots. But eventually the Gestapo closed in on them, and they had to flee the country without even saying good-bye to their families. Soldiers had surrounded the Petrovic family home and were in the process of breaking down the doors to capture Jim and his brother. The soldiers had orders to bring them in as prisoners or shoot them on the spot if need be. Jim and his brother sought the help of Jim’s school girlfriend, who was also in the resistance movement. She successfully hid them in her house. That night they escaped, slipping from her house, jumping fences, and running into the nearby forested hills. It took more than two years for them to complete their escape by eventually working their way to Switzerland. Yet Jim continued to follow his heart.

While Jim and his brother were in Switzerland, two of the American pilots whose lives they had saved searched for them, miraculously located them, and brought them to America. The brothers landed in New York in 1947.The very first day they arrived, they found jobs and went to work. The pilots whose lives they had saved sponsored Jim and his brother so they could attend Columbia University in New York City. Both graduated with MBAs in 1949.

Jim’s world was becoming as big as the dream in his heart that was guiding him. His talents were quickly recognized, and he was soon hired as an international representative for the Singer sewing-machine company. From there he was able to leapfrog into an international position with RCA, and later he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he became the senior vice president for Samsonite luggage company, in charge of all international business. After fifteen years with Samsonite, he retired and worked as an international consultant for Mattel toys.

Jim and his wife continued to make Denver their home, but the burning desire of his heart was still leading him. He was going to go back to his homeland and, with the help of Project C.U.R.E., take help and hope to his relatives and needy compatriots. During all the years of his absence, Jim had kept up on the events taking place in the Balkans. But as we tried to put the travel plans together, we ran into difficulty. The United States had cut off all diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. We were then forced into trying to secure the necessary visas for our passports by going through the Yugoslavian embassy in Toronto, Canada. That required working directly with the government officials of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. But eventually we were able to work our way through the international bureaucracy of Canada, NATO, the United States, and the warring factions of the Balkans and receive our proper paperwork.

Only twice had Anna Marie ever cried when she dropped me off at the airport terminal. Once was when I first went to Baghdad, Iraq, and the other time was Sunday, July 16, when she dropped me off at the airport to leave for Belgrade.

“When I see you walk through those airport doors, I never know if I’ll ever see you again.” Then she apologized for crying.

At the airport was where the rubber really met the road. There were no outside pressures making us do what we were doing with Project C.U.R.E. We received no money. It was truly a love gift to God. Anna Marie and I were both totally a part of that gift.

Once Jim and I arrived in Belgrade and had settled into our hotel, Jim wanted to show me some of the history of Belgrade. As we walked through the city, he pointed out where his boyhood friends used to live, where he used to work, and the office buildings where his prominent family members ran their businesses. When we got to one intersection, he stopped and gestured toward an old bank building where his father was once an influential officer. Just across the other street, he pointed out where he spent his last night in the city of Belgrade in 1944.

Jim Peters had followed his heart. He hadn’t let time or inconveniences or the noise and static of others’ opinions drown out the inner voice of his own heart. He had found the seed that had been placed in the citadel of his heart and had nurtured it into a beautiful living flower. That beautiful vision and lofty ideal had now been realized.

Jim and I traveled a couple of different times together to Yugoslavia and spent enough time in Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro to make all the arrangements necessary to send millions of dollars’ worth of donated medical goods to hospitals and clinics all over that part of the Balkans. Jim had followed his heart.

Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life. Live out the beauty of your own calling. Let your heart guide you. Your heart usually whispers . . . so listen carefully!


 



 

CRISIS REVEALS CHARACTER

During my travels in the Soviet Union, the outright arrogance of the Soviet leadership occasionally caught me totally off-guard. One of the favorite sayings leveled at me was “Nothing ever goes wrong here, because nothing ever can go wrong here.” If one of their five-year economic plans failed miserably, or there was a costly industrial accident, an ingenious cover-up was promoted, but never an admission of a mistake That historic attitude spawned an international catastrophe in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

The disaster took place during a systems test on April 26 when, due to faulty design and inappropriate and inefficient actions of the nuclear staff, an explosion and fire released immeasurable quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere. The majority of the heavy fallout landed directly in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia; the rest was spread throughout the USSR and Europe.

Some reports indicate that the Soviet authorities in control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant tried to cover up the whole episode. They apparently failed to warn plant workers of what was happening. Military personnel and emergency workers who were sent in to control and clean up the mess weren’t informed of the risks, and government officials delayed evacuating thousands of residents in Pripyat and other contaminated areas surrounding the reactor. The Soviet government was also slow to admit to the world that an accident had occurred. 

More than one hundred emergency workers died from radiation exposure following the Chernobyl disaster, but the long-term health impact and future death toll is impossible to calculate. The World Health Organization has estimated that an additional four thousand people from the highest-risk groups of emergency workers and civilians could eventually die from the lifelong effects of radiation. Long-term studies have also shown that survivors have an increased risk of certain types of cancer, particularly those who were children or teenagers at the time of the accident.

In June of 1996, I had a meeting in Minsk, Belarus, with a military commander named Peter Ivanovitsch. He had been a Soviet army commander in Afghanistan in 1986. On April 27, 1986, he was ordered to take 2,900 of his men into Chernobyl to help. When he returned from Chernobyl, they noticed that they were all getting sick, but the Communist government said it was impossible that their sickness had anything to do with Chernobyl, and officials dismissed their concerns. Soon, many of Peter’s men began to die. They organized themselves not only to try to help the invalids left alive after the disaster but also to bring food and aid to the families of the rescuers who had already died.

The Communists still refused to help, saying that their claims weren’t valid, even though the men who went in on the rescue attempts were all seriously affected. The majority of the men had died by the time I met with the commander. Peter was enlisting Project C.U.R.E.’s help to supply medical goods for the remaining families. He was forty-three years old, but he knew he had only a very short time to live.

My next meeting that day was with the bishop of the Evangelical Union in Belarus. When the evacuation of Pripyat was taking place, a number of pastors had accepted the challenge to go into the nuclear plant area and minister to the victims. These pastors had faced the oppression of the Soviet leaders in the past and had survived. The bishop had warned them of the high risk involved, but these brave pastors traveled into the areas of heaviest radioactive fallout and ministered to the hurting people. Even though all of the pastors died, they were the ones who displayed true strength of character in the midst of crisis.

Common logic would have us believe that character is developed in times of crisis. I doubt that. Very little character was being developed by the Soviet leadership during the Chernobyl disaster. We may also be tempted to say that in a time of crisis, we’ll rise to the occasion. . . . Probably not, unless we’ve been consistently developing strength of character before a crisis happens.

Pressure proves the product . . . Crisis simply reveals the character.