|"Parting of the Red Sea" - version 1|
when you are guests in a country, you have to play by your host's rules. What happens when your host doesn't actually know what it's rules are? bureaucratic red tape chaos. When you are a new country, you have the privilege of making your own new rules. It's great. Freedom = choice. BUT when this freedom is found in a context like that of South Sudan, in an African context in which organization is NOT a cultural strong suit, freedom = choice = mayhem! With no strong centralized process, every office takes the opportunity to call its own shots and every person in every office takes the opportunity to call their own shots depending on, well, who knows what, depending on the color of the shoes they're wearing that day or the number of full matatus that passed by them that morning on their way into work, I have no idea really. It takes "getting the run around" to a totally new level. Totally contrary information from every person you talk to, spending days going from office to office, desk to desk, as the amount of money that you owe in order to play by the rules goes up and up and up...
when you have even a single bone of organizational capacity in your body as a missionary you find yourself in the role of pursuing logistical issues for your team. Like the African context, the missionary context is not one of organizational strength. I'm a nurse. I'm pretty good at following rules/directions. It's a professional liability not to be. But when you don't know what the directions are, things get, well, let's just say "complicated."
Our team has been trying to play by non-existent rules for several years now, and it's kind of exhausting. Our operational certification as an NGO expires in October and in like good missionaries we are trying to gather what we need in advance and be prepared for the mayhem that awaits us in Juba. It's a really long story, which would probably bore most of you, but it involves wading through the sea of red tape and trying to figure out what our hosts rules are and how we need to go about playing by them...NGO's need to employ a certain percentage of national staff and have work permits and we are an NGO but we partner with the church and what does that mean for our status with the government, and what if our goal as an organization is to strengthen and equip and encourage South Sudanese in already existing positions NOT to create new positions that will then one day cease to exist...we are willing to pay our dues but what if we are being charged dues without explanation of what they are for, or being charged for fees in years that the country did not exist...and the list goes on...
But there is hope at the end of the tunnel. The week in which we were trying to make decisions as a team about how to move forward we had a guest - WHM South Sudan's Miri Moto compound has become a tourist destination believe it or not - soon you'll be able to find us on Yelp! - and this particular week we had guests from Maridi and Uganda taking their R&R time with us - the guest from Maridi overheard us discussion our dilemmas and recommended we talk to his team leader who had recently sorted through similar issues...anyone able to shed ANY light on this chaos was very welcome, so I gave Leah a call...I don't even know Leah's second name...I just know she is an American living in Maridi and leading a team there. But that's more than enough to elicit a phone call.
Who knew. Leah is a rock star. I mean, not a REAL rock star, but a South Sudanese red tape rock star for sure, which is actually just as cool as a REAL rock star. She informed me of their team's very recent saga which had come to completion in the last few weeks due to help from another large missions agency in country..."AAAHHHHHH!!!!!" - I'm pretty sure the angelic music was audible. Turns out I have a nurse friend who works for said large missions agency who happens to be in Canada at the moment, which happens to be 8-10 hours behind us right now...and who happened to be online at that very moment...*unashamed plug for the Facebook chat function - never know when it might come in handy*...and you'll never believe this, but with Facebook chat and international emails between 3 countries on 2 continents, within 30 minutes my 2nd South Sudanese red tape rock star friend, Christiane, had hooked me up with a word document of exactly what we needed to do...yes, a word document...4 pages of pure gold! Pure gold that outlined step by step, bullet point by bullet point what we needed to do to pursue registration as a Faith Based Organization...which seems to fit who we are much more than an NGO which puts us on equal par with those giants of UNICEF and WFP and such...did I mention there were contact names and phone numbers? Did I mention there were scanned copies of the application form? UN-BE-LIEVABLE! A registration that supposedly negates our need for work permits (ie. saving us literally thousands of dollars) and gives us approval for 1 yr multiple entry visas...incredible...seems too good to be true in fact...all of my bosses (Bishop here in South Sudan, and Michael Masso from the USA) grilled me on the legitimacy of such a thing...but I had done my homework...well, my friends had done their homework and I had read their answers so-to-speak, and it seems legit...for real!
Just the night before I had been at my wit's end, fed up with trying to figure out the system, fed up with trying to ask "permission to be" from people who didn't seem to want me to be...my teammates had tried to tell me it was going to be okay, but I wasn't quite sure. I was kinda worried we were going to be kicked out of the country...for real. The next morning my teammates prayed, and within hours it all came together...I was interrupting the teacher training going on with texts of excitement..."call me at your earliest convenience" I told Bethany, our fearless interim team leader at the time..."What is it?!" she said when she found her earliest convenience...and I launched into the kind of unbelievable saga of the morning...Now, I'm not sure about your feelings about prayer, honestly sometimes I'm not sure either, but this seemed like a pretty direct answer...I could hardly contain myself...and usually I have no problem containing myself...containment issues are not really a Lutjens problem...
But ladies and gentlemen, the saga is not quite over. If you believe that prayer moves things, then I'd appreciate you take up our cause in your prayers...Bishop took our FBO paperwork to Juba on Friday, and hopefully passed it along to an ECS logistician....
- pray this logistician, Mawa, would be willing and ready to process our paperwork for us
- pray that the Bureau of Religious Affairs would be willing and ready to accept our application without delay
- pray that the BoRA would readily give us an approval letter for the Ministry of Interior
- pray that the Ministry of Interior would readily accept the BoRA letter and give us an approval letter for 1 yr multiple entry visas for our whole team
- pray that in fact, this registration/these visas negate our need for work permits in a very above the board way
I've never been so amazed. Makes me a little more willing to pray big....but I need your help.
|"Parting of the Red Sea - version 2"|