The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is a global humanitarian organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. ADRA started in Sudan with the health clinic in Munuki Compound of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Juba in 1982.
The history of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Sudan and South Sudan goes back to the establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Sudan and now the two countries of the Sudan and South Sudan. ADRA started in Sudan with the health clinic in Munuki Compound of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Juba in 1982. Dr. Whitehouse, an American, came to join David Ogillo1 to set up a welfare program. The program focused on a major intervention in health, especially dealing with mother-child health. By the end of 1982, the organization was well known in Juba for saving the lives of mothers and their infants. This gave the Seventh-day Adventist Church the public face. This was the foundation of ADRA Sudan. At the time it was called Seventh-day Adventist World Service (SAWS).2 In 1983 SAWS underwent yet another name change to better reflect its overall mission and activities, becoming the "Adventist Development and Relief Agency" (ADRA).3
In 1983 Dr. Jerald Whitehouse, with the support of Middle East Union leadership and some Sudanese, registered ADRA in Khartoum, Sudan, under the name ADRA Sudan. The idea was to start the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the north of the Sudan through humanitarian interventions. This worked out very well under the leadership of David Taylor, who became the first ADRA Sudan country director in 1984.4 He worked with local Sudanese and other expatriates. The Sudanese who were hired at the onset as full-time workers were Aventore Bilal, Mohammed Ahmed Sadig, Nagi Khalil, and a lady called Samira Ahmed.5 ADRA Sudan and ADRA South Sudan derived their mission statements and goals from ADRA International. With time, the mission statement evolved to “serving humanity so that all may live as God intended.”
Since its establishment, ADRA Sudan continued to grow steadily, from four full-time Sudanese workers hired at the onset of the organization to over 630 workers by the early 1990s. It became obvious that ADRA needed more expatriates to lead some of its critical sectors such as food security, health, and other emergency interventions. Consequently, in 1990 the General Conference sent Edwin Dysinger Paul, at the request of the Middle East Union, to manage the food security sector as the project manager.6 However, at the same time, due to the continual civil wars in the Sudan, ADRA had gone under internal reorganization in 1989. The agency was reorganized into ADRA Sudan and ADRA Sudan Southern Sector around the time when the United Nations created the Operation Lifeline Sudan (UN OLS) in April 1989.7 At the time, Peter Lujana was requested to come and carry out the initial assessment on how to give services to the desperate Sudanese in the southern part of the country who may not have much access to aid.
In 1992 ADRA Sudan Southern Sector consigned the first support of used clothes bound for the refugee camps in northern Uganda. ADRA Uganda and the Uganda Union supported the South Sudanese efforts immensely. Dr. Nathaniel Walemba, the Uganda Union secretary at that time, was assigned to liaise between the church in Sudan and the Middle East Union. He helped Peter Lujana to start the ADRA Sudan Southern Sector.8
Operation Lifeline Sudan was launched just in time to help facilitate the work of ADRA Sudan Southern Sector. Subsequently, in 1993 Jerry Lewis was reassigned from ADRA Sudan to come and lead ADRA Sudan Southern Sector,9 before becoming the ADRA Middle East director. Under him the new organization flourished, becoming the face of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in southern Sudan.10 The initial head office was in the Kenyan capital Nairobi while the organization was operating inside the southern part of the Sudan. From a humble beginning the organization became a strong agency that earned the trust of the worldwide ADRA network, the United Nations, and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement. ADRA offices in the European countries became strong partners and advocates of ADRA Sudan Southern Sector. Key among these were: ADRA Sweden, ADRA Denmark, ADRA Norway, ADRA UK, and ADRA Germany.11 When James Astleford became Director for ADRA South Sudan, the organization grew and became one of the largest offices in the ADRA network.12
After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CAP) was signed between the warring parties in the Sudan in January 2005 at Naivasha, Kenya, South Sudan got the opportunity for a referendum that gave the possibility for it to separate from the Sudan. In September 2005, the Middle East Union, under the leadership of Michael Porter, appointed Clement Joseph Arkangelo Mawa as the programs director for ADRA Sudan Southern Sector and eventually raising to the rank of associate country director leading ADRA Sudan Southern Sector. In May 2007, ADRA Sudan Southern Sector relocated to Juba the then major regional town, which subsequently became the capital of South Sudan. At this time Llewellyn Juby, a South African national, was the country director for ADRA Sudan. Eventually, in 2011, the country’s population overwhelmingly voted for separation. On July 9, 2011, the country became independent, bearing the name South Sudan.13
In 2012 it was decided to change ADRA Sudan Southern Sector to ADRA South Sudan under the leadership of Awadia Ogillo. The government of the Sudan knew ADRA Sudan as the humanitarian agency that is strong in the implementation of livelihood, women empowerment, programming, and water. “In the North, ADRA Sudan developed an irrigation program at a time of severe drought, as well as providing vital implements, such as a wheat-grinding mill. A mother-child health education program targets 15,000 displaced persons and has already significantly reduced infant mortality, while a microenterprise development project encourages villagers to develop small businesses to improve self-sufficiency.”14 Both ADRA offices in the north of the country and the south of the country were about to have combined beneficiaries of over two hundred thousand.15
Role and Place in the Country
Both ADRA Sudan and ADRA South Sudan have made immense contributions to the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Sudan and South Sudan.
