by Jalal Aagood
Rise and fall of a city.
|Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth." Genesis 11:4 (NIV)
“Joel son of Zikri was their chief officer, and Judah son of Hassenuah was over the New Quarter of the city.” Nehemiah 11:9 (NIV)
What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Genesis 18:24
Year 1 The Seed
Let me tell you a story of a man who built a city. This is no ordinary city, nor is this an ordinary man.
[background of Jalal]
Jalal is a man who was visionary but cared about the details. He was both a city planner and a jewelry designer. He loved experiences and wanted to be able and give other people wonderful experiences as well. He was not self-righteous as he knew he had been saved through the Grace of Jesus Christ and not through his own hands. His faith had grown stronger over the years and like the man who finds out about a treasure in a field – he had sold everything to follow the Lord. Another treasure he found was an idea – an idea for a city – so he sold everything he could to find this treasure, share it with others and cultivate it so it could be fruitful for the Kingdom. He came about this wonderful idea during one of his layovers.
So let me tell you about Jalal's skill in layovers. Jalal, unlike most travellers, loved layovers. Especially long layovers in foreign countries. Jalal would eagerly escape from the airport and find some place or experience outside of the airport to do and then quickly come back to the airport just in time for his follow on flight.
In Cairo, Egypt Jalal found himself on such a layover and like most of his travels, he was alone. This was his first time in Egypt and he had a four hour layover. He was in line to show passports to leave the airport. He was pretty excited - part of the thrill of visiting a new country wasn't just the experience or saying "I've done that" but that rush of risking missing a flight at the sake of not having to stay put. The line moved quickly and he stepped outside into the warm, moist Egyptian air.
A disheveled chubby man in his late forties, sweating from the Egyptian heat asked him, "Taxi Sir?" pointing to his dusty cab.
"Do you think we could get to the pyramids and back to the airport in four hours?" Jalal asked.
"What?" the cab driver asked Jalal.
Jalal repeated much slower and louder "Can you drive to the pyramids and get back to the airport in four hours?"
"Just a minute" the cab driver replied.
The older Egyptian cab driver motioned for Jalal to follow as he walked over to a young man nearby. Jalal hesitated at first, but realized the cab driver's resourcefulness and followed. The cab driver said something to the young man.
The young man turned to Jalal and asked "What did you ask him?"
Jalal took a frustrated breath and clarified "I asked him if he could drive me to see the pyramids and back to the airport in four hours. I've got a four hour layover and have never seen the pyramids."
The young man understood and explained to the older cab driver who had that defeated, yet willing look on his face. The cab driver was concerned about the traffic and didn't think it would be possible. He was right of course as Jalal was often overly optimistic, but Jalal couldn't let go of a possibility.
"How close can we get? Would I be able to see the pyramids? Even from a distance?"
Both the old and young man nodded. Jalal hopped in the cab with his carry-on bag with hopes of seeing the pyramids and for traffic to be light. How bad could traffic be in a city of 20 million people? Jalal thought. The initial drive out of the airport moved rather quickly and then they hit the thick traffic - stopped and overflowing - horrendous traffic.
Jalal tried to start a conversation with the cab driver "Have you lived here your whole life?"
The busy, sweating cab driver gave Jalal a courteous nod, but clearly gave the impression that he was not in the mood for talking, he was doing more important things than talking right now. So Jalal leaned back in the well worn cab and observed all the flowing life around him - much like a baby water buffalo's first trip with the herd.
One hour passed in stop and go traffic - with new lanes constantly forming around them. The open window did little to stop the sweat oval from forming on his back.
"Is that the Nile?" Jalal asked.
"Oh wow - can we stop on the way back for a picture?" Jalal asked – momentarily forgetting the pyramids.
Another hour passed and Jalal was very wet from sweat and concerned that they had only moved ten kilometers closer because of the heavy traffic. The cab driver deliberately turned around to Jalal and motions out the window toward three very small pyramid shaped gray silhouettes many kilometers away."Are those the pyramids?" Jalal asks – more surprised that they are so small and far away than if he was asking for confirmation.
Jalal thought they shouldn't go too much further - traffic he saw going toward the airport was bad as well. After a few more minutes in traffic Jalal was content to stop and took long distance photos of the tiny pyramids.
Pyramids. Check. Thought Jalal – though he had optimistically hoped to spend hours and days crawling through the pyramids all to himself. A long distance photo opportunity would have to suffice.
"OK lets head back,” said Jalal “don't forget to stop by the Nile."
Jalal made it back to the airport in time to make his flight.
Before telling you about his other travels and the layover where he came up with his idea, let me tell you about one of his personal rules. This is one called:
“If you could have died in a given country, you can say you've been to that country.”
