TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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


TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 3)

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

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

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

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


TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 2)

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: May 13, 2006:  There were two separate requests for needs assessment studies that had come to me from Tanzania.  They had been processed through our headquarters office and finally passed on to me with travel dates. 
 
The first was a request that we had been working on for about a year.  The Risen Christ Catholic Church in Denver supported a hard-working and bright priest who was doing missionary work in Tanzania.  His name was Father Shabas, and he was requesting help from Project C.U.R.E. for the medical hospital and dispensaries run by the Holy Cross Convent in Morogoro, Tanzania.  Sister Mary George was the mission superior for the East Africa delegation. She had also joined Father Shabas in the urgent request.
 
The second request, likewise originating out of a Denver concern, had come from Father James McCormick, a priest serving in Omaha, Nebraska.  Father Jim had been born and raised in Denver as a member of a very prominent Denver family.  During his years of mission work in Africa as well as the US, Father Jim had become aware of some acute needs in the Tanzania: in Kilari, Sanya Juu, Kibosho Rauya, Huruma, and Kilema in the Kilimanjaro area.
 
In Denver I boarded United Airlines flight #246 to Chicago where I connected to United Airlines flight #928 to London’s Heathrow Airport.  Following a bit of a layover I made my way to Heathrow’s Terminal No. 4 area where I wearily made my way onto British Airways flight #47.  I settled in with my pen and writing pad.  The flight from London to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was a full, 10-hour, non-stop trip.

Sunday, May 14
 
As we flew along at 40,000 feet in the air I suddenly realized that it was Sunday.  It was Mother’s Day.  And again, I was somewhere halfway around the world and away from Anna Marie, the mother of my two incomparable sons.  I was so very proud of my family and realized the price that we all had paid by choosing to pursue goodness and helping needy people all around the world.
 
I landed in Dar es Salaam on Sunday morning at about 6:30 a.m.  Eventually, I transferred to a propeller-driven airplane and left Dar es Salaam on a flight to the Tanzanian city of Kilimanjaro where I was finally picked up by Father Jim McCormick.
 
The British Airways flight from London landed in Dar es Salaam about 25 minutes early.  I was toward the front of the line to collect my luggage and clear passport control and customs.  I had quickly spotted where I was required to re-check my bags on Precision Air for the next flight leg.  The fellow who was in charge of the transfer seemed to be in quite a hurry to get my bags and give me my luggage receipt.  I never gave it too much thought because I knew I had a long layover in Dar es Salaam.  My scheduled flight was to have left at 12:30 p.m. and arrive in Kilimanjaro at 1:45 p.m.  So, I knew I was in no hurry at 7:30 in the morning.
 
However, the London plane had arrived just early enough that the morning flight on Precision Air had not yet taken off for Kilimanjaro.  The transfer agent had taken my bags and quickly arranged for them to be loaded on the early flight without my knowing what was taking place.  I had just found a comfortable place to settle down and do some paperwork.  The transfer agent came running up to me, “Mr. Jackson, the flight to Kilimanjaro is loaded and they are waiting for you to board.  Your luggage is on the plane and they cannot leave without you on board.”
 
“I am terribly sorry,” I said with a twinkle in my voice.  “Show me to the plane.”  It really made little or no difference to me whether I sat in the Dar es Salaam airport for the nearly six hours or the Kilimanjaro airport.  I suspected that the Kilimanjaro airport would be a little quieter and more conducive to writing anyway.  Again, I had a good lesson that if you are not willing to be flexible and roll with the punches on international travel you should really stay at home.

I was, indeed, able to get some necessary paperwork done before Father Jim McCormick arrived to the Kilimanjaro airport about 2 p.m. to pick me up.

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Along with him in the 12-seat van were six nuns from the Holy Spirit Sisters Convent in Sanya Juu near the city of Moshe.  They didn’t want to miss out on a thing, and they had been waiting for over two years for Dr. Jackson to come to their medical facilities.
 
To fill up the other seats in the van were Father Jim McCormick’s sister-in-law, Betty Jo McCormick, and her university professor daughter, Catherine.  Jim’s brother, John, had recently died, but while living in Wyoming for many years he had supported the missionary work of his brother, Father Jim McCormick in Tanzania.   The two ladies had always wanted to see the work of Father Jim and the Holy Spirit Sisters.
 
It was a sort of joyous reunion.  The sisters were singing and clapping.  Father Jim had been the parish priest for the sisters for nine years.  Then, for another nine years he had lived in the bishop’s house located on the large Holy Spirit Sisters Farm and Training School while he was traveling to other diocesan locations throughout Africa.
 
Father Jim told me at a later time that after the 18 years in Africa he had been ready to move back to the US to be “re-culturalized” into America.  The church then had assigned him as pastor to a large parish congregation in Omaha, Nebraska.
 
Sister Elizabeth was our van driver.  When we finally reached the large, 1,000-acre compound she pulled up in front of the iron gates.  She then began beeping the van’s horn in a steady, four-beat rhythm.
 
I thought to myself, “Good Lord, lady sister, ease up on the honking.  They probably heard you honk when we drove up and are on their way to unlock the gate.”
 
But Sister Elizabeth’s constant beeping had nothing to do with her patience or lack thereof.  After at least two solid minutes of beeping, which seemed more like two hours, I caught a glimpse of some movement at the curve in the entry driveway just beyond the brightly colored bougainvillea bushes.  One, then two, then a total of about ten black African nuns were dancing and singing and clapping to the rhythm of the beeping of the van’s horn and the accompaniment of another sister beating on a drum made from the cowhide of one of the farm’s former Guernsey milk cows.  The hide was tightly stretched over a home-made set of metal rings and the sister beat on the hide with her bare hand, and was pounding on the metal framework with a simply-fashioned drumstick.  The reception was a sight to behold!
 
When the iron-gate was unlocked Sister Elizabeth managed to steer the van with one hand and continue the beeping of the horn with the other.  As the parade moved along the dancing nuns showered us with flower petals from the colorful gardens nearby.
 
As we pulled around the curve in the drive there were more singing, clapping, and dancing sisters.  The driveway was moist from the recent jungle rains or otherwise the sisters would have created a dust storm of large proportions.
 
Little did I know that the excitement that had been created for our arrival would be a forecasting symbol of the spirit of love, energy, and appreciation for the next few days to follow.  The fresh flowers the sisters had woven into the iron works of the entry gate seemed to represent the meaningful bond that would be intertwined around and through the hearts of the current residents and the newly arriving visitors.

