SERBIA-YUGOSLAVIA, July 16-24, 2000 (Part 7) The Interview

Belgrade, Serbia: Friday, July 21,2000: The more I was driven around the city of Belgrade, the more destruction I saw. Many of the buildings were totally gutted from the inside. The United States had used smart bombs launched from 15,000 feet above and guided to penetrate into the building before it exploded with its incendiary payload. The outside of the structure might have looked relatively normal except for the roof being gone, but the inside would be a charred, totally gutted building. I was told that night after night the city of Belgrade was ablaze. Olga said she could stand and watch the incoming rockets fly across the city seeking their targets and entering into the buildings.

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The great fear for Olga, as well as other civilians, was that they never knew which rocket had been programmed to hit the building in which they were standing. “Our defense weapons would be fired but would arc across the sky and fall back into the city without reaching a third of the way to the height where the U.S. bombers were flying. It was like the U.S. was playing a game with our city, using it to experiment with their new super-high technique war weapons knowing that we were absolutely helpless to defend our citizens or our city.”

Belgrade city was the capital of the Republic of Serbia, as well as the capital of the entire Federation of Yugoslavia. That sounded a little complicated, and it was. Serbia was a big republic and was much, much larger than the only other republic left in the Federation of Yugoslavia, which was Montenegro. Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo also had been much smaller republics in the Federation of Yugoslavia. But they had all been declared independent, leaving only Serbia and Montenegro still within the Federation of Yugoslavia.

We had previously visited the Minister of Health of the entire Federation of Yugoslavia. But Serbia also had its own Ministry of Health to represent itself as an individual republic. Therefore, when news got out that Project C.U.R.E. was in the city and had met with the Yugoslav Ministry of Health, and when the newspaper article appeared about Project C.U.R.E. working with the Red Cross, the Health Ministry of Serbia also requested to meet with us. We certainly agreed to the meeting. It appeared that the Yugoslav Federal Ministry would be in charge of the international part of getting medical donations into Yugoslavia and the Serbian Health Ministry would oversee the distribution within Serbia. There did not appear to be any conflict in the system but we certainly wanted to meet all the parties to guarantee there would not ever be any confusion or misunderstanding. Thursday, the Serbian Health Ministry contacted Slavka Dreskovic-Jovanavic at the Serbian Unity Congress and said the Minister of Health was out of the city but would request we meet with Dr. Persia Simonovic, the Deputy Minister.

Friday, at 3:00 we met with the Serbian Health Ministry. It was an absolute miracle the way we had been able to meet with all the important officials who had the power to either make our shipping into Yugoslavia a success or a failure. It had been accomplished in such a short period of time and the acceptance of Project C.U.R.E. had been almost overwhelming.

I had only one more business meeting scheduled for Friday. The woman reporter representing the official government newspaper had requested an interview with me through Slavka at the Serbian Unity Congress. It had been set up that I would meet with her at 5:00 p.m.

I had not wanted any publicity while in Yugoslavia. I had just wanted to slip in and slip out of the country quietly. But that hadn’t happened. I knew I was really walking a fine line. The Serbian Unity Congress was an opposition organization to the Milosevic regime. They were not our official hosts but had made a lot of the appointments for us. On the other hand, I had already spent considerable time with cabinet members and representatives of the government. I knew I was tiptoeing through a virtual political minefield and knew the dangers involved in giving an interview for the government newspapers. My only diplomatic hope was to emphasize the position of Project C.U.R.E. as being a humanitarian organization of political neutrality which served many people, many organizations and many governments in 85 different countries around the world. Our specialty was medical help and not politics. Staying focused in the interview on helping people through love and concern and not getting pulled away by any of the reporter’s political questions would be mandatory and perhaps necessary for my life and safety. One slip could be critical.

The people who would have been reading the newspaper would have been people whose city had been bombed and burned by the Americans and they perhaps would have themselves suffered injuries and perhaps experienced death of some of their loved ones. I realized it was very risky for me to even be there, but I was bothered most by having a newspaper article announce to a large segment of the city that an American was even there in their city during those days. Before the interview I prayed God would direct the reporter to ask questions which I could handle with definitive answers of neutrality. If possible, I would like her to even forget to ask the hard questions of politics, bombings and killings.

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The reporter had been intrigued with my meeting with the head of the Red Cross. After some easy questions about Project C.U.R.E.’s inception and founding and about its work around the world, she asked why, as an American, I would put myself in harms way to travel to Belgrade, personally. When she lobbed that one to me I knew I could burn up the rest of the day with the answer. The rest of the 40 minutes interview I took to explain why I was the happiest man in the world getting to do what I do. I told stories of Haiti, Africa and Iraq and what God had done in my life to change me from a life of success to a life of significance.

The tape in the reporter’s recorder was about used up when I finished. In the last few minutes she turned to Jim Peters and asked him a few questions about his humanitarian desires for being back in Belgrade. I thanked God on the way out of the office for the way the interview had gone and the fact that however the article might come out I would be safely on my way home before it came out in print!

Olga and Alexander were at the Moskva Hotel when we returned. They wanted us to go to dinner with them at the home of some of their dear friends, Professor Brana Popovic and his wife Olja. Sunday, the doctor and his wife would be leaving Belgrade for Toronto, Ontario, Canada where the professor would be undergoing some radical cancer surgery. They were wonderful and warm people who are highly educated and had a daughter who lived in Boulder, Colorado where she was a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado. The senior professor Popovic was Serbian and had just been dismissed from his University position after many, many years, because of his opposition views against Slobodan Milosevic.

We ate outside in a lovely garden. During the dinner, Alexander and Jim Peters related to the Popovics the incredible and highly unusual meeting we had earlier with the Yugoslav Minister of Health and how he was so moved that he nearly cried. “The story of what God did in your life has not been heard by our friends Brana and Olja Popovic, or by Olga. Please start at the very beginning and tell the entire story. We have never heard anything like it.” I agreed to tell the whole story again.

Dr. Brana Popovic commented at the end, “Thank you for sharing such a strong story with us. I don’t think I have heard such a story before. We are nearly consumed by the thoughts of politics and the need for change and we are terribly frustrated. But you, I believe, have found the answer. We must begin doing what we can to help others instead of being concentrated on political problems in either the Clinton Administration or the Milosevic government. We can do that. That is really the answer for our whole country.”

Next Week: A Crazy Lady and a Hurting World


SERBIA July 16-24, 2000 (Part 6) Sharing Hope with the Minister of Health

Belgrade, Serbia: Friday, July 21, 2000: I watched as the conversation between Jim and the health minister quickened. I almost jumped in, but then I thought, I don’t have anything to sell here. The two people talking have more to lose than I do, and I’m not expected to regulate this meeting. I’ll respond at an appropriate time. So, I just sat back and relaxed.