So if you died in a plane flying over a country or died in a ship off the coast of a given country then you hadn't visited that country. But if your plane stopped for fuel and you were allowed to exit the plane, touch the ground and have the opportunity to die - you can count that country as one you've visited. “What if you didn't see the major things to see in that country” you may ask. Like some may say:
“One has never been to Jordan if one has never been to Petra.”
“One has never been to Antarctica if one has never seen penguins.”
Or “one has never been to Tunisia if you one has never seen Tunis.”
Jalal, however, would argue that people who lived their whole life near major things sometimes never take the time to visit them or can never afford to visit them. Would you say those people have never been to the country of their birth? They often have been no where else. There is always more to a place than meets the eye.
Jalal had been to over 50 countries, according to his definition. He never intended to be a world traveler, his personality and God's path for his life allowed him these opportunities. He was outgoing and often found unique ways to break the ice with other travelers - so he did travel alone, but within minutes he was traveling with friends. He often shared too much information, but his genuine personality loosened up just about everyone he encountered. He wasn't arrogant, but he was very proud of his beautiful and rugged wife and his dear children that were all very unique. He worked hard, but found that sweet spot in the business world that allows one to use one's spare four hours during the best time of the day.
In Morocco he had been able to use his seven hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco to take a cab to the city market, see one of Africa's largest mosques and to eat at Rick's Cafe. In Nairobi, Kenya he had ducked out of the airport to go on a mini safari right outside of town. In Switzerland he took the train downtown and walked around - almost purchasing a Swiss Army Knife until one of his friends reminded him of the strict airport regulations on knives. He rarely stayed at the airport if there was anyway he could get out and see new things and meet people. He felt the same way about office work. But some places will not let you leave the airport, Addis Ababa is one of those places.
He was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when the idea came to him. As with most travelers on Ethiopian Airlines, he had a 4+ hour layover without the ability to leave the airport. So he walked around the different airport shops. He found a coffee stand where, in the traditional manner, a woman roasts, grinds and makes the coffee in what is known as a Coffee Ceremony. He enjoyed some popcorn and interacting with other travelers. As he walked around the varied international shops and thought of his wife and children, a wonderful idea came to him - an educational experience unlike any other. What if my children could be exposed to geography by bringing people from other countries to our town?
Jalal would often use the Operation World devotional for children to allow his family to learn about other cultures and more importantly to pray for them. He also exposed his children to international events – like the Olympics or the World Cup that brought people from many cultures to one, usually peaceful, event. But this would be different – instead of reading in a book, looking at pictures, or viewing events and cultures from a distance, his family could be part of different cultures.
At first he thought about bringing five unique national cultures together for a month or so - and children from local schools could listen to unique music, taste unique food, learn a few words in the given country's language, etc. Educationally get exposed to a variety of cultures. Then he thought about a permanent place. Not for five, but for all countries.
This, was his big idea, the idea he claimed only the Lord could have given him.
Jalal thought, what if a country somewhere in the world donated some of their land for a mini-world? A bit like Disney's Epcot Center, but real. Like an embassy row, but with more than diplomats. Each country would be provided with land shaped identically to their current recognized land and it would be a ratio similar to all the other nations (i.e. Russia would have the largest and the Vatican the smallest).
And so the concept grew - each country would provide an embassy, hotel, restaurant, store, housing, currency exchange, security, real estate, grocery, school, theater, field, transportation and other basic necessities as determined by the Cocil. Each country would also keep their own rules, language, tradition, holidays, fashions, currency, etc.
Jalal sat down and wrote the idea in his journal. Just as God formed plants to make seeds, the seed had been planted and the idea couldn't be kept quiet. Jalal had come up with numerous ideas over the years, but nothing like this one. This one was way too powerful, too incredible to keep to himself. So he shared his idea often and the concept woke him up at night – like a sculptor or a composer who cannot stop creating. Eventually Jalal dedicated a journal his sister had given him to jotting down ideas as they came to him so he could keep some record of the numerous ideas that flooded his poor head.
Jalal was humble enough to realize he needed help if this idea was to spread, so he asked several trustworthy sources. He was concerned that someone would steal his idea so he kept it as quiet as he could. The idea was also so grand that others may think he was crazy. In fact the numerous developers he did talk quickly would dismiss the idea for various logical, practical or fiscal reasons. But Jalal was too optimistic and too visionary to give up, so he waited.
