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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 26–Friday, May 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week: One of the Family


TANZANIA JOURNAL - 2006 (Part 6)

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

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

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

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

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


TANZANIA JOURNAL - 2006 (Part 5)

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

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

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


TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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


TANZANIA JOURNAL -- 2006 (Part 3)

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

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

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

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


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.