In 1998 ADRA was considered to be the largest humanitarian organization in the Sudan. A relief Web article states, “Despite the dangers of an ongoing civil war in southern Sudan, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is working throughout the nation to help those displaced by the hostilities. The largest non-governmental organization in the country with an annual aid program currently exceeding US$13 million, ADRA Sudan is concentrating on bringing development and health aid to the troubled regions.”16 At the time, both offices recorded 630 workers. After the total separation in 2012, by 2013 ADRA South Sudan alone recorded 368 workers in the payroll of the head office. This excludes the workers who were on daily pay due to the nature of their work. In 2017 the work force rose to 491.17
ADRA Sudan (and now as separate ADRA Sudan and ADRA South Sudan) faced numerous challenges during the implementation of humanitarian activities in the Sudan, especially in the southern part of the Sudan. Major amongst these challenges were the December 16, 2004, abductions of ADRA workers in Labado as they were going from Khartoum to west Darfur18 and when ADRA workers were abducted from the Upper Nile region on March 8, 2001. ADRA was thrust on world stage during these trying times. ADRA International coordinated the response from Silver Spring, Maryland. In the case of the 2001 abduction in Upper Nile involving Kenyan citizens, it took the intervention of the Kenyan president, Daniel arap Moi, to Sudanese President Omar el-Bseshir during a two-day visit to Khartoum that the two Kenyan workers of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA) were released.
However, the other two ADRA workers were held in Khartoum a little longer before their release. These were Peter Lujana, a Sudanese national, and Joy Santuke, Ugandan mother of four. “During the attack on ADRA’s compound, Lujana was injured, and a woman and young girl from a nearby village were killed. Shortly after the abduction on March 8, the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, personally wrote to the president of Sudan requesting the release of the ADRA workers.”19
At the same time, the UN released a statement that said: ADRA operates in southern Sudan as a member of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), a consortium of UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator wishes to confirm to the Ministry the United Nations position that the presence of the four ADRA personnel at Kiechkuon was and is consistent with the practice of the agreements and plans of action of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), to which the government of Sudan is a party. The Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator also wishes to confirm that the movement of the four ADRA personnel in UN/OLS aircraft is fully consistent with the information on flight movements provided to the government on a regular monthly basis.20
At this dismal time, James Astleford, who was the Director of ADRA South Sudan, showed courage and confidence in what God can do, which helped to ease tension within ADRA Sudan Southern Sector. Thus, ADRA was greatly encouraged by the level of assistance it received from the UN secretary-general, OLS partners, the president of Kenya, and other government officials in their efforts to free its abducted workers. Ralph Watts Jr., the then president of ADRA International, said, “I'm encouraged by the bona fide gesture of the Sudanese government in releasing our two Kenyan workers. As an international NGO, ADRA recognizes that its workers sometimes operate in dangerous situations, but when agreements have been reached by government authorities to protect and facilitate the movements of humanitarian staff, we expect those agreements to be honored.”21
ADRA has operated in the Sudan and now South Sudan since 1982, and, as a member of OLS, ADRA’s programs reached more than one and a half million beneficiaries. The two ADRA country offices are still forging forward with renewed vigor. They operate as ADRA Sudan and ADRA South Sudan respectively. The agencies continue to run integrated programs in the Sudan and South Sudan with the full support of both the Sudanese and the South Sudanese governments.