Eventually I was asked a direct question about inventory and procedure. At that time I started from the top and thanked the health minister for giving Jim and me his time and honoring us with the meeting. I assured him that we had only traveled to Yugoslavia to assist if possible. I then said that perhaps they won’t need anything we have, but we’re here to explore the possibilities and get acquainted.

The health minister then began to relax a little. I continued by complimenting him on what I had observed in the hospitals we had assessed. “Yugoslavia has a good health-care system and doctors and nurses who are very qualified and very dedicated.”

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I gave him some specific examples and then went on. “I believe that Yugoslavia in the past has been a model for other Eastern European countries. But right now, and for an unknown time in the future, there is difficulty, and there will be opportunities for friends to help. Eventually Yugoslavia will once again be a leader. There is a certain spirit of optimism and courage that is very observable in the country, and that spirit will take Yugoslavia successfully through the difficult times.”

By that time, everyone around the table was smiling, and their heads were moving up and down, including the health minister’s. He then told me that he is really in trouble on medications. There simply is no money to buy medicine, especially heart medications and medications for diabetes. He asked if I had any suggestions, and I told him that Project C.U.R.E. ships out very few pharmaceuticals because of the expiration-dating procedures for the drugs and because of the inconsistent policies of the recipient countries. I went on to explain how and why the pharmaceutical companies date their products the way they do. I also told him that I had suggested to North Korea that they test for themselves the drugs that are close to the expiration date. If they test good, they can use them. If they don’t test to their satisfaction, they can opt not to use them.

The health minister leaned back and smiled. He realized I was there only to help him. I assured him that Project C.U.R.E. will never violate any of their policies or requests. As we talked and everyone around the table got friendlier, I felt strongly that I should share with the health minister why I was really there and what God had done to change my life. When I asked him if he had time for me to tell him a story, he said, “Yes, of course.”

I started out telling him about trading rabbits as a boy and deciding I would be a millionaire before I was twenty-five. Then I said that by age thirty, I was way past my goal, but nobody had told me that just because you have the ability to accumulate wealth, it doesn’t necessarily make you happy. And I wasn’t a happy man. I told him that Anna Marie and I decided to give away all our accumulated wealth and start over again, and I told God that if he would get me off the hamster wheel, out of the cage, and just make me a simple man again, I would never use my ability to accumulate wealth for myself. I would just help other people.

“That’s why I’m here today, Dr. Kobac. I don’t take any money for what I do. It’s a gift to God and to other people. I just want to help the people of Yugoslavia while they’re having a difficult time.”

I went into more detail than this, but when I finished, the health minister was fighting back tears as he said, “You have told me the most important story. What you have said is the only hope for the world. I have been very discouraged and bitter over what has happened, but now that you have told me this powerful story, I have hope.”

Our meeting was supposed to last for only thirty minutes but went on for an hour and a half. I apologized for taking so much of the health minister’s valuable time, but he replied, “No, no! You have come here with the most important thing possible. Do not apologize.”

Everyone was only whispering when we all filed out of the health minister’s office. Project C.U.R.E. confronted Slobodan Milošević’s closest friends and cabinet members with God’s love today, and that love was incredibly effective!

At this point, Jim and I were late for our next appointment at the Belgrade Institute of Psychiatry, so we hurried across town and into Dr. Sanda Raskovicivic’s office. The director is in charge of a 750-bed mental hospital, one hundred day patients who are limited to staying only one month, and 250,000 outpatients a year. She is in desperate need of IV solution, poles, and starting kits; needles and syringes; an EEG machine and an EKG machine; and lots of medications.

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As we walked from her main hospital building to an annex, I commented on how nice her building looked, and that it appeared to have a fresh coat of paint. “It is new paint; it’s some new building, too,” she said. Then Dr. Sanda pointed to a large building about fifty yards away. “That’s Belgrade’s main police station. It was repeatedly bombed, and some of the bombs missed and hit my hospital. I was sitting in a room, and suddenly the ceiling came falling in around me, and all the windows fell out. I thought it was the aftershock of an earthquake somewhere. I didn’t know we had been bombed. I’m a woman doctor. What would I know about bombs and war?”

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Dr. Sanda told me that she quickly figured out that she was in real bad trouble. The roof was gone, the doors and windows were gone, there was a lot of damage to the building, and there were fires everywhere. “I went down to my patients and told them to stay calm. ‘I need your help. Everyone needs your help. I am going to untie you from your beds, but you must not try to run away. You must stay calm and help me get everyone through this.’ That’s what I told them.”

She went on with her story, telling me that all the patients stayed calm, and some even went to other parts of the building to help other patients. “While there was chaos, terror, and lunacy outside the institution, there was absolute calm and perfect control inside the mental hospital.”

Next Week: The Interview


SERBIA, July 16-26, 2000 (Part 5) Total Acceptance in Nis

Kragujevak and Nis, Serbia: July 20 - 21, 2000: Another half hour down the road, we came to the town of Kragujevac. The pediatric hospital there serves a population of about 180,000 people. Dr. Jasmina Knezevic, the hospital director, is a sharp young lady who really takes pride in what she does. She is a pediatric cardiologist, and her husband is also a doctor in Kragujevac. Together they cut quite a wide swath medically in central Serbia.

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Dr. Jasmina is desperate for basic supplies for her hospital and is trying to do the best she can with broken lab equipment and antique medical machines. She fixed little truffles and tarts for us, with black tea. The tea was a nice change from the Yugoslavian coffee served in most places, which I’m convinced is made from floodwater mud.

After tea, Jim and I had to hurry on to the city of Nis. The city was once the inland capital of Yugoslavia and today serves a population of about two million. It was about another two-hour drive to Nis from Kragujevac, and it was getting dark by the time we arrived in Nis and checked into the Ambassador hotel on the city square. Jim, the driver, and I wandered around the city until we found a good place to eat dinner.

Thursday, July 20

Jim Peters and I ate breakfast at our hotel this morning and then decided to walk to the Nis Clinical Center. Yugoslavia followed the old Soviet model of together-but-separate hospitals.” There was a separate hospital for each specialty, but they were all clustered together in relatively close proximity. It really wasn’t an efficient method, but it became tradition throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The Nis Clinical Center was set up according to that model.

We located the administrative offices for the complex. Snezana Milošević, the deputy director and head of nursing, had been expecting us. We were then ushered into Dr. Cedo Kutlesic’s spacious office, where Tanja Milošević, the chief business administrator for the hospital complex, and Snezana were invited to meet with us. Dr. Kutlesic is a physically large Serbian with a rather gruff demeanor. He is a very focused individual and serves as the vice dean as well as the general manager for the medical campus.

The Nis hospital is a fifteen-hundred-bed institution with twenty-seven hundred employees, six hundred doctors, and eighteen operating theaters. In addition to taking care of the local population, the hospital now tries to care for several hundred thousand refugees who streamed into central Yugoslavia from the war zones. I could see immediately that if there is a place in Serbia that needs our help, Nis is that place.

