Bob and Kristi Rice - Update
Juba, South Sudan
Nile Theological Seminary
We made it to Graduation!
“The playground is transformed,” said Honorable Rebecca Joshua, government Minister of Roads and Bridges, “adorned with flowers and the presence of many dignitaries.”
It was true – the outdoor basketball stadium in Juba did not look like the same place where we had watched basketball practice the night before. The bold colors of the women’s dresses reflected in the bright sun highlighted an atmosphere of celebration. Families of the graduates brought buckets of home-made sweets from home that they passed out to everyone around them. Government ministers arrived with their security detail, and television cameras were poised to broadcast the event. But it was clear throughout the program that the ‘stars’ of the show were the 15 graduates of Nile Theological College (NTC) proudly receiving their diplomas.
Rev. Santino, principal of NTC, recounted the history of the school in his remarks. Started in Khartoum in 1991, NTC opened a branch in Southern Sudan in 2011 in the city of Malakal. But devastating conflict in 2013 took the lives of four students and caused them to temporarily close the school. They reopened in Juba in 2014 with only five students, but gradually some who had interrupted their studies and fled the conflict were able to resume their studies. On Monday, December 10th, the first graduation for NTC in Juba was held, with graduates from ‘batch 11’ (finishing this year) and also ‘batch 10’ (who finished two years ago). Of the students in batch 10, 26 started the program in 2011, to be interrupted by the conflict in 2013. Only five were able to complete their studies and only three were present for graduation. Gideon, one of those three, having moved his family to Ethiopia for security reasons where his wife is currently in school, made the long journey to Juba just for graduation. Several of the graduates had not seen their families in more than a year or even longer, sacrificing and persevering to finish their studies.
With the low rates of education in South Sudan and the struggle that it takes to complete school, graduation is truly something to celebrate at any level. Relatives, church members, and friends all came to join in acknowledging the rare distinction of completing a bachelors-level program. The culture of graduation in Juba is to adorn the graduate with a ‘wreath’ of tinsel when they receive their diploma, along with sometimes spraying with powder, wrapping a traditional embroidered sheet around the graduate to wear, or giving them flowers. Rev. Philip Obang, the emcee for the event, was careful to instruct the families where to stand to receive their graduates in order to minimize the confusion of people coming from all directions.
Rev. Michael Aban, NTC registrar, read the names and a short bio of each of the graduates as they came forward to receive their diploma and congratulations from the leadership of NTC and the government representatives. Each graduate even had their picture taken with the First Vice President of South Sudan, General Taban Deng Gai. As they returned to their seats, fanfare and jubilation erupted from their families and friends waiting on the side. Each one was joyfully wreathed with tinsel, sometimes piled so high that the graduate could not even see. Cheers and ululations broke out, along with jostling for hugs and selfies with the graduate.
Prominent church leaders, including the moderators of both the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) and the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC), exhorted the graduates in continuing the ministry that God is calling them into. Gen. Taban Deng Gai appreciated the long history of the Presbyterian churches in Sudan and South Sudan and the emphasis on providing education that will promote peace and stability in South Sudan. Bishop Isaiah, General Overseer of the Pentecostal Church of Sudan, offered a challenge and a charge to go and make disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit and the assurance that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20).
Thank you for supporting us and for supporting students of this institution for the future of the Church here in South Sudan.
Bob and Kristi Rice
Read more about Bob and Kristi Rice’s ministry HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking $10,000 for support funds for Bob and Kristi Rice and $14,000 in scholarship support for students at Nile Theological College.