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Lay preachers with picture rolls being trained in South Sudan, c. 1994.

Photo courtesy of Sven H. Jensen.

Sudan

By Sven Hagen Jensen

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Sven Hagen Jensen, M.Div. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA) has worked for the church for over 50 years as a pastor, editor, departmental director, and church administrator in Denmark, Nigeria and the Middle East. Jensen enjoys reading, writing, nature and gardening. He is married to Ingelis and has two adult children and four grandchildren.

First Published: December 7, 2022

Background

Sudan, officially known as the Republic of the Sudan (Arabic: جمهورية السودان), is a country in Northeast Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, Libya to the northwest, Egypt to the north, Eritrea to the northeast, Ethiopia to the southeast, South Sudan to the south and the Red Sea. It has a population of 45.7 million (as of 2022) and occupies 1,886,068 square kilometers (728,215 square miles). Its capital is Khartoum (639,598 inhabitants), and its most populated city is Omdurman (2,577,780 inhabitants, and part of the metropolitan area of Khartoum).1 Arabic is the official language although English is widely used.2 Approximately 97% of the population adheres to Islam, divided between the Sufi and Salafi Muslims.

Long-established groups of Coptic, Greek, Ethiopian, and Eritrean Orthodox Christians exist in Khartoum and in some eastern and northern cities. These groups are mainly made up of refugees and migrants from the past few decades. Smaller groups such as the Armenian Apostolic and Sudan Evangelical churches also have a presence.3 The Adventist membership in the Republic dropped drastically to a few hundred after South Sudan received its independence in 2011.4

In the Bible, Sudan is referred to as “Cush” or “Kush” and sometimes translated as “Ethiopia.”5 In classical times (also known as Nubia), it was situated partly in what is now called Egypt and partly in the Sudan. Its northern border was the 1st cataract at Aswan and its southern border remained undefined. The country is frequently mentioned in the Bible, which speaks of its rivers (Is. 18:1; Zep. 3:10), most likely the White and the Blue niles, possibly also the Atbara. Cush or Ethiopia is also mentioned as the land of certain precious stones (Job 28:19), and as a land noted for its trade (Is. 45:14). In the Book of Psalms, David spoke of a time when the country would submit herself to God (Ps. 68:31).6

During its 4,000-year history, it was part of many empires: Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Turkish, and British. In the seventh century, B.C.E. Egypt was ruled by Sudanese (“Ethiopian”) pharaohs. The Kingdom of Kush ruled from c. 785 B.C.E.-350 C.E. Following its fall, the Nubians formed the three Christian kingdoms of Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia. After long resistance against Islam in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, most of the Sudan was gradually settled by Arab nomads. Islam eventually came to dominate the area, although there were pockets of resistance up until around 1500. Early in the 19th century, Egypt began to annex Sudan, and by the end of the century, it came under a joint British-Egyptian administration. This arrangement lasted until 1956 after which Sudan received its independence. 7 8

Since 1956, Sudan has been subjected to a long series of unstable parliamentary governments and military regimes. In 1983, military leader Jaafar Nimeiry introduced sharia, which exacerbated the rift between the Islamic North, the seat of the government, and the Animists and Christians in the South. Differences in language, religion, and political power erupted in a civil war between government forces and rebels in the South (known as the National Islamic Front) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

The end of the 30-year civil war in 2011 led to the formation of an independent South Sudan.9 From 1989 to 2019, Sudan was subject to a military dictatorship that was led by Omar al-Bashir. His heavy-handed rule led to the war in Dafur in 2003 where Bashir was accused of ethnic cleansing. After prolonged protests that erupted in 2018 demanding Bashir’s resignation, he was deposed by a coup d’état on April 11, 2019, and imprisoned.10 Since August 20, 2019, Sudan has been governed by the Sovereignty Council of Sudan. Islam had been the state religion and Islamic laws were applied from 1983 until 2020 when the country became a secular state.11

The Early Entry of Adventism in Sudan

The plan of entering Sudan to establish the Adventist message took place as early as the 1892 General Conference meetings when Church leaders voted to send a missionary there. However, this early attempt failed since Sudan had already been partitioned between other Christian denominations who had entered the country first, and there was no space left to be allocated to the Adventist Church.12

In November 1909, L. R. Conradi (G.C. vice president for the European Division) traveled from Russian to Ethiopia, arriving at Port Sudan on the Red Sea. From there he took the train on a 24-hour trip through mountains and deserts to Khartoum. Considering the mission possibilities in this mighty African country, he later wrote: “Thus far there are only a few Protestant mission stations in Sudan. When will the Seventh-day Adventist missionaries enter this vast field? These thoughts filled our minds as a few of us called on Mr. Toumaian, and then in his house had a little Sabbath prayer meeting, the first undoubtedly held in the Sudan. There is one Sabbath keeper here at least to witness for the truth.”13

In a report from the Northern European Division in 1937, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was still listed among other unentered countries across Africa. The president of the division, W. E. Read, wrote: “In these lands are large populations that have never heard of the blessed gospel of Christ. This is a great burden on our hearts, and we wish that in some way plans could be laid to enter quickly the unentered sections of our field.”14