We met with hospital administrators for more than an hour before we took a photo tour of the hospital. By that time, Dr. Kutlesic had really warmed up. I told him I really admire what he is doing as a doctor in Serbia and what he is accomplishing as an administrator during such difficult times. He walked over to his glass-secured bookcase and took out a boxed collection of two beautiful volumes on ancient Orthodox monasteries. He opened the first volume and signed it: “To Dr. James Jackson, my big friend from America. Dr. Cedo Kutlesic.”

The doctor stood up, walked over to me, and kissed me three times on alternating cheeks as only family members do in Serbia. The mouths of the two ladies meeting with us dropped open. They work every day with the big, burly doctor, and I doubt they had seen him that open and emotional before. Snezana and Tanja then escorted us around the hospital to finish our needs assessment. All of us became good friends in a short time. Jim and I came to Nis to deliver love and hope, but we received far more love and acceptance than we could ever have dreamed of.

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Our next appointment was set for 11:30 a.m. at a psychiatric hospital in the small nearby town of Toponica. But the people at Nis didn’t want us to leave. Our compromise was to quickly perform our needs assessment in Toponica and then return to Nis and have a late lunch with them.

On our way out of the hospital, I saw a woman in a wheelchair struggling to enter an elevator. Both of her legs were missing at the thigh. Snezana helped her onto the elevator. I smiled at her as Snezana told me that the lady was a nurse at the hospital. When the NATO bombs hit the hospital, she watched as her legs were blown off her body. Fortunately she knew what to do to save herself from bleeding to death. Now she is back working at the hospital again and is having a real tough time.

The psychiatric hospital at Toponica was a bit of a misfit for Project C.U.R.E. The hospital director didn’t even want to talk about his medical needs and didn’t want us to tour the facilities—not even the medical clinic. He just kept asking us for money so he could remodel his old building, which was erected in the late 1800s. It really wasn’t too difficult to cut short our evaluation at the Toponica psychiatric hospital.

Back at Nis, Jim and I joined Dr. Kutlesic and his staff for a lovely lunch at an “American” outdoor restaurant. There’s no doubt about it: My obedience and willingness to go to war-torn Yugoslavia has been richly rewarded, and the timing of the visit has been absolutely providential. God, again, has been way out ahead of us in the planning.

It was a long, difficult, four-hour drive back to Belgrade. Jim and I found ourselves eating dinner in Belgrade at about 10:30 p.m.

Friday, July 21

This morning, Alexander Cvetanovic, Jim Peters, and I met early for breakfast. The day was heavily scheduled. Our first assignment was a needs assessment at the Belgrade maternity hospital, where Dr. Slavka Durutovic-Gligorovic is the director. She had been instrumental in helping us get our visas to enter Yugoslavia. She is a great manager and medical doctor. Her maternity hospital sparkled with cleanliness, and her staff was very positive and had things well under control. I took some photos that I really hope will come out good. I think it will be a pleasure to work with the hospital in the future.

Jim and I had promised as a stipulation for receiving our visas that we would meet with the foreign-affairs ministry and the health ministry while we were in Belgrade. We had already met with the foreign-affairs people, but the minister of health was making it difficult to schedule a meeting.

At our lunch in Nis, we had mentioned our problem to Dr. Kutlesic. He simply got on the phone with the minister of health and said, “You really need to meet this guy.”

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That was all it took. We were scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. meeting today at the minister of health’s office. Additionally the newspaper article in the official newspaper just came out in Belgrade telling about the American humanitarian organization that had arrived to offer assistance. The health minister’s curiosity had been piqued.

The newspaper announcement came out of our meeting with the Red Cross. A reporter for the official newspaper had been there, and it had taken her no time at all to get the news into print. I’m quickly losing the position I had hoped for of just quietly slipping into Belgrade and quietly leaving without any high-profile exposure. I’m fearful that the publicity will just alert any genuine and aggressive American haters to the fact that there is an American in town.

Dr. Mihajlo Kobac, the health minister for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is a real medical doctor instead of just a government figurehead. He allowed thirty minutes for our meeting and also invited to the meeting Dr. Vera Ilankovic, the deputy federal minister, and Dr. Ljiljana Stojanovic, the first counselor to the federal minister and two other ministry officials.

The minister of health was very cool and defensive and almost cynical about an American being in Belgrade to see him. It was the Americans who had caused their problems. Had I come to gloat over their misery?

Jim started out by introducing me to the health minister in the Serbian language. He had sat in on about ten official meetings by that time and pretty well knew the Project C.U.R.E. story. Usually that kind of situation drives me nuts, because without them taking time to translate both sides of the conversation, I never know what they’re saying. But all translators will slip into that temptation at some point, because they know the answers to the questions asked and go ahead and give the answer rather than interpreting the question for me, letting me answer, and then saying essentially the same thing the translator would have said to begin with. Translators, I believe, actually think they’re doing me a favor and saving precious time by going ahead and carrying on the conversation without my help. The only problem is that I don’t have any idea where the conversation has gone or is going. Even though the situation is quite understandable, in strategic meetings it’s very dangerous because a translator never really knows how I would have answered the question. He only presumes.

Next Week: Sharing Hope with the Minister of Health


SERBIA, July 16-24, 2000 (Part 4) Yugoslav Red Cross Will Help Us

Belgrade and Nis Serbia: Tues. July 18, 2000: It was hot in the hotel last night, but I was exhausted and slept well. At breakfast this morning, Slavka Draskovic informed Jim Peters that a bright young girl who was preparing to go to medical school had been one of the victims killed in the recent bombing raids. Family and friends had raised money for a scholarship to help her pay for her education. During the middle of the day, she was crossing a bridge near her town, and the US–NATO plane zeroed in on the bridge and blew it into the water. The girl was killed in the explosion. Most of the US planes flew from ships anchored in the Adriatic Sea, but some B-52 bombers flew nonstop from America to deliver their payloads.

Alexander Cvetanovic accompanied us to our first hospital assessment. Dr. Vesna Bosnjak Petrovic and her assistant, Dr. Dragan Mandovic, run the Institute for Pulmonary Disabilities. More than 50 percent of all Yugoslavians are serious smokers. Incidents of throat cancer, and lung cancer in particular, are rising rapidly in the country. Another 10 percent of all the patients at the hospital have tuberculosis. Dr. Petrovic is a very busy lady. More than seventy institutions are under her jurisdiction throughout Serbia and Montenegro. She literally begged me for asthma medications, inhalers, and oxygen concentrators.

At 2:30 p.m., we were scheduled to visit Yugoslavia’s largest surgical hospital. It was at one time the leading abdominal surgery center in Europe. But now they have no surgical supplies and can’t get spare parts to repair their surgical equipment because of the NATO-imposed trade sanctions. Dr. Miroslav Milicevic, the director of the hospital, was trained in the United States and still lectures all over the world. He was torn with emotion as he showed us around the hospital, because he is watching his hospital deteriorate into a third-rate institution.