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The gleeful entourage waltzed us right into the dining room where we were served “high tea.”  The Catholic group of Holy Spirit Sisters had been encouraged to purchase the 1,000-acre parcel of rich, fertile land in the early l960s as I understood it.  Following high tea, the sister superior was eager to join Father Jim McCormick in extending to me the grand tour of the farm.
 
Next Week: Oh, Those Incredible Nuns!


TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 1)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: May 12, 2006: It was to be a return trip to Tanzania for me.  Project C.U.R.E. had already accomplished some wonderful success in the country as a result of previous trips.  I had first ventured into Tanzania in the year 1998.
 
On one occasion Project C.U.R.E. had organized, along with Project C.U.R.E. board member David White, a stellar medical team to do free clinics in the Serengeti area.  The team was mostly comprised of well-known doctors and medical staff members from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  The supplies and pieces of medical equipment had mostly come out of our Project C.U.R.E. warehouse located in Nashville.
 
Project C.U.R.E.’s influence had grown in the historic area and upon one occasion, I was even able to meet with President Julius Nyerere.  He was the African leader who had led Tanzania to their independence as “Tanganyika” in 1961.  Later they merged with the historically Arab-controlled island of Zanzibar to form what is now Tanzania.  President Nyerere held control over the area from 1961 to 1985.  He was succeeded by President Hasson Mwingi, followed by President Benjamin Mkupa in relatively dignified elections.

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I sometimes reflect back and realize what a privileged man I am to have had the opportunity to personally meet so many of the presidents and top political and economic leaders of the African continent in my lifetime.  I think, now as I look back at Julius Nyerere’s presidency, that a lot of his success was due to his willingness to allow the Arab-controlled Zanzibar to maintain an interesting, “semi-autonomous” position where they were allowed to elect their own president and legislature and yet continue peacefully under the umbrella of Nyerene’s Tanzanian flag.  By the year 2000 there were some election problems in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, but even those were mostly resolved by 2001.
 
President Julius Nyerere was always very kind to me and very respectful and appreciative of Project C.U.R.E.  Of all people, he realized most how much the people of Tanzania needed help from outside groups like Project C.U.R.E. that could help and support his fragile healthcare delivery system.
 
About one third of “mainland” Tanzania is populated by Christians.  Another third is populated by Muslims.  Almost the entire population of Zanzibar is Muslim.  A large portion of the population now calling Tanzania “home” had arrived there having been made refugees as a result of civil wars and atrocities occurring in the neighboring countries of Congo and Burundi.
 
The country of Tanzania is a varied expanse of unusual beauty.  It shares three of the largest bodies of water in Africa.  Lake Victoria is located in the north, shared with Kenya and Uganda.  Lake Tanganyika forms the western border from Malawi in the south to Burundi and Rwanda in the north.  Then there is Lake Nyasa in the south that reaches into the adjoining countries of Mozambique and Malawi.  I had been privileged to see these bodies of water from not only Tanzania but also from all the other adjacent countries.
 
But my favorite area of Tanzania was in the savanna area of the Serengeti, north and west of the city of Arusha.  It is part of the remarkable rift valley phenomenon that runs along the eastern plains of Africa.  The Serengeti, of course, is the beginning point of the magnificent animal migration that occurs every year, led by the goofy wildebeests that were created at the bottom of the migratory food chain.  The animals travel from the plains of Tanzania to the lush grassland of the Masai Mara of Kenya to the north.
 
I was really looking forward to the return trip to Tanzania just to revisit the beauty of Africa. But to be absolutely transparent and candid with you I must admit that I was having a tough time gathering my thoughts to concentrate on my assigned task of performing the needs assessments on the targeted hospitals in the Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam areas.
 
I had flown into London a total of six times in less than 60 days.  All of those trips were related to needs assessment assignments I had taken on in Africa.  Before that, I had busied myself with needs assessments in Beijing and Mongolia.
 
But carefully laced into and between all those travels I was trying to keep a running accountability game going with the top level decision makers at the prestigious McGraw-Hill Publishing Company located in mid-town Manhattan in New York City.
 
In February, Anna Marie and I had traveled to New York City and met with Dr. Charlotte Franks, the executive vice president of McGraw-Hill.  I had agreed to let them have a first opportunity at publishing the manuscript that I had been working on for the previous year regarding the story of Project C.U.R.E. and an appeal for others to join in the humanitarian acts of goodness through the concept of “social entrepreneurship.”
 
Dr. Franks had been very warm and enthused about the project and had in turn introduced me to Philip Ruppel, the executive vice president of all the McGraw-Hill Companies.  He then turned over the 325-page manuscript to Deborah Brody, the senior editor of McGraw-Hill.
 
That had all taken place in February.  Now it was May and headed for June, and the busy folks in high positions of McGraw-Hill seemed not to be as eager to get things rolling on the book as I was.
 
I had regularly sent e-mail memos to the three executives gently reminding them of the project.  Recalling the past executive positions of my own life I recognized that I was in a “touchy” position.  If I hounded them or “bugged” them about the subject they would interpret it as “pestering,” and the easiest thing for an executive to do to simplify their life when someone is pestering them is to simply wash the nuisance out of their busy schedule by dismissing the whole uncomfortable thing.  They would simply return my manuscript and tell me to not bother them anymore.  I really did not want it to happen that way.
 
So, I would gently contact one by e-mail telling them, for example, that I also had great photos to go along with the many stories I had included in the manuscript.  When I would send the e-mail to one of the three I would also send copies of the communication to the other two.
 
But, I was getting anxious and I began telling God that I didn’t want to try pushing pieces of the puzzle into places where they didn’t fit, but perhaps I should try some different avenues to get the book published.  I had felt all along that the message and content of the manuscript needed to be distributed to a “broad-based” audience approach.  God had certainly worked a distinct miracle in getting me in front of the top executives of one of the world’s largest and most capable publishers.
 
I had mentioned before in my journal entries that in the canyon area where we live in Evergreen, Colorado, one of my closest neighbors was award winning author Philip Yancey.  Philip was kind enough to take one of my manuscripts, read it, and give me some written comments.  He was very encouraging and helpful and had some insightful suggestions.  But we were having a difficult time getting our schedules together to meet personally.  Either I was out of the country or Philip was out speaking or promoting his latest book.
 
I also contacted David and Neta Jackson, the editors with whom I had closely worked when David C. Cook Publishers had published the series of books I had written under the theme of “What’cha Gonna Do With What’cha Got?”  They had both said that if I ever decided to write another book they would like to be a part of the publishing of it since they had enjoyed so much the experience with the one previous.  I contacted them and they were excited about getting together on my social entrepreneur project, but they needed to finish up the current material on which they were working.
 