While the Adventists were once again trying to make plans to enter the Sudan, the Moslem government took steps in 1951 to spread Islam in the south, where a few Christian missions had been allowed to work. The “Religious World” section of the March 1951 Adventist Review stated: “A law has been passed by the Sudan Legislature permitting Moslem missionaries to work in the South Sudan under same conditions applying to Christian missionaries. Meanwhile a Moslem missionary movement has been organized in Khartoum to promote the spread of Islam among the pagan tribes. Also passed by legislature was a law which put a new burden on Christian mission schools by making Arabic the official language of the whole tribal Sudan.”15

Not to be deterred, however, the publishing and home missionary director of the Nile Union Mission, Hilmy Barbawy, made an initial survey trip to the Sudan in June 1952. He sold many books and a large number of subscriptions for the Arabic magazine, Hope. In addition, he enrolled approximately 600 new students in the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence Course.16 This prepared the way for a personal and confidential visit by Nile Union Mission President Neal Wilson, with His Excellency Sir El Sayed-Abdul Rahman El Mahdi Pasha, the leading figure in Sudan. As a result, the door opened to allow for the first Adventist missionary to enter Sudan.17

In January 1953, Barbawy accompanied Egyptian licensed minister, Faris Basta Bishai, his Lebanese wife Laurice Akar Bishai, and their baby son, to Khartoum. They were joined a few days later by Pastor Wilson. A presentable building was acquired, and the first missionary couple to Sudan settled down to begin their work.18

Sudan Mission was established and administered from Cairo, Egypt.19 Pastor Bishai was an extrovert, and his method was primarily friendship evangelism and personal Bible studies.20 During his first year as an Egyptian family, Mounir Andrawis and his wife, were among the first converts.21 They went to Beirut for one year to attend Middle East College (1954-1955) and then returned to Khartoum to resume the missionary work that was begun in the capital.

The main way of evangelism was through the distribution of relief clothing and promotion of Bible correspondence school lessons. A Sabbath school of 11 members was established.22 In the summer of 1960, four student colporteurs earned scholarships for Middle East College through sales of health literature in Sudan. In 1961, S. Johnson, an American missionary, attempted to organize temperance and welfare activities at Khartoum, but was not permitted to continue working after his residence permit was denied by the government.23

On Sabbath, April 22, 1961, the first indigenous Sudanese, Samuel Guell, was baptized. He was 19 years old and from a village near Malakal in Southern Sudan. He had already accepted Christianity after attending a Protestant mission school and met Mounir when he came to work in Khartoum. Samuel began to attend the nightly meetings in Mounir’s home along with 10 to 15 other young men from Southern Sudan. Some of them were already keeping the Sabbath, paying a faithful tithe, and studying in the baptismal class. Samuel had a great desire to return to his village and share his new-found faith. The Church leadership would have liked to send him for training at Middle East College, but the Sudanese government did not permit passports to the Southern Sudanese students to travel outside the country.24

In the turmoil surrounding the civil strife in the 1960s, the Church organization lost all track of the Adventist members in Sudan. Once more in 1969, the Middle East Division declared Sudan unentered territory. In early 1970, a literature evangelist was sent to Khartoum to restore the work there, but was not granted permission.25

Even that treacherous civil war (called the first Anyana, August 1955–March 1972) provided new gospel opportunities. People were exiled to Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lebanon, and other countries. Some, like John Yanga and Bilal Aventore, attended Adventist schools, one of which was Bugema in Uganda, where Professor Monroe Morford taught. A group of Sudanese Protestant clergy first heard about Adventism when they relocated to Lebanon and studied at Near East School of Theology in Beirut.26

Ret Chol, an Adventist Sudanese graduate from Middle East College, was employed by the United Nations in Ethiopia to work with the Sudanese refugees at the border. When reconciliation after the civil war occurred, many refugees returned including Chol. He was appointed to a committee to form a new constitution for Sudan and was instrumental in writing a religious freedom clause into the constitution.27 In 1974, a headquarters for the Adventist Church was rented in Khartoum, and Chol was appointed director of the work.28

The entry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sudan was, to a large extent, a result of the returnees from the bordering countries who had accepted the Adventist message. The ones from Ethiopia took the message to the Eastern Upper Nile while those who returned from Uganda shared the message in the Equatoria Region of southern Sudan. Fulgencio Okayo, a carpentry teacher who returned from Uganda, did much to advance the work even before he was baptized.

