On March 2013, Juba Branch, South Sudan marked a first. Two young men, Jervase Makur Dhoul Ajok and Mark Unwar Ukuch received their calls to serve missions. They were the first to serve from the Juba Branch, Uganda Kampala Mission, and probably the first to serve holding passports from this young country (South Sudan).
Due to displacements caused by 22 years of civil war in Sudan, both young men became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while living in foreign countries.
In 2000, Jervase (right in photo) fled his home of Ananatak in Southern Sudan during a night attack on the village at the age of 13. His flight into the bush began a journey of almost 1,000 miles and severe hardships, including lack of water, food, and shelter as he travelled with people he did not know, toward the Kenyan border. He stayed seven years in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, Nairobi and came in contact with young LDS missionaries on the streets.
Jervase visited the LDS Church for the first time in October, 2007 and was warmly received by Bishop Justus Suchi and members of the Kasarani Ward, Nairobi. He was baptized seven months later, having received a testimony of the restoration through the prophet, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon as ancient scripture, and an increase in his knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Desiring to serve a mission, but having only refugee status in Kenya and no passport, Jervase boarded a bus to return to his homeland, now the sovereign nation of South Sudan. He had been able to communicate with his mother recently, after twelve years of separation, and had received his passport. This young man, who faced many challenges in his short life, looked forward to his service as a full-time missionary in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission.
Mark (Mike) Unwar Ukuch (left in photo) was fatherless from birth because his father died during the Sudanese civil war. His uncle supported Mike’s family, providing for Mike’s education at a boarding school in Uganda. Mike’s cousin, Alum joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2009 and began to share with him what she had learned. After meeting with several sets of missionaries from the Uganda Kampala Mission over a period of one year, Mike was baptized into the LDS Church in December 2010.
After completing his secondary education in Uganda, Mike returned to Juba, South Sudan and began attending the Juba Branch, where he was ordained an Elder in preparation for his call as a missionary. Mike bears witness of the great influence full-time missionaries have in sharing the gospel message and looks forward to the day when missionaries will serve in his country of South Sudan. For now, Mike was one of the first two missionaries from the Juba Branch; he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Ghana Accra Mission.