Ret Chol Jock (1942–2005)

By Gak Ngaw Nyoat Doak

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Gak Ngaw Nyoat Doak

Ret Chol Jock was the first Sudanese Adventist Mission director, from 1976 to 1978.

Early Life and Marriages

Ret Chol was born in Nasir county, Upper Nile state in 1942. His parents, Jock Wie and Nya Koak Riam, were idol worshipers; but when Christian missionaries came to his hometown of Nasir, his mother was among the first women to be baptized by the American Presbyterian missionaries.1 Ret Chol became a Christian when he was 12 years old.2 He married Sarah Nyagak in 1968, and their children are Pel, Keak, Nyirwuot, Emanuel, Bijenj, Esther, and Nyariek.3 Ret Chol was influenced by the surrounding culture that made him marry a second wife, Nyakong Thiang, on July 21, 1982, and they also had five children, namely: Naychuol, Nyadhiel Bech, Jackline, and Billy.4

Education and Conversion to Adventism

Ret Chol completed his primary and secondary education in Sudan.5 After that he joined the Revolutionary Army of South Sudan (RASS) and at the end of the war he had the rank of First Lieutenant. He was asked by his movement to go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and work with international news agencies to make their movement and their case known to the international community and the regional countries. While there, one day in a community center he came in contact with Elder Charles D. Watson, who by then (1963) was the president of the Ethiopia Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Elder Watson introduced him to Dr. Ole Bjerkan, who was the principal of Kuyira Adventist College in Shashemene, Ethiopia, which is today known as Ethiopia Adventist College, Oromiya region, Ethiopia. As a result, Ret Chol became the first Sudanese student to attend Kuyira Adventist Academy. After his graduation from the academy, Chol was eager for more knowledge. Elder Watson recommended to the Afro-Mideast Division leaders that he attend Middle East College in 1967. That same year he was baptized into the Seventh- day Adventist Church.6 He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at Middle East College in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1970.7

Missionary Work

In 1971 Ret Chol started his missionary work in Gambella, Ethiopia, and became the first official lay evangelist sent by the Ethiopians to the areas bordering the old Nasir, especially Gatjaak areas, in the Upper Nile region, Sudan.8 In 1972, after the Addis Ababa Agreement, Ret Chol returned to Sudan “and started small Adventist Church in Nasir in Upper Nile – thought to be the first SDA Church in Sudan.”9 Afterward he became involved in politics and was appointed a member of parliament in Khartoum. There he argued that all South Sudanese should be given special recognition and freedom to practice their religion anywhere they may reside in Sudan. When the government recognized the freedom of worship for South Sudanese, his house became the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Khartoum.10 In 1975 the first baptisms were conducted in Khartoum, and among those who were baptized were his wife, Sarah Nyagak Pinyien, Machaar Ruach, William Wath and his wife Nyabiel Pat, and many others.11

Organization of Sudan Mission

In 1974 Sudan was organized into the Sudan Mission, with headquarters in Khartoum. The Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook mentions Ret Chol as the first Sudanese Adventist Mission director, in a period from 1976 to 1978, although nothing was mentioned there about his ordination to the gospel ministry.12 Ret Chol also contributed to the establishment of the Adventist work in Juba. In 1979, when the Adventist Mission still had few followers in Juba, he was appointed minister for Religious and Social Welfare in South Sudan regional government’s seat in Juba. While he served in that capacity, he proposed that all religious organizations are in South Sudan for the purpose of development; therefore, they are all to be allowed to operate anywhere in the South Sudan. He made this argument because at that time the Catholic Church operated only in Equatoria, Bahr El Gazal, and Malakal; while the Protestant Church (Presbyterian) operated only in Upper Nile. Therefore, when he gave recognition to all the churches, this helped to smooth the running of the first SDA Church in Juba.13 Ret Chol, though he served mostly the government, was always ready to support the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Mission throughout Sudan. Ret Chol died in Khartoum, Sudan, in 2005.14 His family members and many among his relatives, including his brothers and sisters, are still active Seventh-day Adventist members.

Sources

Mahon, J. “New beginning in Sudan,” World Mission, 2nd quarter, 1976, vol 65.

Werner, et. al. Day of devastation – Day of contentment: The history of the Sudanese church across 2000 years. Faith in Sudan, Series 10. Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 2000.

Notes

  1. Matthew B. Chol, younger brother of Ret Chol, interview by author, Juba, South Sudan, April 3, 2019.

  2. J. Mahon, “New beginning in Sudan,” World Mission, 2nd quarter, 1976, vol 65, 22-27.

  3. Sarah Nyagak, the first wife of Ret Chol, interview by author via Skype, Juba, South Sudan, February 1, 2015.

  4. Marriage certificate issued by the Evangelical Community Council in Sudan by Rev. Deng Bol Atem, in private collection of Nyakong Thaing, Ret Chol’s wife who currently lives in Cairo, Egypt.

  5. Keak Ret Chol, second son of Ret Chol, interview by author in email message to author, January 29, 2015.

  6. Mahon, 22-27.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Werner et al, Day of devastation – Day of contentment: The history of the Sudanese church across 2000 years, Faith in Sudan Series 10 (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 2000), 364.

  10. Keak Ret Chol, second son of Ret Chol, email message to author, January 29, 2015.

  11. Sarah Nyagak, first wife of Ret Chol, interview by author via Skype, Juba, South Sudan, February 1, 2015.

  12. Seventh-day Adventist Church Yearbook, 1978, accessed February 1, 2015, www.adventsityearbook.org.

  13. Keak Ret Chol, second son of Ret Chol, email message to author, January 29, 2015.

  14. Death Certificate by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Sudan, in private collection of Nyakong Thaing, Ret Chol’s wife who currently lives in Cairo, Egypt.

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Doak, Gak Ngaw Nyoat. "Ret Chol Jock (1942–2005)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed September 22, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AFHL.

Doak, Gak Ngaw Nyoat. "Ret Chol Jock (1942–2005)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access September 22, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AFHL.

Doak, Gak Ngaw Nyoat (2021, April 28). Ret Chol Jock (1942–2005). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 22, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AFHL.