I guess what I didn’t want to have happen was for the McGraw-Hill folks to allow the project to fall into some crack or end up on the corner of some desk in their 50-story building on the Avenue of the Americas in downtown New York City.
 
It was getting to a place where I knew I was pushing the line.  If I pushed by making one more contact with any of the three top executives I knew they would tell me to “go fly a kite” or “jump in a lake” because my little project, even though it was extremely important to me, really had nothing significant to “push their buttons” or “trip their triggers” and make a difference on the bottom line of their huge corporate financial statements.  The motivation to continue to look at my manuscript and try to help get the story of Project C.U.R.E. out to the world would have to come from another heavenly intervention penetrating into a very secular corporate structure.  Quite simply, it would have to be God that engineered the circumstances and warmed the hearts of the corporate personalities toward the publishing project.  I literally spent days and nights praying for guidance and sensitivity as to how to handle the approach.  I really didn’t want my human ideas of “deal-making” to get in the way of an eternally significant project.
 
About 3 a.m., I was sitting in our tea room praying.  For years, when I was home, I would get up in the middle of the night and spend an hour or so up in my favorite chair in our tea room talking to God about any pressing personal issues or about any pressing issues regarding Project C.U.R.E.  I had discovered that those segments of time that I set aside for intercessory prayer had truly ended up being some of the most valuable and rewarding hours in my life.
 
That morning I simply confessed to God that I was in a corner and needed help on how to handle the McGraw-Hill situation.  At the end of the presentation of my case God seemed to say, “Just whose book is this and just who is in total control of all the aspects of the timing, and just what difference should it make to you if I even decided to wait until after you are dead to distribute that manuscript to where I need it?”
 
That certainly got my attention!  It really wasn’t my book.  It really had little or nothing to do with me, and I really had nothing to do with the consequences of whether it got published now or after I was gone, or never.  It suddenly dawned on me that I was smack-dab in the middle of another episode of relinquishment.  I had been there before and I recognized the earmarking of the situation.
 
“Okay,” I said aloud.  “Specifically what do you wish for me to do … if anything?”
 
Next Week: Back to Africa


IS IT NECESSARY?

Winston Churchill was such a hero of ours that Anna Marie and I named our second son after him. Jay Winston Jackson and I even traveled together to London on Jay’s twenty-first birthday to spend some time at Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home outside London. 

At Chartwell we enjoyed the pastoral setting of verdant rolling hills and peaceful, grazing sheep. We also learned that Churchill was the first person ever to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. Of particular interest to me, however, were the rooms inside the stately residence where the famous world traveler, prime minister, and author wrote his many volumes of the history of Britain, India, Africa, and the world. He even wrote biographies and a novel and had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. Churchill didn’t have just one desk at Chartwell where he sat and wrote. Rather, he had writing desks around the perimeter of the room so that he could stand and research and write while moving from one location in the room to another. 

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I carried several “take-aways” with me as I left Chartwell. Some were quotes I gathered from Winston Churchill’s writings on display. Over the years, the words have changed my personal worldview. Churchill is the one who said, “It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

At first, that quote seems about as cute and innocuous as Yogi Berra saying, “I want to thank you for making this day necessary.” But when you study it, you find the innocent-looking word package filled with dynamite. 

The poignancy of the statement is developed at the intersection of four interesting issues: (1) your perception of what is your best, (2) your evaluation determining whether you have done your best, (3) your idea of success, and (4) your perception of what is necessary. Success is only another name for failure if you don’t have your priorities figured out.

I recall the story about a basketball game where, in the heat of excitement, the basketball got loose on the floor. One team member shouldered his way into the players, grabbed the basketball, and shouted aloud, “I’m goal-oriented!” Then he headed toward the basket. He dribbled expertly, he ran fast, and his footwork and balance were something to behold. The crowd screamed. The closer he got to the basket, the more the fans went crazy.

Little did the player realize that he was heading toward the wrong goal! But amid all the noise and clamor, the player with the ball heard the voice of his coach. The coach wasn’t just calmly saying, “Oh my, you’re going the wrong way!” Rather, with a thunderous voice that could have sparked a coronary meltdown, the coach hollered at the player, “Damn you, Jimmy! You’re going the wrong way!” The player heard in time, dropped to the floor, and muttered, “I’ll be damned.”

Stephen Covey says, “It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall.” And the things that are so necessary should never be held hostage by the things we have until now perceived to be important.

Doing what is necessary requires the following qualities:

  1. Passion—We need a lot of dedicated passion to say, “We are doing our best.” If we’re serious enough to plan and carry out a strategy that would result in doing our best, we’ve already encountered the cost involved in doing it. That passion dare not be lost but transferred to achieve the necessary.
  2. Perception—How sad it is when we expend our passionate energies to climb the ladder of success only to discover that it was leaning against the wrong wall. How sad to run to the wrong end of the basketball court and score a magnificent shot in the wrong basket. Our perception of the important, the crucial, the fundamental, the imperative, and the quintessential is worthy of the time it takes to determine which wall our ladder is leaning against.
  3. Priorities—It isn’t a bad thing to go back and reevaluate what we previously held as a priority. As William Bruce Cameron has said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” We need to make certain that the things we ultimately consider as our priorities are really the things that represent our hearts’ desires and the goals we are willing to give our lives for.

The things that are necessary should become our true hearts’ desires, and they should dictate our priorities. Our priorities will then shape our choices, our choices will display our character, and our character will be reflected in our actions. So the main thing isn’t just to prioritize the things on our schedules but to overhaul the schedule of our priorities to accomplish what is truly necessary. 

That clear thinking and resolve was what allowed Sir Winston Churchill, in moments of crucial leadership, to courageously stand before the people of a war-ravaged Britain and say,

         "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. 

        We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Winston Churchill certainly had it figured correctly when he said, “It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”


ASTOUNDING CAPABILITIES

A friend once told me he estimated that more than 85 percent of people around the world spend their lives as underachievers. I joked with him and asked him to please help me find the other 15 percent. I don’t think our conversation was very scientific, but I’ve observed that nothing noble and splendid is achieved unless we decide that deep within us lies the possibility of passionately overcoming impossible circumstances and breaking the inertia of nothingness. That dream, plus passionate diligence, translates into higher levels of achievement. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Happiness . . . lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” People who are afflicted with poor motivational health spread the contagious affliction to others and bear within them the symptoms of discouragement and poor self-esteem. But nothing can ultimately conquer the person who desires to achieve. Every obstacle works as a weight machine in the gymnasium of life that develops the achievement muscle. The workout proves to strengthen the powers of accomplishment. 