At that time, there was no organized leadership or ordained ministry in Sudan to baptize those who were ready to join the Adventist faith. Okayo was instrumental in leading other prominent members who later became leaders in the Adventist faith, like Charles Okwera, George Okwera, Kenned Lobaki, and John Moi. In Torit, Okayo taught in a new vocational school and shared with his students what he was learning from the Bible. John Moi encouraged him to start “The Bible Society.” Okayo’s students were adult men, and they were influenced by his infectious joy and faith in Jesus’ return. Eventually they became charter Adventist members in Southern Sudan.29

In 1977, Yousif Farag and Thomas Staples (publishing director and treasurer respectively from the Middle East Union) and Yohana Lusingo (stewardship director from the Afro-Mideast Division) visited the city of Juba in southern Sudan to explore possibilities of opening a mission station there. Okayo had already requested baptism for himself, his family, and others he had taught. They were baptized secretly during the night because of restrictions in the country. He attained the business card of Thomas Staples and wrote a request for a missionary to come to southern Sudan.30

Adventist Missionaries Come to Southern Sudan

In 1979, the Middle East Union and the Division leadership called a pastor to go to Juba, the capital of Equatoria, and organize the work there. It is said that the call first went to a Rwandese pastor who declined, and then to Tanzanian pastor-evangelist David Ogillo,31 who readily accepted and moved there with his family.32 The family was well accepted by the locals, who responded positively to the Adventist message. Local lay evangelists had previously set the groundwork, conducting Branch Sabbath Schools and preparing people for baptism. Ogillo brought many of them into the Church, both in Equatoria and the Upper Nile province.33 34 35

Ogillo was dependent on a translator, and used Fulgencio Okayo to translate from English into Arabic.36 The Magwi region, 160 kilometers south of Juba, did not have a single Christian church. The people had abandoned the worship practices taught them by the first missionaries some 100 years ago and had gone back to spirit and ancestor worship. Ogillo, two evangelists, and a group of SDA laypeople obtained a permit from the assistant commissioner and local chief and began a series of evangelistic meetings. At first, the people jeered at the preacher and asked him to leave the area. The evangelistic team, however, responded with fasting and prayer, and the following evening, 150 attended. Wrote Ogillo: “The message touched their hearts, and an average of 230 came out each night afterwards. After five weeks of preaching, studying and visitation, 100 people stood for Christ when the first call was made. Ten of them had walked faithfully more than 10 kilometers to hear the message. They accepted the Sabbath truth and requested baptism.” A bonfire was ignited, and their idols and amulets burned. Fifty-five people were baptized, and another 25 continued in the baptismal class.37

The self-sacrificial work of the Ogillo family encouraged the Middle East Union to send more families. Dr. Jerald and Judy Whitehouse and their family followed in 1980, and in 1981, John and Linda Sine came to develop the Munuki Compound. A year later in 1982, the Munuki Clinic opened. Other important personnel followed to build up the work and advance the gospel.38 The development of the SDA work in other parts of southern Sudan is described in Clement Arkangelo’s article on “South Sudan” featured in the online Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Details from the 1980s can be read there and in the 1996 SDA Encyclopedia that includes a complete list of people who served in Juba during that decade.39

It was in the 1980s that the work started growing in and around Juba. Since Ret Chol had left his post as director in Khartoum, the Mission headquarters for Sudan naturally moved to Juba.40 The leaders in the Middle East Union continued to administer the work from Lebanon. Whitehouse was appointed project director and later director for SAWS/Sudan while Ogillo focused on the evangelistic and pastoral work.41

By 1985, SAWS (ADRA), directed by David Taylor, opened a second office in Khartoum42 due to its increased role in responding to the relief and development needs in Sudan.43 Over the years, the work of ADRA in both the north and the south came to play a very important role for government relations, the employment and training of young people in the church, and the opening up of church work in places where it seemed difficult if not impossible.

When in 1983 the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement broke down and sharia law was introduced, the situation for the Church worsened. Conflict between the Arabic north and the Christian south became more intense, and competition between tribal warlords in the south caused many southerners to flee Khartoum and neighboring countries for security and food.44

Juba was controlled by the government and isolated from the rest of southern Sudan. The missionaries and many of the locals were forced to leave the Munuki compound. Although a small community of Adventists remained throughout the conflict, official Church work in the south was closed and Juba could no longer continue to function as the Sudan Church headquarters. For a time, there was no Adventist leadership in the south although pockets of Adventists who had not fled still tried to maintain a measure of normality under the leadership of Pastor Charles Okwera Okuka.45 On the other hand, evangelism and conversions among Sudanese southerners seemed to thrive in the squatter camps around Khartoum and in northern Uganda and Ethiopia.

A Growing Church Work in the Face of Obstructions

In 1987, the Church headquarters moved back to Khartoum. A suitable facility with three apartments, office space, classrooms, storage, and a hall was rented on 15th Street, Khartoum Central. In 1988, Pastor Nathan Malaka, an Egyptian, and his family moved to Khartoum, and he served as president of the mission while Phidee Tagalog from the Philippines served as secretary-treasurer.46

The Church began ministering to many of the refugees that had relocated to the capital and Omdurman. The good relationship established with ADRA Sudan’s support, in time, helped to grow the Church. Licensed ministers from the south and young laypeople engaged themselves in service. Nationals led as departmental directors. The Middle East Union sent its directors to train the young ministerial workers and Global Mission workers through seminars and workshops. Containers with Christian books from Middle East Press were cleared through customs with much difficulty. However, MEU Publishing Director Yousif Farag and many young people were able to still canvass even in remote areas. Some experienced persecution and imprisonment. The women were organized in Dorcas societies and served in the community.47

On May 18, 1991, the first national Sudanese Adventist ministers were ordained. They were George Okwera (pastor in Khartoum and assistant church ministries director) and Fulgencio Okayo (pastor of the Juba district in southern Sudan). Both had served for the past 10 years and had taken the ministerial certificate course in Tanzania. Another service followed on January 24, 1994, when John Moi and John Pel were ordained to the ministry.48 In 1991, the Sudan Mission was organized as a field and renamed the Sudan Field.49

The church membership in Sudan was very young, and many of the local leaders were also young men in their early 20s, often students or young people trying to make a living in a challenging situation. When in 1991, the Middle East Union conducted an international youth congress in Cairo, Egypt, only a few young Sudanese studying at Nile Union Academy in Egypt were able to attend. Travel restrictions and the economic situation made it impossible for anyone from inside Sudan to leave the country.