At 5:00 p.m., Jim and I walked to the offices of the humanitarian organization of the Serbian Orthodox Church. I was hoping they could help us get our donated supplies safely into Serbia and delivered to the correct hospitals. We met with Dragan M. Makojevic, the director. He was pretty puffed up with organizational importance and assured us that without him, it would be really difficult to accomplish our goals. His plan was for us to send the medical goods to him, and then he would determine which institutions were worthy of receiving them. I tried to be kind as I let him know that we had traveled a great distance to perform needs assessments on the various hospitals and clinics, and we would insist that the goods go to the places we designated. Mr. Makojevic said he couldn’t guarantee that would happen, so I told him that we probably wouldn’t be able to work with his organization even though there would be some mutual advantages for us to do so.

Olga and Alexander Cvetanovic picked up Jim and me at the Moskva hotel at 7:00 p.m. They drove us by more of the destroyed bomb sites around the city, including the now-famous Chinese embassy near the Hyatt hotel. The US planes had targeted the embassy three times and demolished it by sending smart bombs inside to gut it and still leave the structure standing. Supposedly, the United States hit the Chinese embassy by mistake, and when it nearly threw the bilateral trade agreements off course between China and the US, the Clinton administration offered apologies to the Chinese and paid reparations. The Chinese diplomats were still inside the embassy when the explosions occurred, and they were killed. The consensus was that the Chinese had set up electronic devices on the premises capable not only of monitoring the bombs and missiles but also of altering their guidance systems.

At Olga and Alexander’s home, we enjoyed tea and then went to a lovely restaurant on the Danube River for dinner.

Wednesday, July 19

Following breakfast today, Jim Peters and I walked to the offices of the Yugoslavian Red Cross. There we met up with Slavka Draskovic, who had arranged for our meeting. I was hoping that if I couldn’t work with the Serbian Orthodox Church, I could perhaps work with the Red Cross to get our loads into Serbia safely and efficiently deliver the medical goods to the individual hospitals. I don’t want to work directly with the Milošević government. Many places Project C.U.R.E. goes, I try to work with the government to guarantee the success of our shipping. But even though I agreed to meet with the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of health as a stipulation for getting a visa to enter Yugoslavia, I don’t have any desire to work directly with declared war criminals. All I really want to do is deliver some desperately needed medical goods to the hurting people of Yugoslavia. Perhaps the solution will be found in working with the Red Cross in Belgrade.

I was as pleased with my meeting with Dr. Rade Dubajic, secretary general of the Yugoslavian Red Cross, as I was exasperated last night during the meeting with Dragan Makojevic of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Dr. Dubajic is a real gentleman and took a liking to Project C.U.R.E. right away. He was very complimentary of our approach of personally traveling to Belgrade to do the Needs Assessment Studies and setting up meetings with the key players in Serbia.

“That sends the message that you are willing to humbly come in and work with the locals and learn the system and situation rather than just come in on an inflated, do-gooder ego trip,” Dr. Dubajic stated.

Dr. Dubajic offered to work with us and even let us store our medical supplies and equipment in his warehouse, if necessary. He also offered to make his trucks available to Project C.U.R.E. at no cost to deliver the medical goods to the hospitals. He gave us his guarantee that our goods will go exactly where we direct them, and he will ensure complete accountability by providing a distribution record for the goods. He also had Dr. Dragisic and Andrea, the medical coordinator, sit in on our meeting and instructed them to work with Project C.U.R.E. to get all the proper paperwork through to customs and the shipping forwarders.

“Dr. Jackson,” Dr. Dubajic concluded, “I’m really glad you are here. Yugoslavia is in a bad way right now and will continue to be in the near future. We need all the help we can get, and you can count on us for helping Project C.U.R.E. in any way we can.”

To me this was a miracle and another affirmation that I’m on the right track.

We left the meeting and went right down the hall into Dr. Dragisic’s office, where we started working on all the procedures and logistics.

Afterward Jim Peters and I walked back to the hotel and met the driver we had hired to take us to Cuetojevac village, the town of Kragujevac, and then on to the city of Nis (pronounced “Nish”). There was no time for lunch today, but before we left town, we had one more very important stop to make. We drove to the main government offices for the minister of foreign affairs, where we met with Ambassador Slobodan Morchkovic.

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The ambassador was far more relaxed and friendly than I had assumed he would be. There’s simply no way to second-guess how a government official will greet you when you’re an American, and the Americans have just blown your ancient city apart and killed your neighbors. Slavka Draskovic was right. Almost everyone I met was surprised or fascinated by my presence in Belgrade. They all had assumed I would hate them and not come to visit, or that I would decide it was just too dangerous for me to be there.

Our meeting with the ambassador went extremely well. We talked about Project C.U.R.E. and our work, and he gave me a copy of the written policies and procedures to follow for shipping in the medical donations. He said he would cooperate fully with us and the Red Cross and assured me that the goods will go where we direct based on our needs assessments. He was in no way “offish” toward me, even though we talked briefly about the bombings throughout the country. He wanted me to know that the door to his office will be open to Project C.U.R.E. in the future.

By 2:15 p.m., Jim and I were on our way out of Belgrade, heading south toward Nis. An hour and a half later, we pulled off the main road onto a side road that led to the farming village of Cuetojevac. The small rural clinic is run by a young, single doctor named Branko Gajic. The clinic receives no government help but does receive some support from a foundation.

Right next to the spotless little clinic was an old, ornate Serbian Orthodox church. The Communists had closed up the church and shot the priests years ago, but in the past few years, the government had granted permission for the quaint edifice to reopen for worship. We were invited to enter the sanctuary, and the bearded priest in his flowing, black robes showed us around.

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The priest has taken his mission quite seriously. He opened a Bible school to train the children on the weekends and organized adult Bible studies in the evenings during the week. The villagers who had been forbidden to pursue anything religious during the Communist days are now very eager to learn. Before we left the village, the mayor came to greet us, and the people at the clinic insisted we sit down and have a cheese sandwich and a piece of melon with them before we continued our journey.

Next Week: Total Acceptance in Nis


Serbia July 16-24, 2000 Part 3 Confusion and Chaos in Belgrade

Belgrade, Serbia: July 16 -17, 2000: Anna Marie has cried only twice when she dropped me off at the airport terminal in Denver. Once was when I went to Baghdad, Iraq, and the other time was today, when she dropped me off on Sunday for the trip to Belgrade.

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

I cannot tell you how much the two of us depend upon the travel promises in Psalm 91. At the airport is where the rubber really meets the road. There are no outside pressures making me do what I do with Project C.U.R.E. It truly is a love gift to God. And Anna Marie and I are both totally a part of that gift.