Thomas Edison reminds us, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Having laid hold of the possibility of the dream, we should mark out a direct pathway to achievement. We dare not look to the left or to the right or embrace doubts and fears that would cause us to veer from the course and become ineffectual.

On one of my earlier trips to Ethiopia, I was introduced to one of the grandest stories and most intriguing venues I had ever encountered. Before leaving the old capital city of Axum, the ancient home and palatial ruins of the Queen of Sheba, I had helped rename the main street “Denver Street” in honor of Axum’s new Colorado sister city. Then my colleagues and I flew in a small aircraft almost directly south to the very center of the country. Our destination was the ancient city of Lalibela, often referred to as the New Jerusalem of Africa. 

In the early twelfth century, a baby boy was born to the royal family of Zagwe in the province of Wollo. According to local legends, at the time of his birth, a dense cloud of bees completely surrounded the baby and mother and brought honey for him to eat. The mother declared that the bees were soldiers who would one day serve her son just as they were now bringing protection and sweet sustenance to him. The mother named him Lalibela: “the bees recognize his sovereignty.”

But Lalibela’s older brother was threatened by all the adulation and poisoned Lalibela. Yet instead of killing Lalibela, the poison put him into a coma for three days. Later, Lalibela revealed that during the coma, angels had taken him to heaven, where Jesus Christ had given him instructions to build duplicates of the eleven early churches on either side of the Jordan River. Churches on one side of the Jordan represented the earthly Jerusalem, while those on the other side represented the heavenly Jerusalem. He was to build the churches far up on the stone hillside in the province of Wollo. 

In a matter of time, Lalibela became king, and with the authority of the office, he set out to accomplish his mission. Within an unbelievably short period, King Lalibela, with the help of his royal masons, chipped away and carved out eleven, completely free-standing, monolithic structures. To the very day of my visit nearly one thousand years later, those hand-hewn stone churches were still being used for worship. 

Monolithic simply means that no cut stones were stacked one upon the other to build each church. The workers dug around the sides of the church, starting from the surface of the stone mountain that would ultimately become the roof.

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Once the entire outside of the church was carved out of one solid mountain of stone, they chiseled doors and windows into the stone walls and then carved out the entire interior—arches, domed ceilings, altar areas, side rooms, and three-dimensional carvings of the saints on the walls. And King Lalibela did this eleven times! 

The design and sheer magnitude of the task baffles all who view the project even today. Lalibela’s contemporaries couldn’t believe how fast he was able to carve out not only the churches but the stone stairways, tunnels, winding stone pathways connecting the churches, and even hidden monasteries and catacombs. Legend holds that Lalibela completed the task with the help of angels who worked by night while King Lalibela worked by day. 

Lalibela was driven by zeal and compassion. He accomplished an impossible feat that still exists today and rebukes the scoffers and naysayers of this world.

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves,” as well as the world around us.


REPUTATION

Abraham Lincoln observed, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” So it would seem quite simple that if you wanted to build a good reputation, you would work hard to be how you desired to appear. And if you spend your time helping other people build good characters and reputations, it’s more than likely you will build a fine reputation for yourself in the meantime. 

As a cultural economist, I sometimes think that the mechanism of the reputation was designed as a method of social control. Whether it was designed or invented as such, it certainly works that way. Reputation is the opinion that people typically hold about the quality or character of an individual or entity. That opinion is formed by an evaluation based on some set of social criteria. In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about managing your reputation or your company’s reputation, and even how to salvage a reputation that has been lost or tarnished. 

Businesses have become more conscious of their perceived reputations because they’re discovering that a noble reputation is valuable and can be bartered in the public square for trust. That same trust can then be cashed in when it comes to premium prices to be paid, readiness to invest in corporate stock, and willingness to hold on to shares in times of crisis. To state it plainly, a good reputation is one of the essential forms of company capital. Even employee loyalty and supplier service is affected by the reputation of a business.

After a period of time, attributes such as reliability, credibility, and trustworthiness that result from sterling character will generally manifest themselves in honorable reputations. It’s just good personal and corporate business to possess a reputation of goodness. Dwight L. Moody used to say, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.” 

In June 1998, I was requested to travel to Tirana, Albania. The news was full of reports of ethnic Albanians being massacred in Kosovo, a southern province of Serbian Yugoslavia. It sounded like a bloody repeat of previous atrocities committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Widespread violence had erupted, resulting in riots where angry mobs attacked military arsenals and stole all the guns and grenades and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition. The weapons were instantly spread to the hands of the citizens. The ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had destabilized the entire political environment in the Balkans. Thousands of refugee families were escaping the Kosovo region in farm wagons and carts and fleeing to Albania. The architect of that diabolical scheme of ethnic cleansing was Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, in which more than thirteen thousand Kosovar Albanian men, women, and children were massacred.

On Tuesday, June 23, I traveled from Athens, Greece, to Tirana, Albania, with Captain James Terbush, the US Department of State’s medical liaison for that part of the world. Upon our arrival, we were met by the Albanian minister of health, the director of the large Mother Teresa University Hospital, and the US ambassador to Albania, along with her senior staff members. Everyone had been made familiar with Project C.U.R.E. before we arrived, and they all knew of our mission to deliver badly needed donated medical supplies and equipment to the refugee camps and the Albanian hospitals and clinics. 

By one o’clock that afternoon, we were scheduled to appear at the presidential palace for formal meetings with Rexhep Meidani, the president of Albania. The US ambassador led our entourage to the palace, and as we walked up the steps to the entrance, the colorfully clad soldiers drew their swords and held them up in a parade-salute position. As we passed by, they turned together, and we passed under the tips of their swords into the palace, where government officials and the president’s security men warmly greeted us. 

US Ambassador Marisa Lino opened the meeting, gave a brief situational overview, and then introduced me to President Meidani. For two hours we made plans regarding the needed medical supplies for the refugees as well as for the hospitals and clinics in the war-torn areas. 