For this reason, a year later on October 25-27, 1992, a youth retreat was organized in Khartoum in which 100-200 young Sudanese participated. They met in a large tent with the theme, “With God on my side, whom shall I fear.”50 More than 20 young people completed a training course for Master Guides conducted by MEU Youth Director Sven H. Jensen. This set in motion the beginnings of organized Pathfinder work in Sudan. The retreat was highlighted by a baptism in the Nile of nine youth from three Adventist churches in Khartoum.51 The next year, another retreat was held with even more in attendance. Workshops of various kinds were conducted to train young people for service in the Church.

The Adventist Church at the time did not have the resources to send their youth to Nile Union Academy in Egypt and on to Middle East College in Lebanon for ministerial training. Only a few were able to make it on their own. Many of the youth, however, were eager to be trained for ministry. In 1992, the Middle East Union conducted a lay training seminar for Global Mission workers. Of the several attendees, 12 individuals were chosen to begin six active teams. These teams were assigned to the unentered areas of Sudan where successful Bible studies and baptisms were conducted.

By 1995, the number of Global Mission teams had grown to nearly 50. Branch Sabbath Schools were opened, hundreds were baptized, and new congregations organized. Self-help primary schools were established, with two schools in the north and seven schools in the war-torn areas of southern Sudan. Along with the increasing number of new believers in these unentered areas came the need for houses of worship and accompanying benches. North American church groups and individuals sponsored 12 target areas.52 53

Sudan now accounted for three-quarters of the membership in the Middle East Union. “During the past three or four years, growth has spurted among the people displaced by the civil war,” wrote Adventist Review Editor William G. Johnsson. In 1996, experienced Pastor Edwin Gulfan and his wife Pinky from the Philippines were employed to head a new Sudan Adventist Seminary in the office building in Khartoum. The seminary offered a two-year ministerial course, and the first group of 11 received their diplomas in June 1998. 54 55 56

Working in a war-torn country was not without risk. Khartoum Adventist Youth Association (KAYA) had just completed a 10-day evangelistic effort in early May 1998 in Malakal, almost 800 km south of Khartoum. This major town could be reached by bus and then by steamboat on the White Nile.

After the meetings, a group of 15 young people with Pastor Charles Okwera had waited in vain for 14 days for the boat to take them back to the bus connection in Kosti. They decided to jump on a truck and try their luck by road. At one point, the now-overloaded truck (with more than 60 passengers on board) drove too close to the River Nile, turned over, and ended up in the river. By the grace of God, as Okwera expressed it, nobody was injured.

When the steering gear had been repaired, the journey continued, but not for long. The bus was ambushed by rebels who searched the truck for government soldiers. Six were identified and taken aside to be shot. The rest were robbed of their belongings and ordered to take off their shoes. They were told that if they ran upon hearing the shots, they would also be killed. Some of the terrified passengers ran anyway, and all together 25 people died. When Okwera gathered his KAYA group, he found that four were missing. Three eventually found their way back to Khartoum on their own. Pastor John Pel was never found and was accounted as one of the dead.

After the rebel soldiers had poured petrol over the truck and set it on fire, they left with as much baggage as they could carry. In shock, the surviving bare-footed passengers were forced to find their way back to safety. The heat was unbearable, and it was not long before their sparse water supply was finished. The small group kept out of the blistering sun during the day and walked only at night. Progress was slow as one of them had collapsed and had to be carried by the others.

Exhausted from days and long hours of walking, they eventually came to a small village where they were provided with food and water. A passing truck took a message back to Malakal, asking for a rescue team. After many days of waiting, a Landcruiser along with a nurse from Malakal arrived to fetch them. Two of them were taken to a military hospital and treated. All were questioned by the military before they were free to go.

In spite of the traumatic experience, Okwera conducted a wedding for a young couple in Malakal, and the evangelistic team completed their effort with more meetings. On June 4, the administration of Middle East Union and ADRA chartered a plane to bring them all safely back to Khartoum.57

Re-entering Southern Sudan

In 1987, a southern Sudanese Adventist lay-evangelist, Yoal Rwadhdial (previously baptized in Khartoum), went to Dhoreng in the Upper Nile region with the intention of sharing the gospel with his tribal animist family. He was rejected by his father and the village. However, he succeeded in building a small church with the help of his mother and five brothers and sisters. As a result of pressure from other Christian churches and opposition in general from tribal and military leaders, his evangelistic activities were confined to the community of Dhoreng for the next four years.

