Rick Gregory, Writer

Translating Messages From Heads To Hearts

Governors and Tractors

One of my last blog entries talked about “waiting . . .” and feeling a bit melancholic about my time here at Werkok, after having such wild success meeting with the Governor early on about our Ag project. I think now I know what I was waiting for! When Sherry and I returned from Uganda several years ago, we wondered at what training we might seek, to make us more useful in Africa. Sherry received her graduate degree in Nursing School and I got a degree in Animal Science, followed by a graduate degree in International Development. My thought was that I could use the animal husbandry as a part of development to have some type of significant impact in the lives of even a few people. I dreamed of farms and animal projects, but wondered how they fit with the hospital. Almost immediately after arriving in Werkok, Sherry was immersed in the life of the hospital and in the lives of the hospital staff and patients who have grown to love her (no surprise there). I was here . . . still just sort of . . . waiting, for our AgSudan project to take off, and trying to busy myself in whatever construction projects Dave (Mueller) needed help with.

A few days ago, here in Werkok, we received a visitor from an organization called World Gospel Mission (WGM). Reuben is a specialist in Community Development, with particular expertise in agriculture. When I described my “dreams of farms and animal projects,” he got all excited and said that when he was here last October, he prayed for exactly the same kinds of things – and that I was the answer to his prayers! We started brainstorming last night about how we might provide some hope and empowerment for a group of “women-at-risk,” and talked more this morning about whether we might have enough time before the rains really start, to cultivate several acres for planting either sorghum or maize. If it was to happen, we needed to get our hands on a tractor – TODAY! We’ve had over a week of no rain, following several days of rather heavy rains, so everyone is madly tilling the softened soil to get ready for immediate planting. About 3 weeks ago, Governor Kuol Manyang promised us a tractor, which was to be delivered by the Commissioner of Bor – but we still haven’t seen it, so Reuben and I decided to head to Bor to “collect the tractor promised by the Governor.”

Getting with a Governor isn’t an easy thing. We arrived at about 12:30pm and found him there, but in meetings that had started early in the morning and still continued. His secretary, Jacob, suggested we get lunch and come back at 3:00pm. After a wonderful meal of ugali, 2 goat dishes, cow pea greens and pinto beans, washed down with 2 ice-cold Cokes (at the Freedom Hotel), we headed back to the Governor’s office. He had left directions for us to meet with the Minister of Agriculture. Reuben, Jacob, another aide named Bol, and I piled into the Land Cruiser and tracked down the Minister, and caught him napping. He roused himself (he’s rather elderly), met with us and told us we could certainly have a tractor, after we paid an installment of 10,000 Sudanese pounds. This caught me completely off guard. When the Governor told me we could have a tractor – twice – there were no conditions. I had heard some buzz that there was some sort of price that might be charged, but I had no idea that it was the equivalent of nearly $5,000! I only had $1,500!!

As the Minister of Agriculture explained the new deal, and sent us on a wild goose chase to another government official, I wondered if we shouldn’t again try to get some clarification from the Governor. We went back to his office and found him gone. Jacob said he had meetings all afternoon with UNHCR folks and other Ministers . . . but if we wanted to wait, we might try again at around 5:00pm when he might return for a few minutes. We headed back to the Freedom for another round of cold drinks and at about 4:15 trudged back to the Governor’s office. He was there. Jacob said he’d been waiting for us and he would take us in to see the Governor momentarily. The Governor looked tired after an entire day of meetings, dealing with inter-tribal warfare and insecurity, UN folks wanting info about Darfur and we were talking about a tractor. He remembered our AgSudan plan, remembered Mamer, and remembered our meeting with him last March. When I told him I was confused about the Minister of Agriculture demanding 10,000 Sudanese pounds (as a down payment) for the tractor, he shook his head, called his secretary and asked her to call Dr. Biar. About 15 minutes later, in strolled the elderly Minister of Agriculture we had caught napping and who had sent us to another official. Governor Kuol told him basically that he was to find a way to give us a tractor – today and for the $1,500 I had with me! He reiterated that the money wasn’t the issue; what mattered is that we had committed to invest in the lives of the people.

The poor Minister of Agriculture was a bit frustrated. He was told to give us a tractor for the $1,500, but the Finance folks were already gone, the technicians assembling the tractor components were gone, but I was still standing with him, smiling and telling him I had this window of dry weather and needed the tractor now . . . and how could we work this out? He made some phone calls, the Director General came (I have no idea who this guy is or what he does, but he was the keeper of the tractor keys) and said that with the Minister’s and Governor’s signatures, I can pick up the tractor tomorrow morning at 8:30am. “Don’t worry about the money; you can bring it sometime on Monday,” was the Ministers comment as he left. Really? They’re letting us take the tractor before we’ve paid them? Were my ears deceiving me? I could almost hear the Lord laughing with us as He moved the hearts and hands of Sudanese government officials!