He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill. I Kings 16:24 (NIV)
In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. Ezekiel 40:2 (NIV)
Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. Genesis 4:17 (NIV)
Year 2 Buried
Jalal kept on with his day job at the international agriculture non-government organization. In his spare time he talked about his idea to colleagues and anyone who listened. He listened to criticism and neigh-sayers, but took notes and kept improving his idea. Jalal attended a conference in Vienna, Austria where he met Vilhelm Lamb, a developer from Germany. Jalal the extrovert sat next to Vilhelm during one of the conference sessions and as usual struck up a conversation with the shy Vilhelm. They hit it of and as it oftened happened with Jalal, the conversation moved to discussing Jalal's crazy idea. Not only did Vilhelm listen, but unbeknownst to Jalal, Vilhellm had enough money and power to make Jalal's idea a reality.
Vilhelm had come from a very humble beginning. His parents fought hard to stay in one place as his father had often been uprooted when he was a child and wanted to keep his family in one place, no matter how hard it got financially. Vilhelm learned the value of having a job as he was able to pay his siblings, help out his parents and even paid for a large portion of a family vacation to Spain. Vilhelm worked hard in school, enjoyed challenging work and eventually was accepted into a German architecture school on a full tuition scholarship. He worked for several years to become licensed and then found he enjoyed studying growth and understanding the big picture more than humanistic architecture and went on to receive a Master's degree in urban design - specializing in real estate.
He worked for a non-profit for several years designing universities primarily in west Africa: Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana. Vilhelm loved the challenge of coordinating with international universities and working to build not only a beautiful campus unique to each location, but building an economy, a city, even a country.
But Vilhelm got fat - very fat. Not from eating or lack of exercise, but from some strange illness that caused him to have to sit down whenever he could just to catch his breath. Stairs were a nightmare, depression was heavy on him and he longed to solve this problem. During this time, his wife committed adultery and nearly destroyed him. His life was hitting a wall.
Much like Job, however, he never faltered and the Lord blessed him with the ability to forgive his estranged wife, build a stronger marriage, and he had a medical miracle. He became healthier than he had ever been and he had multiple for profit developments that were well beyond any measure of success he had ever used in the past.
He was at the wonderful point in the developer's world where he was able to use his own money to build an entire development - and even if the development folded he always seemed to still make out alright. He was blessed, he was wise and he was humble. It was no accident that he had sat by Jalal.
Jalal was quick to trust this quiet wise man, just by looking in his eyes. Jalal glanced around, just to make sure no one else was listening to their conversation and asked, "you really want to hear this crazy idea?"
"Sure" Vilhelm replied.
Jalal tried to explain "well, its kinda like a mini-world, but like a giant city. You know how Chicago, in America, Berlin in Germany or Tokyo, Japan have pockets of different cultures, even languages - China - Chinatown, Ireland - Irish part, Poland - Polish area, Israel - Jewish neighborhoods and others?"
Jalal continued, "this city would be designed to be like the world, if you looked at it from space, it would look like a map of the world - with oceans and seas - but on earth they would be like lakes and ponds."
Vilhelm caught on and confirmed, “like the World Islands outside of Dubai, United Arab Emirates?”
“Like what?” Jalal asked – surprised that Vilhelm had caught on so quickly and because he had not heard of these islands before.
Vilhelm continued, “a wealthy developer built a group of islands that looks like the world from above, like what you are talking about.”
Jalal was dumbfounded. Someone not only had taken his idea but they had already built it. Jalal took a drink of water. It was a stall technique – he didn't know how to take this news. At once he felt jealousy, anger, happiness, and optimistic that the Dubai developer may bring his idea to reality.
Jalal found his composure and slowed down his racing brain. He wanted to make sure to clearly lay out his idea, even with this new bit of concerning information. He knew it was such a grand idea that he couldn't sum it up in only a few words - his mind was worked faster than his mouth. He couldn't ruin this. This could be it.
Jalal looked at Vilhelm and didn't see disapproval, but a face of grace, so he continued "well we could use those islands if the developer let us, but I was envisioning something a little different and much bigger. Something painful with diplomacy and development. I thought we would lay out a map and use a ratio to give each country of the world a plot of land identical to its current legal shape. Each country would keep its own laws, currency, and hopefully culture. Children could learn about geography by watching a traditional performance in Thailand, having lunch in Indonesia, play cricket in Sri Lanka and then take a boat home to their parents."
"It does sound crazy, Jalal” Vilhelm said as he smiled “...but just crazy enough. I don't know what the size of the islands are, but what ratio are you thinking about?"
"Well,” Jalal paused, “my original idea was to make the city 100 kilometers by 100 kilometers and use whatever ratio would make the map fit, but that might be too big."
"That's huge” Vilhelm responded, “that's like a small country."
"Yeah, you're right - its about the size of Jamaica or Lebanon” Jalal acknowledged “...but, do you get the concept?"