In August 1991, significant changes occurred within the rebel movement in southern Sudan, and a new leadership assumed control of the Upper Nile region. The new commander had been exposed to different religions while studying in England, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As a result of a personal visit from Yoal, the commander issued a statement allowing the Adventist Church to operate freely in all areas of the region as part of a policy of religious freedom for all.

In 1993, Adventist Nuer Lay Pastor Majiak Gai traveled from the Ethiopian border to Dhoreng on foot. During his visit, 25 community members were baptized in the village and the first Adventist church in Western Upper Nile was established. Over the next two years, 14 churches were formed throughout this region by the courageous labor of consecrated lay workers.58

While many of the Sudanese from Equatoria lived in squatter camps on the outskirts of the capital Khartoum or across the border in refugee camps in Uganda, the Middle East Union administration looked at the opportunity to once more open the work inside Southern Sudan. MEU President Svein Johansen sent Jim Neergaard (MEU ADRA director and ministerial secretary) and Sven H. Jensen (MEU church ministries director) to northern Uganda to meet with some of the preachers and members from Equatoria in southern Sudan.

In December 1994, they met in Koboko, Idi Amin’s (former president of Uganda) hometown, for three-to-four days of meetings and instruction. Many came from the Adjumani refugee camps in Uganda, others from Kaya just across the Sudanese border. Another group of 18 young lay preachers and teachers led by Nathan Bathuel Beriye arrived after a 10-day walk from Yambio, Maridi, and Mundri inside South Sudan. They barely avoided clashes with roving militias. As Nathan later reported, “We arrived with swollen feet in Uganda.”

At the meeting, these young people told of the lack of secondary education in the rebel-controlled areas, the difficulties of leaving the country to obtain it elsewhere and pleaded with the Union representatives to open a vocational secondary school inside South Sudan. When Neergaard and Jensen visited the Ajdumani camps, they found several Adventist congregations led by Fulgencio Okayo and Luka Moi.59 60

An office for ADRA South Sudan, with country director Jerry Lewis, was opened in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1994. The plan was to negotiate with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to perform relief and development work and thus indirectly open the way for the Church to re-enter this part of Sudan. Not long after the ADRA office was established, the South Sudan Section opened in Nairobi with Pastor Faustino Kapilitan and his wife Naira arriving from the Philippines to help coordinate the church work and promote evangelism. They were followed by Tim and Fay Scott from the U.S.A. in 1996. From Kenya, it was possible to fly out from Logichogio (a town located in NW Kenya) with United Nations’ Operation Lifeline Sudan airplanes, carrying church aid into South Sudan as well as providing opportunities to visit scattered Adventist communities. The author remembers such a trip to Akobo, Waat, and Ayod, where no pastor had been for years, and people prepared by lay members were waiting to be baptized.61

In 1995, Middle East Union leaders sent Pastor Nathan Bathuel Beriye into the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan where he helped to acquire a 2,000-acre land for a secondary school. ADRA funding was secured from Sweden, and an American missionary, retired teacher Monroe Morford, was hired as its first principal. On February 26, 1996, Eyira Adventist Vocational Academy (EAVA) opened its doors, enrolling 11 students--four girls and seven boys. A year later in 1997, the school enrollment reached 100 students, from which nine were baptized. 62 63 The further development and importance of the school for the mission in South Sudan is described in Nathan Bathual Beriye’s article in the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists.

In 1999, the South Sudan office was relocated to Arua in Northern Uganda. Canadian missionary Beat Odermatt was appointed executive director for the new South Sudan Field while his wife Ursula served as accountant.64 Odermatt immediately began to erect an office building to house the administration as well as facilities for instruction and lodging. Together with the new ADRA director, James Astleford in Nairobi, a strong team was now in place to build the Church in South Sudan, especially in the province of Equatoria. The civil war was still raging, but the training and equipping of nationals continued, resulting in a steady growth in membership. After the graduation of the Seminary students in Khartoum in 1998, Edwin and Pinky Gulfan were moved to the EAVA compound in Eyira and taught a new group of Seminary students who graduated in 2001.65

Steady Growth in the North and the South

All over Sudan, the Church continued to grow in membership and development of its national leaders. In Khartoum, John Moi became the first national Field president (1998-2000); at EAVA, Clement Joseph Arkangelo Mawa became the first national principal (1998-2002), followed by John Ochan Silvio (2003-2005) and others. The membership grew steadily to reach about 16,000 by 2010.66

However, due to hardships, lack of opportunities, and the risk of living in a war-torn country, many of the members left for Egypt, U.S.A., Europe, and other more attractive countries. They joined the churches there and, in some places, formed Seventh-day Adventist Sudanese communities. An example of this is seen in Cairo, Egypt, where two Sudanese churches (at Ramses and Matariah) function with a combined attendance of about 300. On the Matariah property, a Sudanese school has operated since the early 2000s, loosely under the supervision of the Ramses Sudanese Church. As many as 300-400 students are currently (as of 2022) enrolled. In the Nile Union Academy, about 40% of the students are Sudanese.67 Because of this, the official Sudanese Church statistics do not always give a full picture of the progress made.