As soon as I determined that I should go to Belgrade, I began reading everything I could get my hands on about the history of the Balkans and how the most recent unrest started. I read newspapers, books, news magazines, and briefing papers. I even asked Jim Peters and the US State Department to give me materials and had Anna Marie glean information from the Internet. I took a lot of the documents with me on the plane for continued reading.

United Airlines flight 296 departed Denver at 10:00 a.m. and flew to Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. After a couple hours’ layover, Jim Peters and I were to have boarded United flight 962 to Munich, Germany. However, the plane scheduled to make the Munich flight was hit by lightning on the incoming flight, so we were delayed an additional four hours while the electrical maintenance people and engineers thoroughly checked out the equipment. I was worried about making the connection to Belgrade in Munich. If Jim and I missed our connection, there were no alternative flights to Yugoslavia.

During and after the US and NATO bombing of Belgrade, all air traffic was halted into Yugoslavia. The flights just resumed, and there are still very few flights scheduled. In fact, when Jim and I were first making our travel plans, we had to consider flying into Budapest, Hungary, and taking a bus from Budapest to Belgrade.

The woman at the United flight desk figured it out for me and said that if our plane could take off by 9:00 p.m., we could still just make the Lufthansa connection in Munich to Belgrade. At 9:15 we were given clearance to depart and left Washington. I knew then that Jim and I would have to run through the terminal in Munich if we were to catch the flight to Belgrade.

Somehow we made the connection, and our luggage was even properly transferred. We arrived in Belgrade around two o’clock in the afternoon, and to my surprise, I wasn’t hassled at passport control or customs for being an American. Olga and Alexander Cvetanovic met us at the airport. Olga is the daughter of one of Jim’s deceased brothers. She has a PhD and a very responsible job. Alexander is an engineer and has designed projects and airports not only throughout Europe but all over the world. He is also head of the engineering department at the university in Belgrade.

I wasn’t prepared for the amount of damage I saw in Belgrade, which was inflicted during the recent bombardment of the downtown area. Their largest and most prominent government buildings were bombed either from the outside in or from the inside out by US smart bombs. At one downtown intersection, all of the large buildings on all four corners had been totally destroyed with precision so as not to impact surrounding buildings.                                             

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I began to see that the US and NATO bombing game wasn’t just about destroying billions of dollars’ worth of factories, police stations, army barracks, and infrastructures; it was also about psychologically scaring the pants off the Serbs with the surgical precision of high-tech weapons. All of the sorties were flown no lower than fifteen thousand feet with pinpoint accuracy. Conventional defense systems like antiaircraft guns can’t reach anything above about five thousand feet. The US and NATO were playing serious cat-and-mouse games with the Serbs, and the message was, “Either sign the peace accords, or we’ll shoot the pillow out from under your head in your own bed from an elevation so high, you won’t even know we were there.”

As we crossed the Sava River where it flows into the Danube River, I could see the ruins of lots of bridges that had been blown into the water. The debris was still blocking ships from using the river ports. That sent an unmistakable message to the neighboring countries of Romania and Austria, who are now economically disadvantaged because they’re unable to use the river for shipping. Olga told me that seventy bridges were targeted and destroyed throughout Serbia.                                            

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Jim and I checked into the old Moskva hotel, which dates back to the old days of Russian influence and is located right in the heart of historic downtown Belgrade. Over the past two weeks, Belgrade experienced a heat wave, with temperatures setting records of well over one hundred degrees. The weather people are calling for much cooler temperatures during our stay, and when I realized that the old hotel isn’t air-conditioned, I too began calling for cooler temperatures.

As I opened my hotel window, I could hear the chants and loud voices of political protestors just a few blocks away. They were calling for the ouster of President Milošević. I decided that’s one area of the city I won’t visit. Common sense and experience have taught me to stay far away from antigovernment protests or any gatherings that could become unruly. I’m in potentially dangerous surroundings.

Slavka Draskovic, the director of the Serbian Unity Congress, joined Jim, Olga, Alexander, and me for dinner at the hotel. She had helped Jim set up all of our appointments at the hospitals, clinics, and organizations we’ll be visiting during our stay. I asked Slavka about the demonstrations I had heard from my window, and she told me that the Serbian Unity Congress stands in opposition to Milošević’s government, and months ago, members of the congress joined thousands of protestors who were calling for Milošević’s resignation. But now, most people have completely lost heart and hope for any change, and only about fifty to one hundred gather in the square to protest. She said they had all hoped that America and the NATO countries would help them in their opposition, but the Clinton administration only sent bombs and sanctions, which has made all of their lives more miserable, killed a lot of their loved ones, and reduced their incomes to less than fifty dollars per month but left Milošević and his people wealthier and more powerful.

At dinner the three of us went over next week’s schedule of appointments. We’ll be traveling outside Belgrade, as well as performing needs assessments at the major health institutions in the city. It looks like a tough week ahead. As Slavka was leaving, I asked her what kind of reaction I can expect as an American from the people we’ll meet.

“There is no hiding the fact that the people here really hate Clinton and Albright. Clinton has deceived us, and Mrs. Albright used to live right here in this city when her father was the Czechoslovakian ambassador to Belgrade. She knows us and grew up with us, and she is the one who negotiated for bombing us. Most of the common people here are just terribly confused. It doesn’t seem like Washington knows what it’s doing with their foreign policy. Now it will be harder for other countries to ever trust the American government. The common people we meet will be terribly surprised you’re here. You are the first to try to bring help to us. They will appreciate you and like you for that.”

I’ve fallen in love with the old European cities. At night people still put on clean clothes and go to the downtown centers to walk, visit, and stop at the sidewalk cafés to have coffee and maybe some ice cream. They really carry out that tradition in Belgrade. Jim Peters, who is seventy-six years old, wanted to show me some of the history of Belgrade, so before we retired for the night, we spent almost an hour walking. He showed me where his boyhood friends used to live and where he used to work, and the office buildings where his prominent family members used to run their businesses.

When we got to one intersection, Jim stopped and pointed out the old bank building where his father was once an influential officer. Just across the street, he pointed out where he spent his last night in Belgrade in 1944. The Gestapo had already surrounded his house and was going to put Jim and his brother in prison or in front of the firing squad. For every German soldier who was killed, the Gestapo would kill a hundred civilians in retaliation. Jim told me that the Yugoslavians had ambushed and killed seven German soldiers. The next day the Germans rounded up seven hundred civilians, men, women, school children and shot them.

Jim asked a school girlfriend, who was also in the resistance movement, to hide him and his brother at her house overnight. They then slipped out of the house, jumped fences, and ran into the nearby forested hills to escape. After his escape in 1944, Jim wasn’t able to return to Belgrade until just ten years ago.

Next Week: Yugoslav Red Cross Will Help Us


SERBIA-YUGOSLAVIA July 16-24, 2000 (Part 2) The Jim Peters Connection

Belgrade, Yugoslavia: Sunday July 16, 2000: When I returned from my extensive trip to Iraq last year, I was asked to speak about my experience at the Mount Vernon Country Club near Denver. A man by the name of Jim Peters and his wife waited to talk to me afterward. Jim asked if I had ever been to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. When I told him I hadn’t, he asked to set up an appointment with me to discuss the possibility of such a trip.