Jalal seemed genuine and shared information he didn't need to. Vilhelm listened and smiled. Vilhelm got it. He wasn't into projects for the money - not just for the money - projects had to be able to pay for themselves, but he didn't have to make a killing. After his wife returned and their marriage healed, he donated one out of every ten of his developments to the Lord. He didn't have to work any more, but enjoyed helping people and so many people came to him for wise Cocil, he helped whenever he could. Jalal's idea seemed crazy and unorthodox, but there was something to it he couldn't shake. He told Jalal he would think about it. This allowed Vilhelm just enough time to make it his idea - to get the buy in that Jalal needed. Vilhelm took the idea seed and buried it.
“Jalal – I'm going to tell you something that is even more crazy than your idea” Vilhelm said excitedly like a schoolboy about to buy his first slingshot. Vilhelm, up to his point had remained very calm and had given his full attention to listening to Jalal's idea. But the Holy Spirit had clearly led Vilhelm to help Jalal – he even felt the confirming chill and knowing he had the full respect of his wife, Vilhelm confidently told Jalal the good news. “I'm willing to fund this entire city.”
Jalal was stunned. This was the best news he had heard in a long time. He began to cry. He asked Vilhelm if they could pray together and they leaned into each other and grabbed each others' hand. “Thank You Lord for allowing us to meet, thank You for preparing our hearts and lives for this moment and for giving us the opportunity to carry out this grand idea. May You be honored and glorified in the building of this city, Amen!”
The one missing piece that Jalal didn't understand was that developers needed incentives. There needed to be some clear benefit to overcome the high risk in nearly all developments. Every development is a gamble - one cannot control laws, trends, and economic forces. For major cities - the incentives are basically the access to the city center - business, trade - the proximity to so many people and services made developments profitable, but expensive. But some cities need to create incentives - tax free periods, public-private ventures, environmental rewards, etc. Even these didn't always work. But what if there wasn't a city to make incentives to attract developers and businesses to that city? How do you make a mega-city from scratch?
Another thing Vilhelm had learned over the years was the big difference between architecture and planning - architects usually can walk away from a project after their portion of the work has been completed. Planners, however, have to consider growth, and like a human has to continuously maintain their bodies, planners usually cannot just walk away. Planning is growth. Not that you could control growth, but using God's examples in nature, one could certainly make wise choices on how to channel growth.
Vilhelm realized one of the countries would have to go first and they would only go if the land was free. What if half of the land was free to the government of that country? Vilhelm thought.
Vilhelm was willing to take the risk of giving away land. He was convinced of the ironic profit that comes from generosity. Half of each property would go to the government of the given country for free based on a pre-agreed upon contract to provide the list of services aforementioned. The other half would be sold for profit to citizens of each country to build as they saw fit. He thought this might work - but he knew he would need some help and coordination.
Jalal and Vilhem met often to discus the world city and found they continued to build on each other's ideas, but they also came up with three important questions:
Where should this world city be located?
What about major issues like: security, espionage, religion, language barriers, cultural conflicts, legal issues, and diplomatic issues?
How long would it take before someone could move in?
Jalal and Vilhelm came up with several criteria to determine where the city should be located.
“It should be near the water so that ships could provide logistics and business opportunities.”
“It should be in a decent climate.”
“The country it lands in should be able to have over 10 times the available land.”
“The city should be in accordance with Biblical doctrine.”
“It should be near resources.”
“The city should be near as many countries as possible.”
They talked and considered and researched and finally came up with a list of twelve, the Lord lead Jalal to select Algeria. Vilhelm then paid for a trip for both families to take a trip to Chlef, Algeria. Both Vilhelm's family and Jalal's family knew this trip may be their last and so they made all the arrangements they could to settle all of their accounts. Their trip did turn out to be permanent. At first they lived in a hotel, but Vilhelm and Jalal quickly purchased a beautiful home for each family on the coast and began the process of settling in and hiring a staff.
One of the most important people they hired was Freshta, who was originally from Iran, but had settled in Algeria two decades ago. Freshta was a beautiful woman who could have carried herself like a princess, but instead humbly honored God by carrying out her missionary mission in Algeria. She came to the truth of Jesus because her grandfather had once gotten a piece of cheese wrapped in a page from a New Testament. Her grandfather lead her father to the truth of Jesus and she too had benefited from this wonderful truth. She felt a calling to serve the Lord in Algeria and sold everything she had and moved to Algeria. Freshta was a very powerful woman in Algeria, even though the vast majority of the people of Algeria were Muslim, she had gained the respect of the Berbers, the leaders, and just about everyone she met.
