Nathan lost control of the tractor. It was his first time to drive the new machine, and the mechanics were foreign to him. Donald was running alongside him, shouting instructions.
“Clutch the tractor! Turn it off!”
Right before he careened into a ditch, Nathan killed the ignition.
“Why did you not just press the clutch?” Donald asked. “It’s just like an automobile.”
The Ugandan turned to the Louisiana farmer and answered, “I have never driven an automobile.”
Erwinville grain farmer Donald Schexnayder was one of six people from The Chapel on the Campus in Baton Rouge to visit Fort Portal, Uganda, back in February. Schexnayder and John B. Coast, owner of Coast Machinery, traveled halfway around the world to teach Nathen and two other Ugandans how to farm using a tractor.
The 600 students of the Nyambuga Christian School walk up to five miles each day to get to class. Most are fed only one small meal at their homes in the evening. The lack of sufficient food leaves them so tired and undernourished they have difficulty staying awake in class.
The school sits on fertile land, though—an opportunity Sister Gertrude, its director, recognized. Unfortunately, she could not afford the equipment to farm it—until a Chapel member, who whishes to remain anonymous, donated two John Deere 65 HP tractors, a disc, tiller, plow, row builders, cultivator, bush hog and a customized John Deere 7100 2-row planter to the Ugandan school.
The equipment was sent to Fort Portal in October 2011 with donated shipping charges of $13,000
“With this tractor, we can do in one day what it took us two months to do by hand,” Sister Gertrude says. “We will now be able to feed our students and have surplus to sell.”
Before the equipment arrived, Schexnayder says they were planting small amounts of corn using a marked rope.
“They would stretch it out and, at the marks, they would dig a hole and drop 2-3 corn seeds, cover and move on,” he says. “Once they reached the end of the rope, they would move it over and continue the same.”
In Fort Portal, only the government and large plantations can afford to own modern farming machinery like the tractor. For their farming tools, “they have cane knives and shovels,” Schexnayder says. “Worlds of difference.”
Because tractors are so rare, Schexnayder and Coast had to train Nathen, Nyambuga head director, and the other men to operate it. They were “trained in all aspects of the operations and upkeep of the tractors and equipment,” says Dennis Eenigenburg, former teaching pastor at The Chapel and current president of Equipping Network, the nonprofit organization that sponsored the trip. Equipping Network provides seminary-accredited training to third-world pastors and economic and agricultural enrichment projects in high-need areas through local churches.
This was Eenigenburg’s third trip to Uganda, one of the more than 20 countries he’s been to for missionary work. When he visited the school on a previous trip, he saw the need for proper farm equipment. He says Baton Rouge responded with an overwhelming show of generosity.
He recruited Schexnayder and Coast to plot corn, but this mission trip was multi-functional. He also drafted two businessmen, Pinson & Associates owner Bret Pinson and Hub International employee Kit Marye, to lead business seminars in two large churches in Kampala, a four-hour drive from Fort Portal. Because of these seminars, funds were raised for a micro-finance bank in Kampala to offer loans for new start-up businesses.
Eenigenburg’s son Jon was the sixth member of the mission trip. He went for the children. During the trip, he participated in several children’s festivals and worked with Mercy Childcare Orphanage in Kampala. Mercy builds cottages for family-structured (two parents and six children) living, improving on the typical dormitory-style orphanage.
“Following the trip,” Dennis Eenigenburg says, “we have been able to secure donations for the sponsorship of some of these orphans, as well as interest in helping with the construction of new cottages for the 86 children under their care.”
According to Eenigenburg, Ugandans earn, on average, $500 per year, “yet have the most joyous and hospitable demeanor. Out of their poverty and persecution, they have developed a faith in Jesus Christ that literally trusts him for their daily bread.”
Through donations made by members of The Chapel on the Campus, the people of Fort Portal are able to grow the grain for their daily bread, too.