Gospel-shaped unity: An interview with Elias

Over the next two weeks we will be doing a series of interviews with our scholarship students at George Whitefield College. Each student will be sharing about what they are up to this year, the challenges and successes they have encountered. The first student we’ll be getting to know today is Elias! Elias is in his third year at George Whitefield College. In the interview below he talks about his exam, preaching the Old Testament and living away from home. Please be praying for these guys as they work tirelessly to be qualified!

What subjects are you doing this semester and how are you doing in them?

I’m doing Doctrine on the Person of Christ, Deuteronomy in Hebrew, Preaching, Ethics, Church History, and Romans in Greek. I’m doing 7 modules and there are a lot of assignments. You find that you need to commit time to study your Greek and Hebrew. Even in Deuteronomy, you first do the translation from Hebrew to English, then you have to write an exegesis paper. It’s a huge amount of work. But at the moment I’m doing well. I’ve received two assignments back, still waiting for the others. Tomorrow I’m submitting two assignments.

We’re beginning our exams in one week’s time, on the 3rd of June. The workload is challenging but as I’m already done with my assignments I can now prepare for the exams.

Tell us about your upcoming exam on the book of Romans.

The Book of Romans is an interesting module, but there is much work to be done. Romans has 16 chapters and our module is about reading the book in Greek and then producing a good translation from Greek to English. We are told to revise everything for the exam, especially the 16 chapters that the exam is coming from. So we need to work hard to ensure that we understand the text and its historical context well. It’s a lot for work and the timeframe is short — it feels like the workload of two to three modules.

What are some challenges and successes you’ve encountered terms of work and studies?

One challenge is I’ve found it difficult to set aside time for my devotions. Because of the workload, I’m not really able to read my Bible up to the time I expected.

In terms of successes, I’ve have a friend from Malawi with whom I always come together to discuss things. I’ve found it helpful to share in these things together with him. I also go to St Barnabas Church, and I’m always being given an opportunity to serve and lead. The pastor there requested that I preach at church on the 15th. Unfortunately I’m going away for holidays so I won’t be here. But church is going well.

What is something you have learned in college that has surprised you?

One thing I’ve realised is that my preaching has changed since I finished my three-year course back home in theology. At the moment we are being taught how to preach through the Old Testament. I preached two sermons on Genesis and Leviticus and surprisingly, the lecturer was very impressed with my preaching. He really told me that I’m a good preacher. John Jal appreciated my sermon that time as well. So I think I’ve gone far in my preaching.

The second thing is relating to people in this multicultural institution. I’ve seen that it’s really important to create relationships, to work together as a team, and to encourage one another. This is one of the things I want to emphasise when I get back to South Sudan. Because I think our people back home are divided based on ethical issues, like tribal things. The gospel challenges us that we must love one another. I’ve found it very encouraging at college because people work together, and lecturers come together and interact with students, which I am not used to. That’s really something that has impacted my life.

And how are other things going for you in general, Elias?

Having my family far away is a challenge, as whenever I speak with them they are not well — especially my little boy Timothy. Since January, when I came here, up until now, he’s been sick. He’s now seven years old.

Another challenge is communication. It’s very difficult — so far I haven’t communicated with my parents as they are living far away, and it’s hard to talk with them when I am at college here.

One other challenge is that I’ve been displaced from Kampala. I was told to quit the room because of payments and the rent. So that’s difficult.

How is your fellowship group going?

Our fellowship group leader has been an encouragement. In the various things that have happened, he tells me, ‘Brother, keep on going.’ I’ve also been with him on a mission trip. So I’m definitely enjoying the fellowship group every Tuesday. It’s terrific.

Is there anything else you want to say to supporters?

I just want to share my appreciation for this program being run by our brother, Darien. He is working hard to ensure that we are supported in our studies. My message is that the donors should continue to support us, as they’re not just supporting an individual. Bishop Gwynne College where we will be returning to teach brings together all tribes in South Sudan. So donors will have a great impact — not just individual students but the whole country.

We are always thankful for your prayer and financial support. If you have a minute, would you give thanks to God and pray for Elias, his family and his studies? We have included a summary of prayer points below.

You can also check out the other interviews we did with other students in our series: Kasmiro, Alex, Seme and Philip. We also did a bonus interview with John, a recent graduate who is passing on what he has learned at college as a lecturer at Bishop Gwynne College, South Sudan.

Give thanks for…

  • The encouragement and support of the fellowship group at George Whitefield College
  • Opportunities for Elias to serve and use his gifts at St Barnabas church
  • Unity amongst the multicultural student and faculty body at George Whitefield College
  • The great growth and improvement that Elias has seen in his preaching

Please pray for…

  • The exams Elias and the other students will sit and for the results of their assessments
  • God’s protection over Elias’ family and for ways to keep in touch with them
  • Healing over Elias’ son Timothy who has an ongoing sickness
  • The rental situation in Kampala and for God’s provision for payments and accommodation