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Upon my return to Athens, Greece, I was summoned to the US embassy for a meeting with Ambassador Nicholas Burns. As I was being introduced, the ambassador held up his hand and broke into the conversation, “Oh yes, I’m thoroughly acquainted with the wonderful work of Project C.U.R.E. around the world. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and I and a handful of others were just in Hanoi, Vietnam. They told us of all the things Project C.U.R.E. is doing there, and how Project C.U.R.E. has agreed to help in a big way at the hospital in Viet Tri, north of Hanoi. Ever since I heard about Project C.U.R.E., I’ve wanted to meet the founder. It’s my pleasure and delight to meet personally with you this morning, Dr. Jackson!”

Well! After I had stopped choking on my own tongue and blinking my eyes, I was able to respond to the ambassador in a dignified fashion. That was the first time I had ever witnessed the fine reputation of Project C.U.R.E. going before us and influencing international leaders at various levels of government. I had never really given much thought about enhancing or managing the reputation of Project C.U.R.E. I wasn’t consciously thinking about our reputation. I was just trying to busy myself around the world making other people’s lives and reputations better off, and lo and behold, our own reputation had miraculously placed us in a position of positive international influence. 

We were working on the tree, and others were seeing its shadow.  


INDIA JOURNAL - 2002 (Part 6: Is World Chaos the Norm?)

Kathmandu, Nepal: March 22, 2002: Royal Nepal Airlines flight #202 departed Bombay at 5:20 p.m. destined for Nepal. Stepping off the airplane in Kathmandu was like a breath of fresh air after being in India for nearly ten days.  No longer was the temperature 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  There was actually a cool evening breeze wafting through the valley nestled at the foot of the Himalayan range and the great Mt. Everest.

Equally refreshing was the quickly consummated friendship with Dr. Zimmerman and his Irish-born wife Deirdre.  They were at the terminal holding up a sign for us as we walked out of security after having cleared customs.  Once in the auto it didn’t take long for us to realize that by traveling into Kathmandu we had jumped right into another of the world’s political “hot spots.”  Fourteen “Maoist rebels” had been shot to death by Nepalese soldiers the day before.

In 1996 the radical leftist party in Nepal, called the Nepal Communist Party-Maoist or NCP-M, became frustrated with not being able to seize more power within the structure of the government of Nepal.  They had decided to launch a guerrilla terrorist movement against the people and the government, styled after the model of China’s revolutionary leader Mao Tse-tung.  Their goal was to topple the constitutional monarchy by hiding out in Nepal’s mountainous locations and performing deadly attacks of terror on government leaders, civil facilities, military outposts, and other high profile targets.

As was always the case, militant groups fed on their own terrorist activities, and the violence always escalated into more frequent and more severe atrocities.  The militant’s army of terrorists had grown to over 4,000 strong, and they had equipped themselves with sophisticated weapons by raiding small and poorly protected military outposts and arsenals.

In November, the Nepalese government had declared a state of emergency.  The rebels stepped up their violence, and instead of staying mostly in western sections, their planned attacks were aimed at Kathmandu, other major cities and tourist areas, and base camps near Mt. Everest.  By the beginning of the year hundreds of people were being killed in surprise attacks by the Maoists.  The guerrillas would declare a “strike” in Kathmandu or other cities and completely shut down commerce, transportation, government services, and the movement of people in, to, and from the city for a day at a time.  If shopkeepers left their doors unlocked and continued business, those establishments would be stoned, shot up, or burned.  If taxis or buses entered the streets, the drivers were beaten, and the vehicles burned.

Just a week before we arrived the violence had ratcheted up another notch.  The Maoists attacked and took over one of the city airports.  They almost simultaneously then set fire to buildings and fired at police in the town of Mangalsen.  Forty-nine police were killed.  Twenty-seven more were killed in another airport takeover.  Shortly afterward another 48 Royal Nepalese Army officers were killed.  The night we arrived in Kathmandu the Maoist rebels burned a large number of government vehicles and some buildings and killed another twelve people in the city.

To add to the civil unrest and instability, Nepal had gone through another shocker in June 2001.  King Binendra, Nepal’s monarch, and eight other members of the royal family, including Queen Aiswarya, were fatally shot in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu.  All evidence pointed to Crown Prince Dipendra as the mass killer.  He then botched his own suicide attempt and died a short time later at the hospital.  An official investigation was conducted later, which confirmed that the crown prince did perform the massacre in a drunken rage of anger.  His uncle, Gyanendra Bir Bikram, was the only royal family member left, upon whom the title of regent of Nepal was bestowed. With that opening of confusion and insecurity, the Maoists intensified their onslaughts of violence to try to topple Nepal’s government.

The Zimmermans had chosen a quaint Nepalese hotel in the Patan area of Kathmandu for us to stay.  We were perfectly safe there, and the cool night and our tired bodies successfully promoted the thought that we skip dinner and go straight to bed.

Saturday, March 23

The birds were singing, the flowers were blooming and the leaves were beginning to bud out on the trees. We awoke to springtime in Nepal!  Even by then the negative aspects of our India experience were beginning to fade into historical perspective.  We had been at the right place at the right time speaking to the right people.  God had blessed us and protected us.

We took a little local taxi from our Summit Hotel and met Dr. Zimmerman and Deirdre at the front gates of the Patan Hospital.  They took us to the ancient Hindu Temple of Patan, which was the center of one of four kingdom state cities and sat on the present site of Kathmandu.  Much of the sprawling temple had been turned into a Hindu museum with a quaint little restaurant attached, where we went for lunch. After lunch Anna Marie and I walked the narrow streets of Katmandu absorbing all the sights, sounds, and smells of the city that some claimed to be 10,000 years old.

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Dr. Zimmerman had finished his medical education at some prestigious schools in the eastern US.  He had traveled to Africa during his medical school days to do a short stint there.  He agreed to go to Nepal for three to six months to help out before he started his practice in America.  He went to Nepal and stuck.  He had been there for 15 years and had become the medical director of the Patan Hospital.

When Nepal opened up to the world in the l950s it was decided that there would not be just an influx of humanitarian and religious groups allowed in the Hindu kingdom.  Instead, it was agreed that the Methodists, Presbyterian, etc. groups would be allowed to jointly open one medical venture in Kathmandu.  Eventually, that effort became known as the United Mission of Nepal, and they were allowed to open a hospital in an old palace where even the patient wards boasted of crystal chandeliers.

The medical work built a strong reputation throughout Nepal and soon outgrew the old royal facilities.  What amazed me about Patan Hospital was that with such ecumenical diversity they could work together and achieve such success.  My attention was captured.  I was eager to learn more about the hospital and its mission.

Sunday, March 24

More violence and killing by the Maoists in Nepal.  We were also following the newspaper reports from India regarding the increased murders and torchings right where we had been just hours before.