When we met at the Project C.U.R.E. office, Jim said, “You’ve been to Baghdad, Iraq, and Havana, Cuba, and other hot spots like Pyongyang, North Korea. Why haven’t you gone to Belgrade?”

“Because Project C.U.R.E. only goes where we’re invited,” I answered.

“Then would you go to Belgrade if you were invited?” Jim inquired.

Part of Project C.U.R.E.’s international success has been because we’ve gone to a lot of political hot spots but have been able to remain nonpolitical. If I had gotten caught up in politics during my trips to Beirut, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank, I would never have been welcomed back to Israel. If I hadn’t been politically neutral in South Korea, I could have forgotten about being effective in North Korea. By staying neutral, I could work successfully with the hurting Hutus as well as the needy Tutsis in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. If I hadn’t resisted taking sides in Pakistan, India, or Iraq, I would have been dead by now. It’s as simple as that. When I enter a country, I stay focused on the medical needs of the people while being well versed on both sides of the political situation so that I won’t get caught reacting or fumbling. That has admittedly been a risky challenge.

After some long discussions with Jim about the Balkans’ historical problems and the present situation in Yugoslavia, I assured him that I would pursue the possibility of going to Serbia. What I needed was some time alone to pray about it.

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Jim is an interesting fellow. He was born and raised in Belgrade and now has a burning desire to go back and help his people after being absent from Yugoslavia since 1944. Germany wreaked havoc on the Balkans during the First World War. Then during World War II, both Germany and Russia unleashed their cruelty on the area. Young Jim Peters (Jacob Petrovic) and his brothers were part of a prominent Belgrade family. They had joined the resistance movement to protect their homeland from the Germans, Italians, and Russians. When Allied pilots from America or Britain would get shot down over Yugoslavia, they would try to get to the pilot first and, through clandestine activities, eventually deliver the pilot back across enemy lines to safety.

Jim and his brother, along with some of their buddies, had been able to save the lives of more than five hundred American and British pilots. But eventually, the Gestapo closed in on them, and Jim and his brother had to flee the country without even saying good-bye to their family. It took them over two years to effect their escape, working their way eventually to Switzerland. From there, two of the American pilots whose lives they had saved sponsored their coming to America, and they arrived in New York in 1947.

The two brothers secured jobs their very first day in America, and through some unusual contacts, they were sponsored to attend Columbia University in New York, and both graduated with MBAs in 1949. Jim’s talents were recognized right away, and he became the international representative for Singer, the sewing-machine company. From there he was able to leapfrog into an international position with RCA, and eventually he worked as senior vice president for Samsonite luggage company, in charge of international business. After fifteen years with Samsonite, Jim retired and then worked as an international consultant for the Mattel toy company. He and his wife subsequently decided to retire in Denver.

Even though Jim wasn’t able to go back to Yugoslavia for many years after his escape, his heart and thoughts were still with his homeland. He kept up on everything taking place in the Balkans over the years. After the death of the Yugoslav dictator Marshal Tito in 1980 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Jim felt that it was safe to return to Belgrade for a visit. While he was there, he determined he would do something to help out his loved ones and his mother country. That dream of helping his people eventually led him to contact Project C.U.R.E.

Jim and I originally decided to make the trip to Yugoslavia in the spring of 2000. But we ran into difficulty. The United States had no diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia, so we had to try to get visas through the Yugoslavian embassy in Toronto, Canada. But we were refused visas without personal invitations from the authorities in Belgrade. I wanted to keep a very low profile and just slip into the country, do the Needs Assessment Studies, and slip right back out again. I didn’t want to get involved with Slobodan Milošević’s government officials or with members of the opposition or resistance groups there.

Jim was able to get members of his family in Belgrade to contact the head of a hospital in Belgrade who had some influence and knew how desperately they needed medical goods. The doctor wrote letters of official invitation for us. But before our visas could be issued, the US State Department, along with the International War Crimes Tribunal, announced they were placing a five-million-dollar price tag on the head of Slobodan Milošević. Anyone capturing Milošević or providing information leading to his capture would get the bounty.

That made government officials very nervous about anybody wanting to visit Yugoslavia from the United States. So Jim and I didn’t get our visas. Later, the embassy in Toronto did issue my visa, but it covered dates that had already passed. Jim kept up the phone calls and pressure on the embassy. Finally they wanted to know why James W. Jackson traveled with two US passports and assumed that I must be a spy. Jim Peters patiently explained that the State Department had issued two passports to me because I would always travel with one passport while the other passport was with embassies that were processing my visa requests for future trips. When I returned from a trip I’d trade passports at my office and travel with that one while the office secured visas for my next trip using the other one. Toronto was satisfied with the explanation, and I received my visa in Denver while I was away in Vietnam.

With invitations and visas in hand, Jim and I had to make quick flight arrangements. All the airlines were setting passenger records for flights to and from Europe, so it was quite miraculous that we were able to get any reservations at all on such short notice. As always, my prayer through all the planning has been that I would be willing to go if I’m supposed to go, but I certainly don’t need to go where I shouldn’t go, and I’m totally dependent upon God to reveal to me the subtle difference.

Next Week: Confusion and Chaos in Belgrade




SERBIA-YUGOSLAVIA July 16-24 2000 (Part 1)

Note to Readers: Recently we were privileged to have HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia in our home in Evergreen, Colorado. They have become such dear friends of our family over the years:

“Dear Jim and Anna Marie: Our visit to your home will remain in our memories and when Jim dedicated Psalm 91st it brought tears to my eyes. I have been reading over and over again since that day! I was so moved! You have such big hearts and your faith to God can be seen in your eyes. Your books must continue! You are an example in life and God has Blessed you with a son who is following on your footsteps. You were born to save the world and you started and now it is continuing very successfully by Douglas. I understand Doug’s devotion to his mission to support hospitals and doctors and save as many lives as possible.

Thanks to Project C.U.R.E. and their containers we will significantly help the healthcare system in Serbia, to the benefit of both patients and medical professionals. Project C.U.R.E. has brought to Serbia life saving equipment and supplies to our hospitals and Doctor Jackson has made numerous trips to Serbia supporting our hospitals that are desperate for help. . .”

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For the next few blog installments, I want to share the actual daily entries of my Travel Journals from one of my trips to Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia). This trip took place right in the heat of Serbia trying to eradicate the terrible communist regime of Slobodan Milosevic. I will also be introducing another friend of mine, Jim Peters, throughout these next blogs. (JWJ)

Belgrade, Yugoslavia: Sunday July 16, 2000: Somewhere in my travels, I stumbled across an interesting saying: “Do not keep away from the measure which has no limit, or from the task which has no end.”

