Pastors Prepare for Ministry in War-Torn Sudan

May 3, 2024 • Sudan
The Theological United Institute in Heiban celebrates 20 years of Bible instruction in the Nuba Mountains this year.
The Theological United Institute in Heiban celebrates 20 years of Bible instruction in the Nuba Mountains this year.

As the Theological United Institute in Heiban celebrates 20 years and its latest graduating class, the pastors trained at the Nuba Mountain institution face challenges of a country at war.

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Sudan was enjoying relative peace three years ago when Pastor Damarcus started studying at Theological United Institute in the Nuba Mountains.

The latest graduating class of the Theological United Institute in Heiban.

The latest graduating class of the Theological United Institute in Heiban.

This spring as he celebrated his graduation with friends and family and 56 fellow graduates, the country is again at war. All will now face the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel in a country in turmoil, already dominated by Islam and traditional beliefs.

“It was a joyful day when I joined this college,” Pastor Damarcus said. “I was a refugee in South Sudan, but when I heard about this college, I came here because I had in my heart that God wanted me to do something with my people. Now that I have graduated I am ready to go and deliver God’s message.”

This year, Theological United Institute celebrates 20 years since its founding in 2004 at the tail end of another war—a decades-long bloody struggle. Many church leaders and lay Christians were martyred during the conflict.

So as Samaritan’s Purse began to rebuild hundreds of churches destroyed in the war, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham committed to building a school to train a new generation of pastors.

He turned to a longtime ministry partner in the Middle East to provide the founding faculty. Many of the new teachers were natives of Sudan with visions of returning home to reach fellow Sudanese.

“Our heart is in Nuba,” one of those teachers told Graham. “Even if there is another war, we want to assure you the work will continue.”

The school held its first classes in the shade of mango trees as the permanent structure was being built. Some 50 students had arrived from distant villages and other countries eager to learn and to teach the Word of God to their people.

“We didn’t have anything, but we had joy. We had happiness,” said Pastor Mujahid, a founding faculty member of the college. “Everyone there felt like they were in heaven.”

Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham visited with students during the school's first graduation.

Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham visited with students during the school’s first graduation.

Violence has continued to smolder in Sudan over the last 20 years of the school’s existence, even during the years of peace. The school itself was bombed despite its remote location. But amid all that, they have continued to train scores of pastors—most of whom returned to their village churches or to plant new works in Sudan and neighboring countries.

“In the midst of ongoing conflict, Sudanese Christians are leaving behind friends, family, and communities to study the Bible in the Nuba Mountains,” said Seth Williamson, North East Africa regional director for Samaritan’s Purse, who attended the recent graduation. “They’re leaving behind the life they’ve known for months at a time to come study the Word of God, so they can return to their own people with the Gospel and with a vision for the kingdom of God to expand throughout Sudan.”

Pastor Damarcus said his final year of study was marked by reports of violence and with an understanding that war was consuming his country again. So far, it’s displaced millions of people and driven the country into a food crisis.

But he said that his years at Heiban school have helped prepare him for Gospel ministry in a country at war.

“We just need your prayer. This college is in a region at war and many who graduated will go home to families and communities at war. We pray that God will prepare us very well to serve our communities in the course of war,” Damarcus said. “Others are just beginning their studies, and it is a challenge right now to be away from their families with the war going.”

Please continue to pray for Theological United Institute in Heiban, for the many students who now minister in difficult places, and for future classes that God would protect and embolden them for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Help Persecuted Christians Saul actively persecuted Christians before he was stricken blind in an encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. After his sight was restored, the renamed Apostle Paul went on to preach the Gospel around Asia and in Europe. He said that during these missionary journeys “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8, ESV). Such hardship is a reality for many Christians around the world simply because they choose to follow Jesus. For $40 we can stand with these brothers and sisters by providing food, housing, medical assistance, and vocational training—reminding them that they are not alone.

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