Sunday morning Anna Marie and I spent some quiet time together in devotions at the Summit Hotel.  Our verandah looked north toward the majestic Himalayan mountain range.  I tried to point out to her where on earlier trips I had been at the village camps near the foot of the great Mt. Everest and also showed her on a map where I had crossed over the scary summits of the Himalayas when I traveled from India’s Kulu Valley over into Tibet.

At 10 a.m. Anna Marie and I arrived at the Patan Hospital to perform Project C.U.R.E.’s needs assessment study.  Their little “palace hospital” had grown up to be a full-fledged 300 bed facility with eight specialty teams in surgery, pediatrics, medicine, OB-GYN, ICU-anesthesia, outpatient/trauma, orthopedics, dentistry, radiology, and pathology.

There were other hospitals in Kathmandu, but Patan Hospital had earned a splendid reputation and was doing some great medical work.  Last year they had treated 266,000 outpatients, 33,000 emergency cases, 20,000 dental patients, and cared for 17,000 inpatients.  I told the CEO, B.B. Khawas, and other staff members just how very proud Project C.U.R.E. was to be considering working alongside the Patan Hospital.

The way Project C.U.R.E. had become involved with the Kathmandu project was so very typical of how we became involved in projects all over the world.  We never advertised, and we never went where we had not been invited.  Now, that still meant that the word had to get out some way.

In the Nepal case, a wonderful couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Hecht who lived in Denver, had been introduced to the Patan Hospital and traveled to Kathmandu to visit.   Montview Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado, had gotten excited about the work of the hospital and raised $160,000, which they sent to Nepal for Patan Hospital to build a pediatric department.  Even the women of the church got busy and quilted blankets to be sent.

It just so happens … Jim Hecht was a good friend of Jim Peters, with whom I traveled to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. (Jim Peters was also a dear friend of my friend, Nick Muller, executive at Samsonite International).  Project C.U.R.E. had pumped nearly a million dollars in medical goods into Yugoslavia and Serbia.  You are smart enough to figure out “the rest of the story.”

The Patan Hospital was a natural for Project C.U.R.E.’s involvement.  I went away from the needs assessment really excited about what could be done in the future to help 22 million Nepalese in the only country in the world that considered itself an official Hindu state.  We pledged together that we would start immediately to work on the possibilities of getting Project C.U.R.E. involved with the Patan Hospital on a long-term basis.  Anything that Project C.U.R.E. would put into the Patan project would pay great dividends both now and forever more.

Monday, March 25

Anna Marie and I were both exhausted.  I needed some time to complete all the paperwork that had resulted from the days in India and Nepal.  Monday morning was spent trying to catch up. That evening we took Dr. Zimmerman and Deirdre out to dinner in Kathmandu.  There we heard the story of how she was born and raised in Ireland and eventually had decided to go to Africa on a mission.  But providence dictated otherwise and she ended up going to the Patan Hospital as their dietitian.  Of course, she met this handsome young doctor from the US who was the medical director at the Patan Hospital.  He got a taste for the dietitian, and she figured the union would make for a well-balanced program, so they got hitched.  It was a beautiful love story.

Tuesday/Wednesday, March 26, 27

It was time to go home!  Tuesday morning, we were to catch our flight from Nepal back to Bangkok Thailand.  . . . Reality Check . . . We still needed to get back to the Kathmandu airport. That meant picking our way back through all the Maoist terrorists squads who were presently holding strategic parts of the city hostage. The local news was buzzing with reports of overnight murders of both Nepalese soldiers and Maoist terrorists. “Will this incessant worldwide civil strife ever end?” The terrorists were focusing their efforts this morning on trying to shut down the main Kathmandu airport. Dr. Zimmerman contacted us and said he would personally be in charge of getting us delivered safely to the airport.

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When he came to pick us up he was driving a well-marked ambulance from the Patan Hospital. They had collected a couple of white bed sheets from the hospital. He carefully drove through the streets of Kathmandu and right through the troops of terrorists. His friend was sitting in the passenger side of the ambulance leaning out and waving the white flag. Dr. Zimmerman was driving and waving the white flag out the driver’s window. We drove up very close to the front entry doors of the terminal. Dr. Zimmerman jumped out and personally escorted us until we walked through the doors of the waiting aircraft and found our seats.

Our trip had taken us completely around the world from Denver to Frankfurt to India to Nepal, to Bangkok, to Tokyo, to Seattle, and finally to Denver and Evergreen.  As you know, we had the privilege of living March 27 twice on our way home.  But sometimes you need that when you are slow learners and need another day to play catch-up!

Having Anna Marie on the trip had been as wonderful as I had imagined it would be.  She was such a trooper and every day God had allowed me to be with her made me appreciate all the more every single day of the past 42 years that we had been married.  Faithfully following God was paying great dividends and as everyone in the world with half a brain and one eye would know, we certainly did live a blessed and protected life.


INDIA JOURNAL -- 2002 (Part 5: Wonderful Rotary Folks of Gujarat)

Bhuj and Gujarat, India: March 21, 2002:

Nearly four hours later the beat-up Indian train pulled into the train yard of Surat, Gujarat.  It was dark and nearly 7 p.m.  Surat was a main train terminal for further travel east, west, north or south.  There were lots more people crammed together at the station.  By the time the train stabled it was 7:15 p.m.  We were supposed to be at a Rotary meeting especially called on our behalf at 7:30 p.m.

We hadn’t walked far down the station platform when we were met by Prafull Bhatt and his wife.  We wedged our entire luggage into their small car, and the five of us then pulled the car around our bodies.  We drove off through the Surat traffic to the 7:30 p.m. Rotary meeting.

It had been announced that Dr. Anna Marie Jackson and Dr. James W. Jackson would be special guests on March 15. Our credibility and wisdom were both enhanced, according to the people in Surat, when we didn’t show up.  It just would not have been smart to travel toward Ahmadabad when it was expected that the whole region was to erupt in violence.

But a crowd larger than they expected had shown up to see and hear us on March 21.  Several different district clubs had their presidents and representatives there.  They were very kind to us and showered us with gifts and accolades.  To think that we would travel to western India during their time of civil and political unrest to help them with their earthquake problem almost overwhelmed them.

It had been announced that I would speak to them, and they assured me that I was to take all the time I wanted.  They included Anna Marie in their presentations and gifts, which made it very comfortable for both of us.  Somehow they found out that my birthday was the next day, and it was cute the way they made a big deal of the occasion.

