(I have been traveling extensively internationally since 1978. It is always dangerous. I was told one time that desperate people in foreign countries do not see you as black or white, but they see you as green; the color of money. You have what they desperately need and you are vulnerable. So many times I have had to depend on God to rescue me, although I did not always understand how he did it! I share this example of India with you.)
India: July, 1995: India’s population of one billion people amounts to about one-sixth of the world’s entire population. Yet it is only one-third the size of the United States. But why should Project C.U.R.E. get concerned about India? Good question! Perhaps it is because there are over four million people there with leprosy. Perhaps, it is because over one million Indian toddlers die yearly of malnutrition. Or maybe it’s because 80 percent of Indian newborns are now expected to be HIV positive. How is that for justification?
About a year and a half ago my son, Dr. William Douglas Jackson, was introduced through his friend Dave Sattler to an energetic, young Indian man named Samuel Stevens. Doug was living in San Diego at the time, and Samuel, a long-time friend of Dave’s, had traveled to California on a speaking tour. During Doug’s meeting with Samuel, Doug told him about Project C.U.R.E. and the exciting things that were happening with donated medical goods being sent around the world. Samuel was overwhelmed. He was involved in trying desperately to refurbish two antiquated hospitals in India and build out of nothing one brand new hospital.
The trip to India was then planned and coordinated between Samuel and Project C.U.R.E. for July 9 through 21.
The first segment of the trip took me from Denver to San Francisco on United flight 405. At 2:05 a.m., I boarded Singapore Airlines flight 001 from San Francisco. My route would take me to Singapore via Hong Kong. The flight segment from San Francisco to Hong Kong was over fourteen hours, and then another three-plus hours from Hong Kong to Singapore. A same-seat trip in excess of seventeen hours gets to be kind of long. From Singapore I boarded Malaysia Airlines flight 622, which would take me to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, north of Singapore about one hour’s flight time. From Kuala Lumpur, I again changed planes to head for Madras, India.
An interesting thing happened just before takeoff. The captain of the flight came on the intercom and announced that flight time from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Madras would take just over three hours. Then he said something I had never heard before: “There is a two-and-a-half-hour time change from departure point to arrival.” It was now 9:40 p.m. The captain continued, “You may set your watches to 7:10 p.m. Madras, India, time.”
Perhaps my body could handle thirty-minute incremental time changes … or maybe not. I thought I was programmed for sixty-minute time-zone changes. I had been notified by letter prior to my leaving Colorado that a Mr. Browning would be meeting me in Madras. The letter stated that I would probably not like arriving in Madras for the first time without being met by some friendly face. So I was anticipating walking out of the secured customs area and seeing a friendly person carrying a small placard saying, “Welcome to India, James Jackson.”
When the plane landed, I grabbed my two carry-on bags and headed for immigration control. I was second in line, not bad for a crowded flight on a huge extended Airbus model-400 aircraft. Oh yes, and there was another advantage of not checking in luggage. After leaving immigration I did not have to wait for the luggage to be unloaded from the plane but went straight to the customs line, where they looked at my honest countenance and waved me right through without checking anything.
Well, I was at least five to ten minutes outside the customs door before anyone else from the flight even appeared. I entered the unsecured area where the disembarkers (I would use the word debarkers, but it sounds so K-9) were separated from the eager throng of excited family members and friends. As was almost always the case, there was a fence separating the crowd from the arriving passengers. Pressed up against the fence and hanging over the fence were the people carrying the signs welcoming those who were arriving.
I was the first through the line. My eyes raced over the crowd and along the fence now to spot my name and the friendly face. Then I had an instant flashback. About two weeks earlier, Anna Marie asked just what I would do if I went to some country, and no one knew about my arrival and things grew hostile? I remembered telling her with a smile, “No worry, baby. If I have a return ticket and a credit card, I’ll make it home just fine.” Dummy! Now I was thinking about that and not smiling.
The waiting crowd with signs extended out through the doors and the airport lobby and into the street area outside. It was past midnight. Ours was the last flight. I was quickly outside, into the street, and no sign, no Mr. Browning, no smiling face. Now I was out where the beggars and lepers lined the concrete, and lots of people were sleeping on the sidewalks and streets. I had another instant flashback. I was in Kenya, on one of our safaris. The guide was pointing out how the cheetahs and female lions watched the eyes and behavior patterns of the gazelles or waterbucks. The ones they picked out to ultimately attack were those with a flaw, a weakness, or a lack of confidence that could be detected.
About that time in the midst of my flashback, a couple of desperate-looking, dark-skinned Indians with shabby clothes began looking at me and my luggage with a little more interest than was comfortable.
Next Week: Where is Mr. Browning?
© Dr. James W. Jackson
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