(Dakar, Senegal: October 6, 1999:) Over the past two days we located our 40-foot cargo container, collected and hand carried all our paperwork for approval through over 30 bureaucrats and departments, and personally saw to it that the valuable medical goods were delivered to the government warehouse. That location would be the venue for our official presentation.
The ceremony is to start at 4:00 this afternoon. The government leaders, and the national press with live T.V. coverage will all be here. The pressure is on us now to completely unload the huge cargo container, organize the contents, set up for the festivities, go back to the hotel to clean up, and return here in time for the presentation.
With some extra sets of hands and strong backs, we were able to unload the entire container by noon. We arranged all the contents under some spreading, leafy trees at the front of the compound. I was sweating like a pony-express nag running out of Saint Louis, and my mind kept jumping ahead to the presentation ceremony. By then it was 2:15 p.m. Mamadou Gueye drove me back to my hotel, where I showered and dressed up for the ceremony.
When we drove back to the warehouse the whole health-ministry world had shown up for the event. I was escorted to the head of a line of dignitaries. National newspaper reporters and television crews were there to cover the story. I greeted all the dignitaries and the ceremony began. There was a speech in French welcoming everyone to the occasion. Nothing of such medical magnitude had taken place in Senegal before. At the end of the opening speech, I was introduced. I was very glad that I had decided to bring my best black suit, white shirt, and health-ministry tie with me.
I began my speech by telling the people that it was my third trip to Dakar in the span of one year. I was like a teenage boy who fell in love with a girl and had to keep returning to see her. They all laughed and nodded. I finished my words saying, “When I look at the huge empty steel freight container sitting here today, I have sadness in my heart. As I think of the wonderful people of Senegal and see that empty container, I can only wish that we could have done more. But today I also have a great feeling of happiness and joy, because I know this is only the beginning of a beautiful relationship. We love the people of Senegal and want to join you in this special time of need. May God honor and bless us as we look forward to a brighter future. Don’t give up hope, but rather let hope conquer despair as we work together.”
Following my speech, the Minister of Health spoke. The speech was very complimentary of Project C.U.R.E. and our follow-through on our commitments. He expressed appreciation for the medical gifts donated to the free clinic in Diorbivol in May, which were valued at seventeen million Senegalese francs. He then thanked Project C.U.R.E. for the present gifts, valued at over three hundred million francs. Within the span of one year, Project C.U.R.E. visited Senegal three times and gave two sizable gifts. Nothing like that has ever happened in Senegal. What a special day! After dinner I returned to my hotel.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8
This morning Mohammed and I, and some of our friends, are back at the warehouse. Today’s assignment will be a challenge. Everything from the container is still spread out under the trees like we had arranged it for yesterday’s presentation. Usually Project C.U.R.E. sends a container to a specific hospital, and the entire load is delivered to that hospital. But we are going to divide up the donated medical goods, on the spot, between four different hospitals.
At the warehouse we met two of the village men from Diorbivol. They had helped us run the clinic there in May and wanted to help now with the load. I was pretty impressed that they came, because I knew it’s a twelve-hour drive from Diorbivol to Dakar.
In the first twenty minutes of our meeting with the men from Diorbivol, I received ample reward for my entire involvement in Senegal. The men were so excited, they wanted to give me a complete update on the village. They were eager for me to know that because of Project C.U.R.E., the clinic is now open to the public. Before May, the clinic had been closed for six years because there were no supplies to run it, and since there were no supplies, the government health department had even quit sending any nurses to the village. So for six years, the people had to travel many miles by foot or pony cart to the next nearest clinic. But now everything has changed.
The men told me, “Now people from all over come to our clinic. Even people from across the border in Mauritania come by boat to our village for help … all because of Project C.U.R.E.” They also wanted to update me on the people who received help at our May clinic. We had seen over one thousand patients, so I simply didn’t remember many of the cases the two men told me about. But several of them I recalled vividly.
One man had a big tumor on the side of his head and had traveled all the way to the hospital in Dakar for the doctors to examine it. The amount of money they were going to charge to treat him was far in excess of his accumulated worth. So the sad man traveled back to the village and resigned himself to the fact that he would surely die soon.
Dr. Merl Jacobsen and nurse Laurie Tucker had operated on the huge cyst, removed it, and stitched the man’s head back together. The two men from the village told me that the first thing he does when he gets up each morning is look at his head in a mirror. He has a difficult time believing that he isn’t just dreaming. “He is now perhaps the happiest man in the village,” the men said, “because he knows now he won’t die in a short time and leave his family fatherless.”
They related another story of an old lady who had a very large cyst and dangerous infection on the inside of her left thigh. I definitely remembered that woman and her problem. When Dr. Jacobsen cut into the thigh with the assistance of Helen Brown, it literally burst open and shot infected matter across the room. The terrible stench of death filled the small clinic the entire day. It was just awful. But now the old woman is up once more tending to her herd of goats and cooking for her extended family over an open fire.
The reports continued about children who had leg infections from parasites in the river water, but now they can walk again without open sores draining painfully down their legs. Other children who had infections have also been healed. The men concluded their update with these words: “Our new friends from Project C.U.R.E. are all heroes in our village. We talk about them and how they came one day to bring love and help to us. Many of us are alive and well today because of our new friends.”
I had to walk away from them for a few minutes and find a place behind the parked freight container to regain my composure. I thanked Jesus for the opportunity to partner with him in just a small way in his miracles. I didn’t deserve the reward I had just received, so I gave it back to God in the shade of that loaded container.
Now to the challenge at hand. I sized up the situation and what it was going to take to divide up all the inventory. If I told the Senegalese crew what to do and how to divide up the materials, it would take another three weeks to accomplish the task. So I grabbed a couple of the strong crewmen and showed them where I wanted the pallets positioned on the warehouse floor; a separate location for each hospital: Bargny, Diorbivol, Rufisque, and Diamniado. I then took off my shirt and started personally attacking the pallets piled high with boxes.
Soon we had a little game going. I would grab a box, read the label to find out its contents, and toss it to one of the fellows positioned at the different pallet groupings. They would, in turn, hand it to someone else who would stack it on one of the pallets. It was so hot in the warehouse that in no time at all, even my pants right down to the cuffs were soaking wet. The warehouse people and the health-ministry crew were chattering back and forth while we worked. Later Mamadou explained to me what they were saying, “He is a white man, but he sure must not be French. We’ve never seen a white man just take off his shirt and work that hard—never!”