Freshta had been approached by international businesses, numerous intelligence agencies, and other profitable opportunities, but had refused them all, only to continue living at or below the poverty level. Freshta heard about Vilhelm and Jalal's families long before they heard about her. Freshta was well in tune with the real news channels – word of mouth.
No one in the Algeria local news could figure out what these two gentlemen and their families were up to. They set up an office in Chlef and were quietly purchasing vast amounts of land, seemingly starting on the coast near the Mediterranean and moving inland. After two months of purchasing land, some government officials came to visit their new office.
After a knock on the door, Jalal opened the door and asked the four men, “Can I help you gentlemen?”
“We have a few questions for you, we're from the government of Algeria.” The tall man responded as Jalal graciously let them in.
“Who are you two men with?” the government officials asked Vilhelm and Jalal.
“Well, its a long story, would you like some tea while we explain?” Jalal offered.
Jalal offered the men a seat and sat down with them while a local Algerian man who had been hired to help out around the office quickly offered hot tea and some candy from Bulgaria. Vilhelm was busy talking to another group at the time and joined the others after they had started their tea.
“We are looking to make a giant city in Algeria,” Jalal bluntly and honestly told them.
The men just smiled and the smallest of the four then relayed, “Our sources say you have purchased over 4,000 square kilometers of land in the last two months. Is this true?”
“No” the quiet Vilhelm said quickly, before Jalal had a chance to answer – Jalal looked at him with a very questioning look, wondering why this godly man would chose to lie to these officials. Jalal knew they had purchased nearly that number. Jalal was relieved, however, when Vilhelm continued, “we have purchased over 6,000 square kilometers and intend on purchasing an additional 4,000.”
“Wow, that's a lot of land – you really are going to make a giant city here in Algeria?” a third member of the official party asked, almost a little proud that his war torn country would become recognized at a world-wide level.
“Well that's the plan, we've got many more hurdles to jump over, but we needed to start quietly before the news got around and the prices rose too high.” Jalal again bluntly told the truth – unaware of the government official's motives and connections. But truth had always served him in the past. Why not share some more, “the remaining land all belongs to the government – do you know who we can talk to about purchasing that land from the government?”
The four men quietly talked amongst themselves. And then decided to leave. After they had gone, Vilhelm said “something seems fishy about the way they left – maybe you told them too much information.”
“I'm sorry Vilhelm, I'm just trying to build trust with them.” Jalal responded.
Jalal and Vilhelm continued their work and several weeks passed until they were visited by Freshta.
Freshta came unannounced – she had never been late for a meeting because she had never scheduled a meeting. Her personality and confidence allowed her the ability to “be where I am” as she often said. She didn't use any modern communication devices and always met in person. As major military commands have situation rooms that keep the commanders up to date on the latest information, Freshta had a constant circle of close friends who would spend time with her and keep her up to date on the latest bits of information in Algeria. She of course had not built this network up over the course of years, but of decades. Her twenty years in Algeria had been dedicated first to the gospel of Jesus Christ and secondly to helping the widows and orphans around her. Well, those widows often could only thank her by giving her timely information and the orphans grew up to be leaders in their communities – also very thankful for her constant generosity. Freshta loved people and the people of Algeria loved her. She was trusted and never once broke that trust. Every time she had gone to court or higher defending the rights of orphans or widows, she had won. Undefeated. She was powerful, influencial and yet humble and an excellent listener. She always smiled and floated as she walked.
Her network was so strong and so accurate that she was often sought out by Algerian government officials. One time a criminal had run away and was in hiding – the officials had looked everywhere and couldn't find him. Because the crime was very offensive, the manhunt had continued for two weeks – still with no success. The Algerians combed through every village the criminal had some association with until they came to the criminal's village of his childhood. He had come there knowing the people of the town would forgive him of his heinous crime and protect him against the officials. His trick worked – he downplayed the gravity of his offense and renewed relationships with all of his remaining family and friends in the town. When the officials approached the town asking to go door to door to find the criminal, the town refused and the officials could not even enter the town. The officials thought – the only reason they would refuse us access would be if he is hiding among them.
The officials went back and brought 200 soldiers to destroy the entire city if they would not hand over the criminal. Again the town refused and before the commander of the soldiers was able to order the destruction of the city, one of the nearby villagers asked the officials if they could get Freshta to help resolve this matter.
Freshta came immedietly and asked if she could speak to both sides to understand the situation. They granted her some time, but warned her that the entire city would be destroyed if the criminal was not handed over. Much like the wise woman in the Bible who threw down the head of Sheba to save her city, Freshta wanted to save this city and carry out justice. So she arranged for a public trial. Through her sources she had been informed of the criminal's lie and she thought if the city new the gravity of his crime they would gladly turn him in to save their city. Her wisdom worked.
