READY FOR THE BANQUET Return to Pakistan - 1996 (Part 6)

Quetta and Islamabad, Pakistan: Monday March 18, 1996:  My Pakistani Airlines flight from Quetta to Islamabad put me into the capital city just before 2:00 p.m. That gave me plenty of time to notify the embassy that I am leaving tomorrow and to confirm my flight details back to London.

In my hotel room, I took a call from Senator Raja Zafar-al-Haq’s office that everything was set for “the reception and dinner honoring Mr. Jackson” at 8:00 p.m., and at 7:30 the senator would come personally to my room to brief me on the eve­ning and then accompany me to the affair.

Let me just review the providential happenings regarding my involvement with Senator Raja Muhammad Zafar-al-Haq. On December 6, 1995, I boarded a Pakistan International Airlines flight 325 from Quetta to Karachi. At 2:45 in the morning, we left Karachi for Amsterdam, Holland, via Islamabad, Pakistan. I was settled in my assigned seat reading Dr. George Roche’s book Fall of the Ivory Tower, when a very distinguished Pakistani gentleman with a black, pin-striped suit sat down in the seat next to mine. I shook his hand and greeted him and then went back to my reading.

Just before the plane took off, the whole cabin crew came by, shook his hand, and inquired if there was anything they could do for him. I sort of raised my eyebrows, and as I looked at what was happening, I won­dered who the gentleman might be. It was certain that they were all there not to shake my hand or inquire about my comforts.

When we landed in Islamabad, well into the middle of the night, some people from the capital city boarded and came over to attend to any of the gentleman’s needs. Upon departure he and I began visiting, and in the course of conversation, I discovered that he was presently a leading senator in the Pakistani government in Islamabad, had been an ambassador to Cairo, Egypt, and perhaps other countries for several years, and was additionally the secretary general of the World Muslim Congress. I learned that he was going to Amsterdam and then on to Oslo, Norway, or someplace, to lead the summit talks regarding the Muslims in Bosnia and Croatia.

He was such a superb gentleman and was very interested in what I was doing in Project C.U.R.E. and why I was doing it. That led to my taking all the time I needed to go clear back to my childhood and give him a complete account of my personal testimony—what God had done in my life, how my life was entirely changed, how I’d given away everything and started over and had dedicated my life to only putting deals together for God and other people around the world, not for my own personal accumulation. I told him that I truly believed that I was, without doubt, the happiest and most blessed man in the world.

He said that he had never met anyone who had actually done such a thing and wanted to know if upon my return to Islamabad, I would notify him first so that he could put a number of Pakistan’s most important people together at a dinner where I could tell them the story about God that I had told him. I told him that I would consider it an extreme privilege to come and be a part of such a gathering.

Well, the senator was absolutely true to his word. Before I left for my return trip to Pakistan, I sent him a fax telling him when I would be there and giving him two alternative dates for us to get together. On March 10 he replied and invited me to meet with him on the evening of March 18 in Islamabad.

When I arrived in Islamabad on March 13, on my way to Quetta, I called the senator’s office and confirmed our evening together.

When I returned to Islamabad from Quetta today (March 18), there was a message at my hotel room that everything was set. The senator would be in sessions all day but would personally come to my room at 7:30 p.m., greet me, brief me on the dinner meeting and the persons who would be in attendance, and then accompany me to the dinner.

In my short life, I have had way more than my share of unbelievable and astounding experi­ences, but today was, indeed, one of the most memorable! The senator escorted me to a room that was beautiful enough to make you gasp. As the door opened, there was a beautifully decorated table with large fruit baskets and lots of puffy, white linen tablecloths.

A little while before 8:00 p.m., the dignitaries began coming, one at a time, into the appointed room. The senator formally received them and then brought them to me and introduced me as the honored guest of Pakistan. When several guests had arrived, I was directed to sit with the senator on a sofa against one wall of the large room. The other guests were seated in a circle facing me. The senator had informed each of the guests about Project C.U.R.E. and my involvement in the international world. Everyone was warm and very cordial, and no one allowed the formality of the evening to interfere with our getting acquainted.

The senator had invited twelve guests for the evening. Five were senior senators who are heads of import committees and commissions in the country. Three of the guests were either present ambassadors or former ambassadors of Pakistan throughout the world. The other four were nationally or internationally famous doctors.

As additional guests arrived, we would all stand, be introduced, sit back down, and con­tinue our talking. When one of the ambassadors found out that my travels in the next couple of weeks will take me to Uganda, he related stories of when he was ambassador to Uganda during the time that Idi Amin was taking over the country. They were all huddled on the top floor of the embassy while the revolutionaries were dragging the civilian nationals and government leaders into the lower area of the embassy and shooting them. The dignitaries shared many other intrigu­ing stories.

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Finally, all the guests arrived, and we were seated at the large, beautifully prepared table. Every­thing was so exquisite. A full eight-course meal was served by attendants dressed in uniforms and wearing white gloves. The dinner conversation centered a lot around Project C.U.R.E. and health needs around the world. They also discussed the terrible problem of crime in Karachi and other cities and said that it just didn’t seem like the morals taught in the Koran were as effective as they used to be.

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When we had been served dessert and tea, the senator told all the guests how he and I had met on the airplane and how I had honored them by returning to Pakistan to meet with them. He requested then that I speak about why I would leave the comfort of my home and go around the world to seek out places to help people with donated medical supplies.