Independence for South Sudan and the Effect on the Church Work

With the formation of an independent South Sudan in 2011,68 the organizational aspect of the church work in the north along with its membership were greatly affected. All the foreign workers left Khartoum, including numerous Sudanese pastors and members who moved to the new republic in the south. From a membership of approximately 8,500, the Sudan Field was reduced overnight to only a few hundred. Only Pastor Mila Longa stayed for a while to hold things together. At this time, the churches in the north Sudan came under the Egypt-Sudan Field in the newly formed Middle East North Africa Union Mission (MENA) while the churches in the New Republic of South Sudan were organized in the South Sudan Attached Territory under the East-Central Africa Division.

Some North Sudanese Bible workers were hired by the Church in 2013, after which their contracts were not renewed. Around 2014, in the absence of leadership on location, some of the former Bible workers in the north formed a self-appointed committee without the approval of the Field or Union administration. They succeeded in persuading the government to cancel the official registration of the Adventist Church and then sold most of the church property, claiming employment benefits. This included the old field headquarters in the center of Khartoum, the Khartoum II church and elementary and secondary school, and other church properties in the country. However, they were unsuccessful in taking Haj Yousif Church and the Wad-al-Bashir school. The ultimate intentions were to work towards a national Adventist church independent of the global Adventist church.

In 2017, Abdallah Yousif and his brother Mohammad succeeded in reregistering the Adventist church in Sudan so that visas for missionaries could be secured under its name. In December 2019, Pastor Sebastian Godoy and his physician wife, Elmita Acosta, and Ana Melissa, their daughter, were called to Khartoum where Sebastian currently (2022) works as a field secretary of the Egypt-Sudan Field. Initially, the apartment they rented served as their home as well as the local church office. In February 2021, a two-story apartment building was secured to become the formal church headquarters. In addition to Pastor Sebastian, there is one ordained pastor, Gai Dualnyuak; the accountant, Margaret Morris; seven Bible workers; and a team of colporteurs under the leadership of Pastor Oliver Batal.

As of September 2022, the membership in Sudan counts about 1,200 members who worship in 27 locations, ranging from the 300-member Kalakla Church in the southwestern part of Khartoum to small house churches in the countryside. Close to the South Sudan border are two church schools--Alagaya and Omsongar. In 2022, there were 141 baptisms.

The church is in the process of opening an Urban Center of Influence (UCI) of which Elmita Acosta will serve as the director. The center will serve as a training place for languages and wellness programs. Four young adults are running a Media Ministry in close connection with the Trans Media Center at the Middle East and North Africa Union. ADRA Sudan continues its work of mercy and development in the new republic of Sudan.69

Organizational History

The Sudan Mission (SM) was first established in 1953 with headquarters in Khartoum under the Nile Union Mission of the Middle East Division. In 1962, it became attached to the Middle East Division. In 1969, it was listed as an unentered territory, first directly under the Middle East Division and from 1970-74 under the Middle East Union (MEU) of the Afro-Mideast Division. A mission was re-established in 1974 under the MEU of the Afro-Middle East Division. In 1980, the SM headquarters was moved to Juba in southern Sudan, and the SM remained in the MEU, now attached directly to the General Conference. In 1987, the headquarters for SM was moved back to Khartoum, and from 1991, Sudan Mission was upgraded to Sudan Field (SF). In 1994, the church in the southern part of Sudan was established as South Sudan Section (SSS) while the church in the northern part remained under SF. In 1995, SF, SSS, and MEU came under the Trans-European Division, and in 1999, SSS became the South Sudan Field (SSF). After the independence of the new country of South Sudan in 2011, the MEU was replaced by the Middle East North Africa Union Mission (MENA), and the Church (former SF) in the new Republic of Sudan became part of the Egypt-Sudan Field. The Church in the new country of South Sudan (former SSF) became the South Sudan Attached Territory under the East-Central Africa Division with three local fields--Greater Bahr El Ghazal Field, Greater Equatoria Field, and Great Upper Nile Field.70

Chronology of Administrations, Presidents, and Directors

Sudan Station/Mission/Field: Nile Union Mission Administration (1953-1962); Middle East Division Administration (1963-1969); Ret Chol (1974-1978); Manoug Nazirian (1980-1982) Gerald Karst (1983-1985); David L. Williams (1986-1987); Nathan Malaka (1988-1991); Berhane Woldemariam (1993-1997); John Moi (1998-2000); Michael L. Anderson (2001-2002); Itamar S. DePaiva (2003); Miroslav Didara (2006-2011).

South Sudan Section/Field: Faustino Kapilitan (1994-1995); Timothy Scott (1995-1998); Beat Odermatt (1999-2004); Michael Collins (2005-2011).

Egypt-Sudan Field: Llewellyn R. Edwards (2011-2012); Kleyton Feitosa (2014-2016); Myron Iseminger (2018-2022).

Sources

Bauer, C. V. “A ‘Break Through’ in the Sudan.” ARH, July 6, 1961.

Beriye, Nathanael Bathuel. “Eyira Adventist Vocational Academy.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Accessed August 1, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/search-results?term=eyira+adventist+vocational+academy.

Conradi, L. R. “From Russia to Ethiopia.” ARH, February 24.

Delafield, Bernadine. “Sudan: A Reason to Rejoice!” ARH, January 6, 1994.

