Saturday, December 2, 2017

“College Day” at Nile Theological College

 A festive quality filled the air.  The large tents were erected by students and faculty for this special, annual occasion.  We were gathering to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the founding of Nile Theological College (NTC).  Our small contingent of mission co-workers showed up close to eleven in the morning amidst a flurry of activity.  In attendance were alumni, faculty, former faculty, esteemed guests and the student body.  A local choir led us in song, filling the tent with vibrant sounds and distinctive Arabic praises.  The theme verse for the day, emblazoned on the banner upfront, was from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Amidst all of the adversity the Apostle Paul faced, he boldly proclaims, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4: 13). 

"College Day" at NTC, Rev. Santino, (Principal) speaks

Gathered together under the big tent

Perhaps this theme reflects well the journey of Nile Theological College, particularly over the last six years.  From their origin in Khartoum, a second campus was planted and developed in Malakal in the Upper Nile State in 2011 .  This initiative was a labor of love, establishing this institution in the newly created country of South Sudan for the purpose of training future leaders who will serve their congregations and communities.  Yet, the new school would be destroyed as fighting erupted in late 2013, lasting well into 2014, and continuing even to this day.  The new campus would relocate to Juba where scattered students and faculty would find each other once again.  The faculty asked the handful of few students, “What should we do?  Should we reopen?”  The students replied “Yes, it would be good to reopen.”  Thus, with only five students, the school reopened in early 2015.  In these two years, with two new intakes, the student body has quickly grown to more than seventy.  It feels as though God’s Spirit is at work.  Most of these students have been displaced from their home regions and ten of them currently live in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in and around Juba.  Most of them face challenges communicating with family who are either in refugee camps in Ethiopia or in rebel controlled regions of South Sudan.

Bill, a doctor who teaches about HIV/Aids at NTC,
raises his hands in praise

During the anniversary celebration last Saturday, we heard from many different voices.  A representative of the Student Union spoke along with a distinguished alumnus who is now serving the Africa Inland Church (AIC).  A faculty member then preached a message from Philippians, making the point that the Arabic Bible uses the word ‘Abd’ for Jesus in the well-known Philippians two passage.  While many English translations use the word servant, ‘Abd’ in Arabic means “slave.”  He compared our service to that of Jesus, who emptied himself and took the form of a slave, impressing on us that the Spirit presses one to serve, even as a slave is compelled to serve his/her master.

Rev. Samuel Jok, who teaches Sudanese Church History at NTC,
preaches from Philippians 4: 11 - 13

The celebration continued with worship through song and remarks from the academic dean, the former principal, the current principal, the chairman of board and a representative from the government of South Sudan, the Honorable Rebecca Joshua Okwaci.  Rebecca and others gave tribute to her father, a leader in the community and church and one who greatly encouraged many.  Rebecca spoke at length, citing the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God – how unsearchable are his judgments! (Romans 11: 33).  She herself volunteered to meet some of the needs expressed by the student representative, and encouraged us all to do whatever we can to strengthen and help this institution.  She spoke passionately, fluent both in Arabic and English. 

 Rev. James Partap, Chairman of NTC, pictured with
Honorable Minister Rebecca Joshua Okwaci and
Honorable Minister Yien Oral Lam

Rev. Peter Gai Lual gives the closing words and benediction
he shared that though he felt pain in his body, he stayed for the
duration, sensing God's healing presence in the gathered assembly

Our time together came to close with a nice meal and time of laughter and fellowship.  It was wonderful to be part of this celebration, giving thanks to God for twenty six years of equipping and preparing leaders for the manifold works of God.  May God’s hand of grace and mercy continue to rest upon Nile Theological College.         

Students enjoy the meal under the tarp

1 comment:

David Dawson said...

Bob and Kristi,

Thank you for the story and pictures from "College Day" at NTC. Please share with our brothers and sisters there how much their perseverance and courage and faithfulness strengthens us in Shenango Presbytery.

We prepare to celebrate the Savior's birth in the midst of the empire while God is preparing to do a great thing in obscure Bethlehem. Truly the Holy Spirit is doing more great things through the rebirth of NTC.

David Dawson