The lead Algerian official loudly listed off the crime and even provided evidence of the crime that was irrefutable. The city leaders then talked for a long time and finally agreed to turn in their son. Justice had been served, the city had been saved and Freshta continued to build up a strong reputation for the people of Algeria.
But her sources couldn't piece together what these two foreigners were doing buying up so much land. It didn't make any sense, was there some valuable mineral under ground? Could it be a gold mine? Oil? What could be so valuable that these two men would spend so much money buying land? She had to know, her curiosity was getting itchy.
So she showed up – unannounced. Jalal and Vilhelm were in the middle of negotiations for some government property when Freshta knocked on the door. Jalal answered the door and was shocked by her beauty in rural Algeria – he caught his breath and asked “can I help you, ma'am?”
“Just brought over these sweets and this fruit and wanted to meet the neighbors.” Freshta said as she used her body language to move into the office.
Jalal didn't quite yet understand why she was here and why such a beautiful woman would be in Algeria knocking on their door and started “Well thank you very much...”
“Freshta – do you mind if I sit down?” she confidently asked.
By this time Vilhelm had peeked in and asked the government officials if he could continue at a later date – besides, they were unwilling to sell their property, so a break was necessary anyway.
Vilhelm walked in as Jalal asked is she needed anything to drink.
“Tea please, but only if you're having some.” She smiled her big smile.
The men were really confused as to why she was here. She could tell by their body language that she was confusing them, so she continued as Jalal washed some clear cups for saffron tea. “I've been in Algeria for twenty years and I'm very familiar with all types of people – religious, businessmen, merchants, tourists, government officials, oil companies, but I cannot figure out who you are.”
Both men looked at each other and offered the other to speak first. Jalal spoke first, “that's a good question, we're trying to figure out who we are too!”
They chuckled and then Vilhelm bluntly said, “we're building a very large city here.”
“Here? There's nothing here – who will come to Algeria? Are you going to expand Chlef?” Freshta asked.
“Chlef will stay as it is, but I think it will grow some as it will become the new Algeria District.” Jalal said.
Now it was Freshta's turn to be confused – she only had heard a part of the idea and was having trouble piecing the puzzle together in her head, so she took a long sip of the bright yellow tea and smiled. Sometimes she smiled just to show she was thinking about something. Vilhelm left the room on a mission and quickly brought back a map.
“Usually Jalal is the trusting one, but there is something about you that I trust.” Vilhelm complimented Freshta.
“This city plan has not been shown to anyone outside of this room other than to our wives.” Vilhelm continued.
“What we are trying to do is build a mega-city that reflects the world map, assigning districts to every country in the world – so you can see that Chlef was the most populated area and will become the Algeria District.” Vilhelm pointed out. Freshta was understanding, she was getting it.
“OK, now I understand what you are doing, but why are you doing it?” Freshta asked a loaded question.
“I don't know what you believe or what your background is, but Vilhelm and I are both Christians and feel lead to build this city. Every morning before we start our day we pray about this city and the issues that we are currently dealing with.” Jalal answered.
“I'm a Christian too, in fact I'm a missionary here to the people of Algeria.” Freshta smiled even brighter and continued. “This is the craziest thing that has ever happened to Algeria, I think. I bet you've hit some walls dealing with the government officials haven't you?”
Vilhelm took this one, “We have – you know, it's funny you should mention that – our negotiations have fallen down the cliff and I'm thinking we'll have to change our plans.”
“Who are you dealing with?” Freshta asked bluntly.
“There's a man named Engineer Djamel who seems to be on a power trip.” Jalal responded just as bluntly.
“Let me see what I can do to help” Freshta offered – clearly not promising or giving a great deal of hope, but showed the same determination that a young child says about completing an adult's task as all the adults smile knowingly.
“Do you want to work for us?” they both asked.
“Let me think and pray about it, but there would be several conditions – like I would have full freedom of movement and you would have to trust my way of doing things, I don't like to be micromanaged and I want to continue to be available to the people I am already helping.” Freshta paused, making sure she wasn't forgetting anything.
“Well let us know, we'll gladly hire you on as our senior advisor.” Jalal was the first to come up with a job title.
“Let's pray about this,” Vilhelm wisely interceded. The three gathered closer together and leaned in, bowing their heads, Vilhelm started, “Dear Lord, You know how we are very dim lights in a dark country – may our efforts here be not for our glory, but so that Your light may shine bright and that all nations may know about Your truth. Lord of Heaven's Armies, I lift up to you today our new friend Freshta and ask You Lord to give us the wisdom and knowledge to make the right decisions about Freshta. May we trust Your leading and guidance in our lives.”
