Karachi, Pakistan: Wednesday December 6, 1995:
When the flight left Karachi, I was surprised that we didn’t simply head west and then cut eventually back at a northwest angle to Amsterdam. But, rather, we flew almost directly north back over Lahore to the capital city of Islamabad. We stopped briefly there and then flew directly over Kabul, Afghanistan, where all the fierce fighting had recently taken place.
On the flight I experienced another outstanding serendipity. I was seated next to a distinguished gentleman in a pin‑striped, black suit. Even the plane’s crew came out of the cockpit and greeted him. I turned to him about the time we took off, extended my hand, and introduced myself. Come to find out he is one of the fifty-two-member OIS (Organization of Islamic States) group. He is also a senator in the Pakistan parliament, and in our extended conversation, it came out that he additionally was a past ambassador to Egypt. His name is Raja M. Zafar‑al‑Haq, secretary general of the World Muslim Congress.
After we had talked about Russia, the war in Afghanistan, the Muslims in Bosnia, and other issues, he wanted to know what I was doing in Pakistan, “Don’t you know you could have easily been killed in Karachi?" I told him all about Project C.U.R.E. and my trip into Andijon and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and my Needs Assessment Study at Sandeman Provincial Hospital in Quetta. I told him that I had greatly appreciated my work in Quetta, especially with Dr. Buzdar and Dr. Zehri. I told him that I felt there was a qualitative difference that I observed in the doctors I work with around the world. Many medical institutions within countries that have been used and abused by governments of Communist dictators have been left nearly bankrupt, morally, emotionally, volitionally, and for sure, financially. A lot of doctors who were involved in those kinds of hospitals in the recent past are physically exhausted, but far worse, they have given up hope that things will ever get better. They have lost their way and have no one they could turn to.
I told him that was where Project C. U. R. E. could come in and make such a tremendous difference. We come alongside and help by sending desperately needed medical goods … but perhaps most important, we can bring hope.
“The doctors see that, really, there is someone out there who cares about what they are going through,” I said. “Who’s to know, when all is said and done, maybe that bringing of rekindled hope is the greatest qualitative contribution that Project C.U.R.E. can ever make. Medical supplies will immediately save lives. Rekindled hope has the power to save generations.”
I told that Pakistan leader that he could, indeed, be proud of the culture of his country and the fact that in spite of centuries of hardship, his people, particularly Dr. Buzdar and Dr. Zehri and the other doctors at the Quetta hospital and medical school, had not lost hope. And in spite of the extensive needs they were currently experiencing, they were excited about what they were doing and what the future held for them. They had not lost hope.
He really appreciated what I had to tell him, and then he asked how in the world I got involved in taking Project C.U.R.E. all over the remotest parts of the world. He pushed my button. I looked at my watch and we were still a very long way from landing in Amsterdam so, I started out by telling him about my being in business and getting caught up in the addictive American philosophy of accumulating wealth and things. And I told him how one day God brought me to my senses and showed me that however much I accumulated in my journey, it would not make me a happy man. I asked God to forgive me for being such a selfish person. I obeyed God and paid a price that required giving over sixteen million dollars away, and I started over to put deals together the rest of my life that would help bring relief to God’s children all over the world.
Mr. Raja M. Zafar‑al‑Haq, the senator, ambassador, and secretary general who was on his way to hold talks on Bosnia and the Middle East, turned completely around in his seat to face me and said, “All of my life I have heard people talk about giving their life away to do good. But I had never met anyone who actually did it. It was always talk. May God bless you and give you good health to continue what you are doing for a long time. And when you know when you are returning to the capital of Islamabad, please let me know, and I will put a group of important people of Pakistan together in my home and let you tell all of them the story you have just told me. God bless you.”
Maybe there was a reason why I went to Uzbekistan and Pakistan during the closing days of 1995.
My trip to Amsterdam was long, and I was able to transfer all my excess baggage to London’s Heathrow Airport. In Amsterdam I had to change airlines from Pakistan Airlines to British Airways. Once I got from London to New York, I had to again transfer everything to United Airlines on into Denver.
By that time I was already starting on the third day of being in the same clothes and not having gone to bed (it was now December 8). But what I had told that Pakistani secretary general is true. I am so fortunate to get to do what I am doing, and indeed, I am the happiest man in the world.
Next Week: My return trip to Islamabad, Pakistan