I don’t believe Project C.U.R.E. has ever shied away from challenges or assignments just because the assignments seemed difficult or because we didn’t possess all the answers before we started. Most organizations wouldn’t have tried to tackle the precarious assignment to deliver medical aid to North Korea a full ten years before it was popular to even think about going there. But the investment has paid great dividends.

Most organizations wouldn’t have trekked the hill country of Colombia, South America or taken medical supplies and doctors to Bolivia. Those countries are fraught with dangers from clandestine warlords and drug cartels. But the disadvantaged people there needed Project C.U.R.E.’s help. Bloodletting battles between the Tutsis and the Hutus in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi didn’t dissuade Project C.U.R.E. from going there to deliver desperately needed help.

Whether it has been Pakistan, India, Zambia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Albania, Kosovo, Cuba, Nigeria, or any other of the world’s flash points of political incorrectness, Project C.U.R.E. has tried to weigh in on the side of taking help and hope to needy people in those areas. It always seems like desperate situations produce desperate need. But today I rejoice in knowing that with God’s help and direction, thousands of lives have been saved in Iraq as a result of Project C.U.R.E.’s willingness to be vulnerable and get personally involved in delivering medical supplies to meet that country’s need. Likewise, only heaven will reveal how many lives have been changed and even saved in northern China, Bolivia, Tanzania, and Senegal, West Africa, where teams of Project C.U.R.E. doctors as well as medical supplies have been sent in to help.

God seems to continually encourage us not to worry if those we help are Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or just rotten, mean sinners. At Project C.U.R.E., we have tried to understand that God’s love extends to every womb-child he ever designed to be conceived, regardless of how their heads have gotten screwed up during their lives. Our piece of the puzzle is to make ourselves available so that God’s love can be made manifest through us in the lives of the needy, no matter where they are living.

I watched with interest as the conflict in the Balkans played out during the 1990s and into the early part of the new century. In my opinion, the Balkans has historically been synonymous with “trouble.” World wars have been ignited in that tinderbox, affecting millions of lives elsewhere. The folks in that part of the world just never seem to get it together. And during my lifetime, I watched Marshal Tito, the hedonist, Communist power-monger, fearlessly fan the flames of ethnic dissension within his own domain and then throw his efforts into helping organize a group of renegade leaders like Muammar Gadhafi, Kim Il-Sung, and others into the organization now known as the “nonaligned Communist countries.” Today no one even takes the time to pass by Tito’s burial plot outside Belgrade at the “flower farm.”

When the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina erupted in the early 1990s, our American newspapers and television reporters explained to us that just as republics like Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan had declared their independence from the defunct Soviet Union, so Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and finally Kosovo were bravely and heroically breaking away from Yugoslavia in their quest for rightful independence. The Clinton administration then explained to us that extremist Serbian nationalists were opposing the efforts of the freedom fighters with ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Hardly anyone in American households understood what was going on in Yugoslavia. But when we saw pictures on TV of burning houses and farms and streams of pitiful refugees hunkered down in farm wagons pulled by horses or antique tractors on their way to refugee camps with no water, food, or shelter, and with freezing weather setting in, we were moved to do something!

Project C.U.R.E. sent a container load of winter coats to Bosnia at the outset of winter in 1991. Later we sent hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical aid to Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo, where the refugee situation worsened by the day. I personally had the privilege of being invited to the palace of Albania’s president to talk with him for an hour and a half about the needs of Albania and the people of the surrounding areas.

All we were told in Washington was that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was struggling for its existence, and the Serbs, who were fully responsible for the conflict, were going to have to be taught a lesson. Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state, essentially declared that if the Serbs were the cause of the breakdown, the United States was determined to move forward with the NATO decision to carry out air strikes.

The ethnic Albanians signed the NATO proposal, since it basically gave them pretty much what they wanted. The Serbs continued to reject the ethnic Albanians’ idea that Kosovo could declare independence from Yugoslavia when such a large portion of the Kosovo republic consisted of Serbs who wanted to remain united with Serbia and Montenegro in the Yugoslavian Federation.

Yugoslavia most adamantly opposed this article of the proposal:
NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.

When the Yugoslavian Federation refused to inscribe their signatures on the proposed accord, Secretary of State Albright and NATO made good on their threat of air strikes. US aircraft began bombing Serbia on March 24, 1999, and continued through June 10, 1999. I have heard that during those seventy-eight days of continual air strikes over the Serb republic of Yugoslavia, 1,100 aircraft dropped more than 25,500 tons of explosives on Serbian territory over the course of 25,200 sorties or missions.

The total force of the destructive explosives was more than ten times greater than the force of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Many innocent civilians were killed, as well as military personnel, as a consequence of the bombings, tens of thousands of people were injured, and billions of dollars’ worth of property was destroyed. The estimated cost of destroyed factories, businesses, and manufacturing plants totaled over $100 billion in just seventy-eight days of air strikes. Highways, all communications installations, railways, airports, and bus and railway stations were destroyed, as well as seventy federal bridges. Never had there been such collateral damage inflicted in such a short time without war ever being declared on a sovereign nation or the US Congress even approving of the action. It was strictly a unilateral decision by the Clinton administration.

At home our TVs and newspapers assured us that the NATO action was for moral purposes, not based on narrow national interests. The New York Times published an op-ed that declared, “This was the first military conflict since the end of the Cold War fought primarily for humanitarian purposes.”

Mort Zuckerman, the chief editor of U.S. News and World Report, said, “We fought not for territory, but for values and moral principles.” Even President Clinton went on television and explained how great a victory we had just achieved against a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing.

In March of 1999, the United States closed its embassy in Belgrade and withdrew all diplomatic support personnel. Travel restrictions and warnings were issued to the public. Within the year, the International War Crimes Tribunal charged Slobodan Milošević, along with thirty other Serbian military leaders, with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva convention, and violations of the laws or customs of war.

A huge wave of anti-NATO and especially anti-American feeling swept over Yugoslavia and neighboring countries. People on the streets of Belgrade were asking whether any sovereign state would be safe from an American political administration attacking and killing innocent civilians and targeting nonmilitary installations and hospitals without ever first declaring war or ever receiving congressional approval. The Americans arrogantly carried out the bombing, but they couldn’t fix what they destroyed or replace the limbs or human lives lost or restore the quality of life of those innocent bystanders in the city of Belgrade alone. And they did it with such smug hypocrisy and claims of morality.

That’s the setting in which Project C.U.R.E. has been asked to perform needs assessments. I’ve been asked to travel directly into the smoking ruins of Belgrade and evaluate the possibility of supplying medical goods to hospitals and clinics that have, because of the extent of the conflict, depleted their resources.

Project C.U.R.E. has never claimed to be a disaster-relief agency; we usually leave that up to other organizations. But we have become known all over the world as being extremely effective in coming alongside medical institutions and partnering with them during their time of need. However, in the face of extreme risk, when is it wise and when is it foolish to walk up to a smoking gun? And where does our earlier admonition fit in -- “Do not keep away from the measure which has no limit, or from the task which has no end”?