I thanked the senator for such an honor and privilege of being invited to be with them for the evening when I knew that they had been in busy senate sessions all day and would have to return to the chambers to continue their work early tomorrow morning. It was an evening I will remember throughout the rest of my life.

I went on to tell them about growing up in America, where the pressures to succeed and accomplish were so great and the expectations to attain and personally accumulate wealth were so strong. I told them I was not born into a wealthy family, but in America, if a person really desired to rise above the difficulties and achieve success, it was very possible to do so.

I told them that it was like the man who entered the shoemaker’s shop and told the proprietor that he needed new shoes and wanted to know how much a pair of new shoes would cost. The shopkeeper told him the price of a pair of new shoes would be one hundred dollars. The man agreed and purchased the new shoes for the price. As he was leaving the shop, another man entered and asked about the price of a new pair of shoes. The shopkeeper told him one hundred dollars.

“But I don’t have one hundred dollars. All I have is fifty dollars.”

Whereupon the man who had just purchased his new shoes pulled the package containing his used shoes from under his arm. “Sir, I have a pair of shoes here that I would be willing to sell you for fifty dollars.” The second man happily agreed and paid the first man fifty dollars for his shoes.

Now, each of the two men bought a pair of shoes that day. Each paid fifty dollars for his pair of shoes. One man ended up with a new pair of shoes for fifty dollars, and the other ended up with a used pair of shoes for fifty dollars.

“When I was young,” I told them, “I determined that I would always be the man with the new shoes.”

I went on to share my experience in business and the art of bartering and how God got ahold of my life and changed me completely. I told them that in order to break the addiction of per­sonal greed and accumulation, my wife and I gave away our wealth, and I vowed to God that I would use the abilities he had given to me to put deals together that would benefit oth­ers, if he would but give me a second chance in my life and allow me to start over again. I went on to talk about Project C.U.R.E. and the personal reward and satisfaction I receive from seeing people, who otherwise would have died, being helped and sent home from hospitals and clinics healed because of God’s love through the efforts of Project C.U.R.E.

I told them that it was all right now if I did not always have new shoes. I told them that I am, however, still involved in barter and am totally satisfied with what I am now receiving from my share of the barters. “I am the happiest man in the world because I am now exchang­ing affluence for moral influence. Thank God, I was given the opportunity to exchange success for significance.”

I then told them that without doubt they are the most successful men in Pakistan, or else they would not be where they are tonight. “But,” I said, “I see in your eyes tonight that some of you need to accept my invitation. Some of you here tonight also need to move from a position of success to a position of significance.”

When I finished they applauded for a long time, and I saw tears in the eyes of at least one senator. All came by and spoke and shook my hand as they left. Many of them hugged me. Another senator, who is the chairman of the powerful senate education committee, stood close and said to me and the others standing around the door, “I am frightened when I think of how close I came to missing this meeting tonight. I am inspired … My life will not be the same.”

Before I went to bed, I thanked Jesus for being in that meeting in such a strong way. He seemed to remind me that when he was on earth walking and talking, those were the very Gentiles, the sons of Ishmael, the seeds of Abraham and Hagar that he was referring to when he said that he had come to bring salvation to the Gentiles.

I feel so humbled and so privileged to have had the opportunity tonight to share with those powerful Muslim leaders. In fact, involvement in the whole Pakistan episode—the traveling, the dangers, the terrible hospitals, the cargo-container movement from our warehouse to the port of Karachi—has been well worth the single opportunity of sharing with the senator and his important friends. I was not the one who manipulated the meeting that dark night in December, flying at thirty-six thousand feet over the old Soviet Union from Islamabad to Amsterdam. God’s love and his great plan are becoming reality, and his faithfulness to the promise to Abraham’s seed is being played out in an ongoing pageant of eternal love and acceptance.

I may have now played my bit part in this drama and will be allowed to slip off the stage as the next scene unfolds. But I went to bed tonight in the heart of Islamabad, Pakistan, with the satisfying knowledge that I have been true to my commitment to God that I would go anyplace and say anything to anybody as an act of total obedience if he would give me the guidance and assurance that I am, indeed, at the right place at the right time saying the right things to the right folks. The expectations and results are not mine. Those are within God’s jurisdiction, but I can sleep well tonight in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Tuesday March 19

I checked out of the hotel this morning and hurried to the airport. The equipment used for the Pakistan Airlines flight 783 was a Boeing 747. The Islamabad airport was trying to proc­ess all those people through a small departure room and understaffed customs counters. The flight was a zoo. I was flying excursion class, which was the cheapest possible, and I paid the price for the difference in discomfort, but some eight or nine hours later, we safely landed in London, where I met up with Anna Marie, who had flown from Denver to bring me a totally different change of clothes.

From London I will now travel to Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda, from the cold, high desert of northern Pakistan to the steamy equatorial continent of Africa.

Wednesday, March 20–Sunday, March 24

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I really enjoyed the couple days of rest in London with Anna Marie. Friday, March 22 was my birthday, and we celebrated it over dinner at one of London’s Italian restaurants. I still have mental pictures of the fresh daffodils, fresh strawberries, and tea biscuits Anna Marie went out and purchased on the street and brought back and arranged for me in our hotel room. Indeed, this life is a good life.