David Taylor–First country director, ADRA Sudan; Llewellyn Juby–country director ADRA Sudan during the transition to Sudan becoming two countries; Jerry Lewis–first country director, ADRA Sudan Southern Sector; ADRA South Sudan; James Astleford–country director, (he developed the skills of South Sudanese nationals to be part of the leadership of ADRA Sudan and ADRA South Sudan); Clement Joseph Arkangelo Mawa–first national programs director and associate country director, ADRA South Sudan; Awadia Ogillo–first national country director, ADRA South Sudan.22
Astleford, James. “Adventist Aid Agency Meets Challenges in War Torn Sudan.” Accessed July 3, 2021. https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/adventist-aid-agency-meets-challenges-war-torn-sudan.
Copnall, James. A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce. Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers, 2014.
General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, GC Actions, Committee on Appointments, October 4, 1984.
Nazirian, Manough H. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Lebanon 1897 – 1997. Beirut, Lebanon: The East Mediterranean Field of Seventh-day Adventists,1999.
Press Release. “Adventist Aid agency meets challenges in war-torn Sudan.” June 3, 1998. Accessed June 6, 2021. https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/adventist-aid-agency-meets-challenges-war-torn-sudan.
Werner, Roland, William Anderson and Andrew Wheeler. Day of Devastation Day of Contentment: The History of the Sudanese Church Across 2000 Years. Nairobi, Kenya: Paulines Publications Africa, 2010.
Samuel Ogillo (son of late Pastor David Inda Ogillo), “Unpublished Family History,” shared with the author, in April 2019.↩
Roland Werner, William Anderson and Andrew Wheeler, Day of Devastation Day of Contentment: the History of the Sudanese Church Across 2000 Year (Nairobi, Kenya: Paulines Publications Africa, 2010), 364.↩
https://www.unhcr.org/ngo-consultations/ngo-consultations2006/06_ngo_profile_in_ brief.pdf, accessed April 18, 2019.↩
General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, GC Actions, Committee on Appointments, October 4, 1984.↩
Aventore Bilal, phone interviewed by the author, Khartoum, June 1, 2021.↩
General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, GC EXCOM Action 90-528, Committee on Appointments, December 6, 1990.↩
United Nations Digital Library, “Operation Lifeline Sudan: resolution/adopted by the General Assembly,”
Jack Bilal Lokonga, interview by the author in Juba, June 20, 2021.↩
James Astleford, “Adventist Aid Agency Meets Challenges in War Torn Sudan,” https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/adventist-aid-agency-meets-challenges-war-torn-sudan, accessed July 3, 2021.↩
Manoug H. Nazirian, The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Lebanon 1897 – 1997 (Beirut, Lebanon: The East Mediterranean Field of Seventh-day Adventists, 1999), 87. https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/TSDACIL1999.pdf.↩
ADRA Sudan Southern Sector, “Project Implementation Report and Document,” July 15, 2008.↩
James Astleford, “Adventist Aid agency meets challenges in war-torn Sudan.”↩
James Copnall, A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce (Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers, 2014), 1.↩
Astleford, “Adventist Aid Agency Meets Challenges in War Torn Sudan.”↩
Programs report submitted to ADRA International for both offices in June 3005.↩
Press Release, “Adventist Aid agency meets challenges in war-torn Sudan,” June 3, 1998, https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/adventist-aid-agency-meets-challenges-war-torn-sudan, accessed June 6, 2021.↩
ADRA South Sudan, Staff Payroll 2013 and 2017, ADRA South Sudan Archives, accessed June 2021.↩
News and Press Release, “ADRA workers abducted in Sudan released,” https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/adra-workers-abducted-sudan-released, accessed June 19, 2021,↩
News and Press Release, ADRA International, April 1, 2001 “ADRA urges the release of two remaining hostages,” https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/adra-urges-release-two-remaining-hostages, accessed June 4, 2021.↩
The available records are scarce and incomplete.↩