Next Week: The Jim Peters Connection


GENTLY SHAKE YOUR WORLD

It was Gandhi who admonished his generation saying, “In a gentle way you can shake your world.” Gandhi certainly shook his world during his lifetime. While traveling throughout this world, I have met my share of passionate people who have likewise shaken their world in gentle ways.

One of my dearest international friends was Daniel Kalnin. He was born in the mysterious country of Burma, present-day Myanmar. The British had colonized Burma, which is bordered by China, India, Thailand, and a bit of Laos. Burma had become a strategic defense post for the Brits during World War II. But in 1948, Great Britain decided to pull out of Burma and sail home. The vacuum created by the lack of leadership and stability threw Burma into political, economic, and cultural turmoil. They had grown to depend on the British rule of law, available health-care, and the advantage of international trading. Power struggles, tribal wars, and a lot of bloodshed became the rule.

Daniel realized that if he were to see any of his dreams come true, he would have to leave Burma. When he was eighteen years old, he slipped across the Thailand border and became a fugitive. Eventually, some Americans rescued Daniel and brought him to America, where he was educated and where he met his Canadian wife, Beverly. Upon graduation, the two of them determined to return to Thailand and work with the hill-tribe people who lived on the border of Thailand and northern Burma.

In Thailand, with the blessing of the king, Daniel constructed a small housing development. He tested twenty-seven water sources to find an uncontaminated water supply for the village. None could be used. But high in the mountains he discovered a spring of pure water and built a water system of cisterns and pipelines to serve the people. One of the criteria for families to move into his development was to stop cultivating poppies for opium resale, take ownership of some of his land, and start growing a cash crop of coffee. Daniel returned briefly to the US and raised money to buy coffee plants. While here, he set up distribution outlets to market the new Hill Tribe Coffee brand in America. The villagers discovered they could make more money with coffee crops than with poppies. Because of the new water system, the villagers became dramatically healthier.

I traveled with Daniel on motorbikes over the steep trails of the lower Himalayas along the border of Burma to a bustling town in his new development of Bayasai. Daniel showed me the large brown church the people had built with a large red cross painted on the front. It was the only place in the insurgency area where the people from five different tribes were living together peacefully.

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In the commercial city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Daniel and Beverly had also built the House of Blessing. When I first visited the Kalnin’s home in Chiang Mai, there were forty-seven throwaway girls between the ages of ten and twelve who had been taken from slavery and prostitution and were being housed, loved, and educated in that home. And yet for thirty years, Daniel had been estranged from his family and beloved homeland of Burma. Eventually, Project C.U.R.E. was privileged to join Daniel in returning to Burma and seeing his dreams come true in establishing the highly effective Barefoot Doctors organization that has saved literally thousands of the lives of the hill-tribe villagers and citizens of Thailand and Burma.

My dear friend Daniel has since died, and I am still grieving the loss. I originally wrote this story to honor Daniel, his family, and his never ending life’s work. Today I salute him as a true champion, because in a gentle way, Daniel shook his world!


THE POWER OF STORY

I realize looking back that so much of my destiny lay in a handful of stories, a few that were personal and others I found in books.

My parents taught me that doing well in business and doing good deeds in the world should be inseparable. They instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit that looked forward to philanthropic ends. I was taught how to create wealth in order to practice virtue.

I loved the evenings at our house as my mother, Josie Jackson, created a soothing atmosphere that eventually lulled us to sleep. After dinner and once all of our chores were finished, my mom would relax for half an hour by sitting down at the piano and playing her favorite songs. My mother was a dedicated school teacher. When she was twelve years old, her church’s regular piano player died suddenly, so Mom started playing the piano for church services.

In the evenings when Mom’s piano playing stopped, we kids all headed for the sofa. We curled up around her, and she read to us. Our home was full of books, and usually we got to choose the evening stories. It was in that setting that I first began to hear about young boys who had overcome incredible obstacles to become great successes.

I learned about the adventures of Andy Carnegie, the little Highlander boy who had come to America from Scotland when he was thirteen years old. I had nearly memorized the stories of Henry Ford, Cecil Rhodes, and William Carey, but something made my heart pound when I listened to Mom read about John D. Rockefeller and Dwight L. Moody.

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During my teen years, I read books like Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, the book Hill wrote with W. Clement Stone, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, and Stone’s book The Success System That Never Fails.

The power of the stories my mom read to me changed my life for good. By the time a child is three years old, there is a readiness level to mentally and emotionally reach out to the outside world to find pegs on which to hang feelings, dreams, and fantasies.

Those pegs have a way of later becoming the linchpins of life. I’m so glad my mom took the time to read enduring stories to me.





WEALTH ROOMS

Snuggled up against the western borders of old Burma (now Myanmar) in the rugged front range of the majestic Himalayas, just south of the Bhutan and only a few miles from China, lay three orphaned substates of India. Because they are nearly cut off from the rest of India by Bangladesh, the territories of Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland are characterized by dangerous insurgency and wild independence. I traveled there to assess some needy hospitals and clinics.

While I was in the city of Kohima, Nagaland, my host took me to a village near his birthplace. Before the missionaries had come to the area, the residents had been ferocious headhunters. The sturdy ceremonial, wooden gates of the village had been carved and painted with scenes of warriors carrying the heads of their tribal enemies as trophies. No longer do they hunt down their neighbors, however. Now, heads of bear, deer, straight-horned bucks, monkeys, and wild boars are displayed on the roofs, porches, and outside walls of the homes.

Just inside the door of each village dwelling was a special room that immediately revealed the earthly wealth of the owner. Woven reed baskets nearly six feet tall were filled with rice, maize, and other grains. Ears of corn were draped over the rafters, and cuts of meat were hung from racks to dry.

My doctor friend interpreted as I talked with an old village resident who told me that the entry areas were called wealth rooms. “It is good to be considered wealthy because it lets everyone know that you are not lazy but are very productive. You care about life. But the wealth rooms serve an even greater purpose,” he told me.

“Later in life, when a man becomes rich and his room is very full, he invites all the other village people to his house for a giveaway party. All his friends and neighbors come and honor him because he had worked very hard, had been a good hunter, and had lived wisely. At the end of the party, the host goes to his wealth room, takes the contents and divides them up among the other inhabitants of the village. In return, the villagers confer on the man and his family great honor and influence, guarantee him a legacy of greatness and respect, and vow to take care of him as long as he lives.”

I had never before heard of wealth rooms and giveaway parties. What a great way to move from success to significance! But I quickly agreed that the concept had certainly been established in heavenly wisdom. It had been both refreshing and confirming to realize that way back in ancient Mongol history, some folks had it figured correctly:

Your greatness is always determined by what you give away from your wealth room while you are still alive.