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.
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