Horn, Siegfried H. “Cush” and “Ethiopia.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979.

Hunter, D. W. “Breakthrough in Africa and Mideast Cheer Committee.ARH, January 10, 1974.

Johansen, Svein B. “Middle East Union Report.” ARH, July 6, 1995.

Johnsson, William G. “The Challenge of the Middle East.” ARH, January 26, 1995.

Lewis, Gerald to Sven H. Jensen. 1995. Mission Report from South Sudan. Personal collection of Sven H. Jensen.

Mahon, Jack. “Sudan: First expatriate worker moved into country.” ARH, November 22, 1979.

Mawa, Clement Joseph Arkangelo. “South Sudan.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Accessed July 29, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GFJG&highlight=south|sudan.

Newsbreak. “First Adventist Ministers Ordained in Sudan.” ARH, June 13, 1991.

Newsbreak. “First Students to Graduate from Sudan Seminary.” ARH, April 9, 1998.

Newsbreak. “Second Ordination Service Conducted in Sudan.” ARH, March 10, 1994.

O’Ffill, R.W. “SAWS Responds to Call From the ‘Horn.’” ARH, January 14, 1982.

Ogillo, David I. “Conversions in Remote Areas.” ARH, July 19, 1981.

Ogillo, David I. “Desire of Ages Brings Adventists Together.” ARH, December 4, 1980.

Ogillo, David I. “First Worker in Sudan Trusts God’s Guidance.” ARH, January 29, 1981.

Ogillo, David I. “From worship of spirits to spirit of worship.” ARH, January 9, 1984.

Okwera, Charles, to Sven H. Jensen. June 30, 1998. Letter containing the “Report on the KAYA Tragic Ambush on Malakal-Renk Road” (8 pages). Personal collection of Sven H. Jensen.

“Omar al-Bashir Facts.” CNN. Updated December 15, 2021. Accessed October 11, 2022. https://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/10/world/africa/omar-al-bashir---fast-facts/index.html.

Read, W. R. “The Northern European Division.” ARH, March 29, 1952.

Sox, Aileen Andres. “ADRA Shifts Gear in Sudan.” ARH, August 26, 1986.

Staley, Ralph. “Sudan School off the Starting Block.” ARH, September 11, 1997.

Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition. Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 2nd rev. ed., 10. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996.

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“Sudan.” “Khartoum.” “Omdurman.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed July 27, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudan; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khartoum; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omdurman.

The Religious World. “Moslem Missionaries to Work in Sudan.” ARH, March 29, 1951.

Thomas, Jean. “Sudan: Church faces opportunities.” ARH, June 22, 1979.

Visser, Conrad. “ADRA to Feed 400,000 in Sudan,” ARH, August 29, 1985.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Sudan.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Wilson, Neal C. “Interview with Sudanese Official.” ARH, September 17, 1953.

Wilson, Neal C. “Opening Our Work in Khartoum, Sudan.” ARH, September 3, 1953.

World Church. “Youth Retreat Leads to Baptism in Sudan.” ARH, January 1992.

World Views. “ADRA Aids Flood Victims in Sudan.” ARH, September 8, 1988.

Notes

  1. “Sudan,” “Khartoum,” “Omdurman,” Wikipedia Contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, accessed July 27, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudan; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khartoum; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omdurman.

  2. “Sudan,” Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (SDAE), rev. ed. 1996, s. v., 6,108.

  3. “Sudan,” Wikipedia.

  4. “Egypt-Sudan Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Online Yearbook, 2012, accessed November 25, 2021, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB2012.pdf. No reliable statistics can be accounted for at the time.

  5. Siegfried H. Horn, “Cush” and “Ethiopia,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979), 253, 344.

  6. Ibid.

  7. “Sudan,” Wikipedia.

  8. “Sudan,” SDAE.

  9. “Sudan,” Wikipedia.

  10. “Omar al-Bashir Fast Facts,” CNN, updated December 15, 2021, accessed October 11, 2022,

    https://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/10/world/africa/omar-al-bashir---fast-facts/index.html.

  11. “Sudan,” Wikipedia.

  12. Clement Joseph Arkangelo Mawa, “South Sudan,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed July 29, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/search-results?term=south+sudan.

  13. L. R. Conradi, “From Russia to Ethiopia,” ARH, February 24, 1910, 11-12.

  14. W. E. Read, “The Northern European Division,” ARH, April 22, 1937, 1, 9-11.

  15. The Religious Word, “Moslem Missionaries to Work in Sudan,” ARH, March 29, 1951, 2.

  16. Neal C. Wilson, “Interview with Sudanese Official,” ARH, September 17, 1953, 18.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Neal C. Wilson, “Opening Our Work in Khartoum, Sudan,” ARH, September 3, 1953, 14-15.

  19. “Sudan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1954, accessed October 19, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1954.pdf.

  20. Judith Whitehouse, personal interview with Laurice Akar Bishai, July 2018, sent by e-mail to Sven H. Jensen September 26, 2022.

  21. Mawa, “South Sudan.”

  22. “Sudan,” SDAE.