I started my talk by congratulating them on all the wonderful relief work that their clubs had spearheaded following the disasters.  I then explained the history and mission of Project C.U.R.E.’s work in 89 countries around the world.  I wanted to encourage them and also challenge them, and even though I knew most of them were Hindu, I felt quite free to tell them of the great influence and help that we had received from God both personally and with Project C.U.R.E.

I closed my talk by telling them the story of the little boy and his grandfather walking on the beach at low tide, and the little boy running ahead trying to throw all the stranded starfish back out into the water.  “Son, there’s 200 miles of beach and thousands of starfish, and you will never be able to save them all.  Besides it really doesn’t make any difference,” the grandfather insisted.  Then the little boy picked up another starfish and flung it as hard as he could out into the water and said, “Yes, but it makes a big difference to this one.”

I challenged them to arise to meet their own potential for significance, and I said, “We can make a difference and we can change our world.  Let’s do it together.” The group was very responsive and appreciative.  We all joined together for a wonderful dinner of Indian rice, curry, and vegetables.

Prafull Bhatt was a past Rotary governor, and his wife was in charge of all the matching grants in their district.  They had made arrangements after our dinner to adjourn to their home in Surat for a smaller meeting with area Rotary presidents, directors, and prominent physicians.  There we spent another hour and a half discussing how Project C.U.R.E., together with Rotary clubs in India and America, could partner in medical projects.

Friday, March 22
 
We woke up to the news that quite a high number of additional people had been killed in violent outbreaks over the night.  The situation was remaining under control in that it had not erupted into a full-blown civil war.  But it was still very dangerous.  We would all feel safer when we were finished with our India train ride and on our way to Nepal.  We would be riding on the same express train that was burned just a bit further north two weeks earlier. Anna Marie and I talked often about how nice it was going to be to finish in India and land in Kathmandu, Nepal where we would be able to enjoy a few stress-free, safe days to just unwind and peacefully relax a bit.

Much to my surprise Anna Marie and I went down to breakfast Friday morning to find that our host and hostess had arranged for a “Happy Birthday Breakfast Party” for me. They had invited some of the influential people of the community to join with us.  I had chocolate cake with “Happy Birthday James Jackson” written on it, and I even got to blow out a birthday candle.

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We were rushed to the train station to catch the 8:20 a.m. train back to Bombay.  One thing admirable about the Indian train system, they had maintained the old British custom of running their trains precisely on time.  At exactly 8:20, we rolled out of the Surat station.

About 20 miles down the track the train stopped at a station where it had been arranged for me to meet another one of India’s Rotarian governors. He was a dentist and extremely interested in working with Project C.U.R.E.  We had to talk and listen in rapid succession because our only time was the brief station stop of the train.  When the whistle blew I had to grab the rail of the coach and swing into the train in mid-sentence.  I got in “goodbye, nice to meet you,” and a quick wave.

As the old blue train pulled its bogies into the Bombay rail station we made another mad dash across the city to the airport. For over a week we had not slowed so much as to catch our breath.  Of course, because of the thick pollution in India you could live your entire life and not catch your breath. Inside the airport Anna Marie and I found a small cyber net coffee shop run by some entrepreneurial computer-whiz Indians.  For about $5 and two cups of Gold Label tea, we were able to check our e-mail and send messages home and on ahead of us to Dr. Mark Zimmerman in Kathmandu, Nepal. Royal Nepal Airlines flight #202 departed Bombay at 5:20 p.m. destined for Nepal. Now we could relax and be safe. Oh! . . . but were we in for a huge surprise . .
.
Next Week: Is world chaos the norm?


INDIA JOURNAL --2002 (Part 4)

Bombay, India: Wednesday, March 20, 2002: (Note: We had traveled from Bombay to Hyderabad, performed necessary needs assessments on the medical facilities; traveled to Orrisa State where scores of towns had been devastated by the “super cyclones”; performed needs assessments in cities of Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, and many smaller towns and villages. Now we were back in Bombay, ready to make another attempt into the dangerous areas of northwest India that had been destroyed by unprecedented earthquakes. We would be in the Surat areas of Bhuj and Gujarat along the troublesome border of Pakistan): I was beginning to see why we had felt strongly to travel to India as planned, even though from a civil and political perspective it had seemed quite dangerous for us physically.

Following breakfast, we checked out of the Bawa Hotel and boarded our Jet Airways flight #347 for Bhuj.  The city of Bhuj was located near the border of Pakistan, near the Arabian Sea on the western tip of India.  Bhuj was the epicenter of the massive earthquake that killed at least 30,000 people in a matter of two minutes on January 26, 2001.  In Colorado the US Geological Offices measured the earthquake at 7.7 on the Richter scale.  Nearly a million people were left homeless and an additional quarter of a million injured, all within a flash of time.

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In order to land in Bhuj the commercial airplanes had to use the landing strip of the Indian military base close by.  It was a strategic military encampment because it was a main defense on the troublesome border with Pakistan.  As we landed I could see the devastation that had taken place at the military installation.  Almost all the buildings were completely knocked down or at least rendered useless.  The jet fighter planes were housed in temporary camouflaged hangers.  I could only imagine how tight security was when we deplaned.

We stayed Wednesday night at a guest facility at Ghandidham called The Sharma, where we had dinner with a number of World Relief staff folks.

Thursday, March 21

The India Times or India Express newspapers were full each morning of sporadic incidents of the explosive political situation: “six people killed” here in Orissa or “police shoot 12 rioters” in Gujarat or “nine homes torched with people inside in Ahmadabad,” but the widespread murder and perhaps all-out war seemed to be postponed.  It was, indeed, a miracle.  The main towns and cities in Gujarat were under curfew and for a time, train service had been stopped through some areas.  The restraints were proving effective but everyone knew they were temporary.  As soon as the Supreme Court made its final decision there would be open violence.  Each side had openly declared that they would reject the ruling should it go against them. 

In the meantime, Anna Marie and I were tiptoeing through the minefields of violence.  God was mysteriously protecting us each step we were taking.  Anna Marie and I kept reminding ourselves of verses in Psalm 91: 

               He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high

               shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

               I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my

               fortress, my God, in him will I trust.

What we had seen of the result of the earthquakes was radically shocking to the senses.  Buildings were flattened to the ground.  Only mounds of rubble protruded up from the otherwise flattened landscape.  Occasionally, there would be one wall or a staircase still standing.  Once in a while there would be a commercial building still standing but the huge cracks in the walls and the caved-in roofs had left them uninhabitable.