Freshta and Jalal also prayed. After much more discussing and lunch, Freshta agreed to work for Jalal and Vilhelm. And then Freshta left with as little fanfare as she had brought – both sides a little more connected with Algeria.
The problem Vilhem had been dealing with was not really about money or laws or even politics, it was about personalities, power and pride. Or in other words, Engineer Djamel. Eng Djamel was chubby with some disease on his hands that caused his skin to look like it was peeling and pale. He would eat alone at the Ministry and didn't seem to have any friends. He was fiercely loyal to his management, to a fault. No one worked for him for very long, he was a very difficult person. Eng Djamel's background was a bit mysterious, but most associates agreed he must of had a hard childhood and now hung onto every powerful position he could acquire. Now he was in the position to represent Algeria in the Ministère de l'Aménagement du Territoire et de l'Environnement. Eng Djamel's signature was necessary for the Minister to approve of the rest of the land to not only be converted to an urban area, but to be sold to Vilhelm.
As you can imagine, he was not willing to sell, let alone convert the land use designation. He refused to listen to reason, he seemed to want a bribe. Jalal and Vilhem refused to consider giving a bribe – they wanted to honor God in all of their dealings and this would violate that honor. Jalal and vilhelm decided to put Freshta on the job and see what she could do – they figured they had nothing to lose.
Freshta was not familiar with the Ministry's structure or Eng Djamel's position, but she understood from listening to Jalal and Vilhelm that she needed to get his buy-in without allowing a bribe. She wanted to know if insider information counted as a bribe. Jalal and Vilhelm struggled with this issue, if insider information was given to Eng. Djamel, it would look like a bribe as he would possibly be able to make more money than those without the information. This didn't seem like a good course of action. So they came up with another idea – a media power play.
After confirming that all the available land had been purchased except for the land owned by the Ministère de l'Aménagement du Territoire et de l'Environnement – the corporation decided to go public. They were not sure how the community would take the news, but they went through various channels to make sure that as many people in Algeria (and the world) as possible knew about this great city.
This backfired – Eng Djamel now realized he could easily get 4 – 5 times the amount what the land was worth. And after he sold it to the corporation, he could demand a “fee” (i.e., bribe) to convert the land into a city use. Eng Djamel was busy for the next few weeks as you could imagine – now he did have friends at lunch, at work, after work – Eng Djamel became a popular person after the media blitz. He was in a position of power and now the world knew about it and he relished every minute of it. He would hold interviews, discussions, debates and any other event that inflated his ego or paid handsomely.
Freshta offered an interview and since there was a fair market cost on getting an interview (i.e., not a bribe) she arranged to talk to Eng Djamel for one hour. He was unaware that she was with the corporation and therefore was less guarded in what he said. He used the questions Freshta gave him to circle back and talk about himself and his numerous achievements. He seemed to be flirting with the beautiful woman, but quickly grew gravely serious when she offered to purchase the land herself.
“You cannot afford to buy this land,” the engineer said bluntly.
“Maybe not, but is anyone else willing to purchase this land?” she asked.
“Actually I've gotten three different offers, including yours.” he proudly stated.
“Let me ask you a question Engineer Djamel – if I already owned the land and you wanted to purchase the land from me – for government use – for this ministry, let's say – what would be a fair price to pay?” she cleverly asked.
“Fair market value, ma'am – I would do research in the areas around the land to determine a reasonable price and offer something lower to the owners of the land and if they refused I would use eminent domain to take the land from you and provide you with a reasonable price for your land.” he honestly stated.
Freshta smiled as she came up with a solution to purchase the land – from the mouth of Eng Djamel himself. “How much revenue do you gain from the land for the government?” She asked another loaded question.
“We actually lose money on the land – it costs so much to maintain the land, the roads, the buildings and all the property that we actually lose money – but not enough to give away the land.” Eng Djamel realized she was up to something but couldn't figure out what. He didn't like his answer, but he had been as honest as possible. She concluded the interview as best she could to hide her excitement, she found his weak spot.
Freshta had a very good friend who worked at the Ministère du Tourisme et de l'Artisanat. The Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft was always looking for ways to encourage people from other countries to come to Algeria. Freshta decided to pay her friend a visit.
“Here's my crazy idea” Freshta finished her tea and set down her clear glass next to the candy wrapper. She still had a sweet tooth and only burned off a large amount of calories because she walked everywhere she could – trips longer than 10 kilometers she usually found some other form of transportation.
“I have a way for the Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft to bring in millions of tourists a year to Algeria.” She confidently stated.
“How? Is it something to do with this mega-city idea?” her friend asked.