  23. Ibid.

  24. C. V. Brauer, “A ‘Break Through’ in the Sudan,” ARH, July 6, 1961, 15.

  25. “Sudan.” SDAE.

  26. Judith Whitehouse, e-mail message.

  27. D. W. Hunter, “Breakthrough in Africa and Mideast Cheer Committee,” ARH, January 10, 1974, 15.

  28. “Sudan,” SDAE.

  29. Judith Whitehouse, e-mail message.

  30. Mawa, “South Sudan.”

  31. Phares Ogillo, “Daudi Indra (1929-2011),” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed October 19, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8FGT.

  32. Jean Thomas, “Sudan: Church Faces Opportunities,” ARH, June 21, 22; Jack Mahon, “Sudan: First Expatriate Worker Moves Into Country,” R&H, November 22, 1979, 19.

  33. David I. Ogillo, “Desire of Ages Brings Adventists Together,” ARH, December 4, 1980, 24.

  34. David I. Ogillo, “Conversions in Remote Areas,” ARH, July 16, 1981, 17.

  35. “Progress in Sudan,” ARH, August 11, 1983, 24.

  36. David I. Ogillo, “First Worker in Sudan Trusts God’s Guidance,” ARH, January 29, 1981.

  37. David I. Ogillo, “From Worship of Spirits to Spirit of Worship,” ARH, January 9, 1984.

  38. Mawa, “South Sudan.”

  39. “Sudan,” SDAE.

  40. “Sudan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1982, accessed October 20, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1982.pdf.

  41. Ibid.

  42. Ibid.

  43. R. W. O’Ffill, “SAWS Responds to Call From the ‘Horn,’” ARH, January 14, 1982, 24; Conrad Visser, “ADRA to feed 400,000 in Sudan,” ARH, August 29, 1985, 30; Aileen Andres Sox, “ADRA Shifts Gears in Sudan,” ARH, August 26, 1986, 18; World Views, “ADRA Aids Flood Victims in Sudan,” ARH, September 8, 1988, 7.

  44. Mawa, “South Sudan.”

  45. “Sudan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1987, accessed October 20, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1987.pdf.

  46. Ibid., 1989, accessed October 20, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1989.pdf.

  47. Sven Jensen, personal knowledge from his work as church ministries director in the MEU.

  48. Newsbreak, “First Adventist Ministers Ordained in Sudan,” ARH, June 13, 1991, 7; “Second Ordination Service Conducted in Sudan,” ARH, March 10, 1994, 8.

  49. “Sudan Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1992, accessed October 20, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1992.pdf.

  50. Jensen, personal information.

  51. World Church, “Youth Retreat Leads to Baptism in Sudan,” ARH, January 9, 1992.

  52. Bernadine Delafield, “Sudan: A Reason to Rejoice!” ARH, January 6, 1994, 27-29.

  53. Svein B. Johansen, “Middle East Union Report,” ARH, July 6, 1995, 18-19.

  54. “Sudan Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1998, accessed October 20, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1998.pdf.

  55. William G. Johnsson, “The Challenge of the Middle East,” ARH, January 26, 1995.

  56. Newsbreak, “First Students to Graduate from Sudan Seminary,” ARH, April 9, 1998, 20-21.

  57. Charles Okwera to Sven H. Jensen, June 30, 1998, letter containing the “Report on the KAYA Tragic Ambush on Malakal-Renk Road” (8 pages), personal collection of Sven Jensen. Jensen was Middle East Union president at the time.

  58. Gerald Lewis to Sven H. Jensen, 1995, Mission Report from South Sudan, personal collection of Sven H. Jensen.

  59. Nathanael Bathuel Beriye, “Eyira Adventist Vocational Academy,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA), accessed August 1, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/search-results?term=eyira+adventist+vocational+academy.

  60. Jensen, personal experience.

  61. Ibid.

  62. Beriye, ESDA.

  63. Ralph Staley, “Sudan School off the Starting Block,” ARH, September 11, 1997.

  64. “South Sudan Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 2000, accessed October 22, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB2000.pdf.

  65. Jensen, personal experience.

  66. “South Sudan Field” and “Sudan Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 2011, accessed October 22, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB2011.pdf.

  67. Myron Iseminger, e-mail message to Sven H. Jensen, September 21, 2022. Iseminger is the Egypt-Sudan Field president (2022).

  68. The history of the Adventist church in South Sudan after independence is published in the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists under the title “South Sudan.”

  69. Sebastian Godoy and Margaret Morris, zoom meeting with Sven H. Jensen, September 21, 2022. The report was confirmed the same day with Myron Iseminger, Egypt-Sudan Field president.

  70. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks, 2012-2021, accessed October 22, 2022, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx?Paged=TRUE&p_SortBehavior=0&p_FileLeafRef=YB1960%2epdf&p_ID=84&PageFirstRow=61&&View={4F91F652-A406-4143-B3A5-016648ADFF11}.

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Jensen, Sven Hagen. "Sudan." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 07, 2022. Accessed February 20, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6E00.

Jensen, Sven Hagen. "Sudan." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 07, 2022. Date of access February 20, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6E00.

Jensen, Sven Hagen (2022, December 07). Sudan. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 20, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6E00.