People had sought temporary places to set up housekeeping.  Most were subsisting under pieces of salvaged timbers or metal beams pulled from the rubble with blue, plastic tarps stretched over for roofs to keep out the hot sun or the rains.  A few temporary, bamboo-and-banana-leaf structures had been brought in by disaster relief agencies.  But mostly the people were living under their own makeshift shelters made from the rubble of what once had been their own homes. 

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Mile after mile, village after village, and town after town in the Bhuj and Gujarat areas there were only flattened sites of devastation and hordes of people trying somehow to exist.  “The ground rose and fell, like the swelling of the tide of the sea.  When the surface rolled the structures crumbled apart and came to rest in piles of rubble.  What you once owned and thought valuable was destroyed and buried under your own piles of stone … the very stones you had used to build your beautiful house.”

We checked out of the Sharma in Ghandidham and traveled by car back to Bhuj.  Arrangements had been made for us to meet with the district governor of Rotary for the 3050 district of Gujarat in Bhuj.  Bharat M. Dholakia was an attorney and notary living in Nagar Chakio just outside Bhuj.

Some of the commercial buildings in Bhuj were still standing even though damaged.  We were to meet Bharat Dholakia along with the former Rotary Governor, Bharat Solanki, and the present Rotary district secretary, Dr. Azim Sheth, at a damaged office building in Bhuj. 

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We finally located the building on a narrow back street filled with rubble.  Governor Dholakia explained to us that he had totally lost his offices and everything in them as well as his home.  Nothing was left of the former governor’s business, and Dr. Sheth explained that his entire clinic had been ruined.  He was now trying to see patients out of his heavily damaged home.

The men were so grateful that we would come to Bhuj to meet them.  They told us that 20 Rotarians in just their club had been killed, and most of their businesses had been wiped out.  We discussed some possible projects together and got the paperwork started for some Rotary matching grants.  I admit that my heart really hurt for those businessmen.  It seemed to them that the world had forgotten them as soon as the crisis faded from the international headlines.  But on a day-to-day basis they were still dealing with their tragic losses and were bravely trying to pick up the pieces of broken businesses and shattered dreams.  Under the piles of dirt and ashes were all their files and accounts, but their assets were gone as were many of their lifelong friends and partners.

As we returned to the military base in Bhuj to depart for Bombay we, once again, met with very tight security and heavily armed soldiers who constantly trained their weapons on us.  We were right next to the India Air Force jet fighters as they were taking off for their reconnaissance missions along the Pakistan border.  Our shuttle had to make its way from the gate at the highway by dodging around the stacked sandbags and foxholes currently being occupied, out to where we boarded our plane.

Our schedule was very tight.  We would fly back to Bombay and have just barely enough time to go from the airport to the Bombay train station where we would catch the train north to Surat city in Gujarat. Fortunate for us, our bags were the first off the conveyor belt at the Bombay airport.  A man and a car had been scheduled to meet us just in front of the busy airport.  The driver kept one hand on the horn button in the car as he sped across Bombay narrowly missing beggars, merchants, trucks, and holy cows.  With just minutes to spare before the Indian train pulled out of the station our driver slid his car to a stop in the dirt and gravel outside the dirty, crowded train station.

Most everyone was already on the train who had tickets. Anna Marie had never been in an Indian train station.  I knew if she were ever to have a cultural panic attack it would be at a local train station.  It really is difficult to reduce to words the sensational damage you receive at such a place.  The filth, grime, poverty, perversity, stench, and noise would startle even well-seasoned wanderers.  The people had absolutely no concept of private space, which we Americans seemed to expect.  In a grocery store or in an American airport we would expect the other person not to invade the presumed space barrier that encircled us in some mystical way.  When someone came too close or bumped us they were more than likely going to get a crusty look, at the least.  But in the third-world countries, especially in horribly crowded places like India, memories of private space and polite civilities served only to mock your sensitivities.  You are going to get pushed, shoved, and pawed at by beggars, and people are going to knock you out of your position in the queue every time there is a chance.  Putrid smells of rotting food, rancid bodies, and acidic urine will slam your olfactory portals like a 10-megaton bomb hitting an Afghanistan cave.

We were trying to push our way through the crowd to get to our designated train coach.  I happened a glance at Anna Marie’s face.  Her eyes were as full as moons in October, and most of the blood had drained from her already transparent Scandinavian skin.  But she was stepping right along, determined to keep up. I saw her look twice at all the people crammed into the end coach cars.  They were already hanging out the windows and doors, and every sardine inside the can was carrying loads of stuff being toted either to or from the market.  I could tell she was thinking, “Oh, how will we, with all of our luggage, fit into this hot, sticky mess?”

We kept nearly running toward the front of the train where we had reservations in a sleeping car.  You must pay a bit more for those accommodations, but the rail company limited the riders to only six in a small compartment.  I knew we all could handle that. Once on board, we found our compartment just as the brakeman blew his whistle and the train started forward with a lurch.  We had to run out a couple of free-loading squatters who had wanted to occupy our seats thinking that we were not going to show up at such a late call.

As I settled into my bench seat the train began to pick up speed.  On the other side of the glass windows of the compartment stark reality slid along the landscape.  Poverty, shanty huts with corrugated tin roofs, raw sewage running openly toward the train tracks, women in dirty but brightly colored saris, scads of naked kids playing with discarded pieces of rope, and wheels broken off from junk carts and old scooters.  People, people, and millions more people.  How did they exist?  Where would they scavenge for their food?  Had they ever taken a bath, or did the filth finally accumulate to a level where it flaked or chipped off?  Did they really find solace in thinking that they would be reincarnated into something better in another 25 or 40 years?  How many of them could look and read any part of the sign that said “sleeper car” on this coach?  Had they ever wondered what the strange ink figures on a piece of newspaper were trying to convey, or did it even matter to them?

My mind went back to the devastated villages in the earthquake and cyclone areas.  Why weren’t the Hindu and Muslim “do-gooders” doing anything humanitarian to help their own countrymen?  It seemed that the only effective relief and reconstruction projects were being carried out by Christian-based organizations, and that was in a country where the population was 82% Hindu and 13% Muslim.

I closed my eyes and welcomed the gentle swaying of the train coach, which seemed to rock some security and sensibility back into my soul.  “Project C.U.R.E. was the right thing to do.  I wanted to spend all the rest of the energy allotted to me in boasting not of wisdom or strength or wealth, but that I would know and would understand God who exercised loving kindness, justice, and righteousness.  I wanted to delight in those things just as he does.”

Next Week: The wonderful Rotary folks of Gujarat