“Yes, but we're having trouble with the last part of the land. Here's my idea – would your ministry be willing to go in on a public-private venture to acquire the rest of the land? Your ministry could purchase the land from the Ministry of Land-use Planning and Environment at fair market value and then you could convert the land use to tourism – allowing us to build a mega-city, bringing millions of permanent tourists to Algeria.” Freshta slowly spoke to make sure the heavy concepts soaked in.
Freshta's good work paid off and it was actually a very easy transaction to do. The Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft was able to acquire the land from the Ministère de l'Aménagement du Territoire et de l'Environnement at the fair market value price. The Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft was able to then sell much of their land in accordance with the corporation's plan and made their money back within two years.
The media blitz didn't hit all the countries of the world and even those countries who were exposed to the concept didn't all jump right in. The marketing team continued the world-wide advertizing campaign, trying to get the low hanging fruit - the easy to convince people and nations. Money was spent on various forms of media and in the primary 40 languages of the world. It was hard to cram such a new concept and so much information into simple advertizing, but the marketing firm picked out two or three valuable benefits to the city and focused on those. One that continuously came up was economic development, followed closely by world-wide sporting events (e.g. World Cup, Olympics, etc.).
Most consumers had to use their imagination and as the marketing campaign was intended to just shake the tree - it was successful in getting seven nations to buy into the city within three months of the marketing campaign starting. The first seven countries to commit funds to the mega-city project were: Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Iraq, Equatorial Guinea, Saudia Arabia and Bolivia.
By the end of the year, all of the land for the mega-city was purchased or owned by the corporation, the Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft or one of the early seven nations. The seven nations had many questions and needed clarification of what the rules or expectations were. The corporation realized they needed to formulate some system of governance.
The analogy would be like the World Cup. Every team who competes in the World Cup must follow the same rules, use the same boundaries, use the same ball, etc. But each country is free to wear unique uniforms, play a unique strategy, and speak whatever language they want.
The corporation decided that they would need to come up with boundaries or house rules that everyone could “play” within. But that would have to wait till next year.
“Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city.” Ecclesiastes 7:19 (NIV)
“But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabath day holy by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David's throne wil come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the ment of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever.” Jeremiah 17:24-25 (NIV)
Year 3 Roots
The corporation put together a comprehensive salary package to draw the world's best and brightest leaders to help draw up a constitution. This group of leaders would make up what will be known as the Cocil. Before the city could be established, a Cocil and a constitution was enacted. A selection committee was put together to solicit a Cocil that was representative of the world.
It was decided to set the Cocil number at 10 members. Then of course some rules were applied so there was fairness and equality as much as possible. When the dust settled, the Cocil was made up of 5 men and 5 women. The men were from India, South Korea, Tanzania, Brazil, and France. The women were from United Kingdom, Australia, Nicaragua, Iran and South Africa. The ten then selected a chairman and vice chairman - Augustine from France and Molly from Australia were chosen.
Augustine was a lawyer and very informed on global movements - it was uncanny how he almost knew in advance about both good news and bad news. He was a realist. But he also had a vast knowledge of gritty solutions that worked. His solutions to problems were not the most obvious, but when one looks at history books you could almost see that he had copied his answers and rarely came up with his own ideas. He was able to implement very complicated problems and was very patient - almost as if he could see years in advance and knew it would take time to reach goals. He was very much like a visionary leader who could see victory so clearly that others around him followed, hoping to catch a glimpse of the paradise he saw. He was the perfect candidate for the job of chairman.
Molly, had she been half a century younger, would have made a fine cheerleader. She bought into the vision of the world city and championed it wherever she went. She had been a pioneer in Australia - often boldly breaking ground where others were hesitant or risk adverse to go. She also was very proactive and communicated well in advance. She was a pleasure to work for, work with and have as an employee. Though no one but her parents, teachers, coaches and early bosses could recall her working for them. She was so quick and sharp that she quickly rose to the top in anything she attempted. She had served in the military when women were still second class in most militaries. She had started her own sales company when others feared to step out on their own. She had started a city on the coast of Australia as an investment - against sage advice of nearly all her family and financial advisers - only to see her money triple as the city grew in immense popularity. She was the perfect candidate for the job of vice-chairman.
Much like city plans of the past, these regulations and regulators would have a significant influence in what the city would look and act like in the future. Sadly one of the non-offensive rules was never brought in and so sexual immorality would not have reigns and would soon destroy the city from within. Morals - politically incorrect to force on others, so the Cocil thought - would not be written in to the constitution unless they directly affected other people. Of course 99% of what the Cocil worked hard to prepare was solid, thought out and wisely planned.