Improve Your World

In her diary, Anne Frank documents the horrors of Nazi Germany and her life of hiding, capture and efforts to survive in a concentration camp. Her wholesome attitudes and keen observations of life continue to amaze her diary readers even today. One of her statements leaves me defenseless and convicted: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” She is right!

I am so appreciative to have had people in my life who were determined to make this world a better place, regardless of all the reasons imposed on them why they could not. Two such people were my aunt and uncle, Rev. Robert O. and Lela Jackson. Early in their marriage they had volunteered to go to Argentina as missionaries. Later, they traveled to Swaziland, Africa to help establish a medical mission in the 1940s and 1950s. They landed in a place called Manzini and served four years at a pioneer hospital and nurse’s training center. The next four years were spent out farther into the bush veldt at a place called Piggs Peak Station. Uncle Bob directed the efforts of the medical clinic and coordinated the activities of the mission. They literally poured their lives into the work.

One of the greatest rewards of my work with Project C.U.R.E. came in 2004, when Anna Marie and I were requested to travel to Swaziland. The Raleigh Fitkin Hospital in Manzini, Swaziland, 17 additional district clinics, and a nurse’s training college were in desperate need of help. The medical institution, as well as the Swaziland government, had requested that Project C.U.R.E. come and assess the health care facilities and see if we could be of assistance. The Swaziland government Health Ministry had promised to help financially underwrite the hospital. But the Swaziland government was having a tough time backing up their promises with money.

Over 100 years before, the King of Swaziland had given the missionary endeavor a huge piece of land that now was part of the city of Manzini, and had invited them to educate and minister to the people in Swaziland. Their presence in that part of southern Africa had been very successful and influential over the many years. Uncle Bob and Aunt Lela Jackson had been a part of that successful endeavor. The hospital administrators showed me records and evidence of the Jackson’s indefatigable efforts while they were there.

When we finished our assessment work in Manzini we were taken to the mountainous region of northwest Swaziland to view the outlying medical clinics in Piggs Peak, Endzingeni and 15 other clinics. Upon our arrival at Piggs Peak Station I stood just inside the entry gates of the compound and drank in a 360 degree view. “So, these were the views my relatives captured in their hearts day after day so many years ago.” They had worked in this very hospital and lived on this very compound during the critical days of growth and development of the care- giving ministry. As a young boy I had become vicariously acquainted with Swaziland. I had studied the pictures, listened to the wild stories, had touched and seen the artifacts from Africa that they had toted home with them. My soul now drank it all in as if I were a thirsty sponge with human legs. How soon we forget the exacting price others in the past have paid in their eternal journey to improve the world.

Upon my return to Colorado I called my 84 year-old “Uncle Bob,” who resided in an assisted living center near Roseburg, Oregon. My Aunt Lela had died a few years before. I told him that I had just returned from Swaziland. I let him reminisce and encouraged him to tell me once again about their experiences in Manzini, Endzingeni and Piggs Peak. “Do you remember seeing a long line of trees stretching from the church, past the clinic and toward the main house?” Uncle Bob asked me. “Oh yes,” I replied, “they are huge evergreen trees all in a straight row.”

“I planted all those with my own hands. I got them from a tree farmer who had come to plant a forest of trees on the rich and fertile hillsides of Piggs Peak.” “Uncle Bob,” I assured him, “you are to be commended for having planted all those trees in a straight line from the church building, past the clinic and toward the house. They stand today as a testimony that you left Swaziland a greener and better place than when you went there.”

“But,” I continued, “you and Aunt Lela are to be commended even more for the many years of your lives that you invested in Swaziland. Spiritual and physical seeds of help and hope were planted there by you that are far greater than the row of beautiful evergreen trees. Only heaven will reveal the waves of goodness that have lapped the shores of eternity since you and Aunt Lela affected that place by your committed lives and efforts. For Anna Marie and me, it was a great privilege to go to Swaziland and honor not only God but also you and Aunt Lela with additional medical goods for the hospital and clinics. Thanks for being a faithful worker and a good uncle.” Somewhere in their early journey they had discovered the eternal message also penned by Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”