After joining the East African Revival Movement in Yei in 1963, Mama Christina Kamala became a very active member and then a leader of the Revival until her tragic death in November 2008 in Mulago Hospital in Kampala.
Mama Christina Kamala attended Elementary School (Yei Girls’ School) from 1939 to 1942. She then studied at Yei Central (Teachers Training School) in 1943. Upon finishing her studies here, she taught at Yei Girls’ School and other schools. In 1950 she married Mr. Mikaya Kelley, a Rumbek Secondary School student and son of an Englishman and a Sudanese (Kakwa) mother.
In 1965 the family escaped into exile in Uganda during first civil war in southern Sudan. In Uganda Mama Christina continued to participate in evangelistic revival activities. When her husband decided to marry another wife, a Ugandan citizen, Mama Christina Kamala moved away from her husband, to live alone with her children until they returned to Sudan after the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972 which ended the war (1955-1972). Unfortunately, four of her five daughters and one of her four sons died in Sudan between 1976 and 2004.
Mama Christina Kamala continued her evangelistic revival activities in South Sudan (Yei and Juba) and took over the leadership of the Revival movement after the death of its leader, Rev. Michael Lomo, a fellow Kakwa from Yei, in 1991.
In 1992, Mama Christina Kamala and Timayo Leme, a male colleague from Kajo Keji Diocese traveled from Juba to Khartoum on a evangelistic revival mission to the Muslim-dominated Northern Sudan. The two were joined by Mothers’ Union and Youth representatives (but not representatives from the executive committee of the Revival group in Khartoum), and the team traveled northwards to Atbara, in the center of Muslim Sudan, to bring the Gospel to the former Christian Kingdom of Nubia (6th century to 16th century AD), now Islamized territory. In Atbara, the team received an enthusiastic reception and the members were invited by representatives from Eastern Sudan to go on to Port Sudan and Kassala towns to preach the Gospel. Unfortunately, the team had no funds for this long journey and they returned to Khartoum disappointed.
At a Sunday service in Fitihap Parish church, one of the ECS (Episcopal Church of Sudan) displaced churches in the suburbs of Omdurman where I was a regular worshipper, Mama Christina told the story of their mission to Atbara and their disappointment at not being able to respond to the cry from the East, like the Macedonians’ call to Paul, due to lack of funds. At the time I was preparing to leave for my theological studies at Virginia Theological Seminary in the United States. An idea came to mind which I shared with Mama Christina and the Christians worshipping with us: that we form an organization called “Sondi Nan” in the Bari language (“Send Me” in English), and that we visit the parishes and preaching centers in the three towns of Khartoum North and Omdurman with a message and an appeal for financial support so that the team could go to Eastern Sudan to bring the Good News to the people there. The idea was welcomed by the congregation and members of our church visited the churches in groups of two the next Sunday.
The Christians’ response was overwhelming. As a result, Mama Christina and her team traveled to Port Sudan, Kasalla, and Gedaref in the east, powerfully preaching the Good News in open air rallies attended by Christians of all denominations, including the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches and even Muslims.
The team returned to Khartoum as I was about to leave for my studies. When Mama Christina related their experiences in the east, I asked them to write a report that I could take with me to America. I gave it to friends at the Companions in World Mission in Washington, D.C. The story appeared on the front page of the organization’s newsletter with photos of the Sondi Nan–Send Me executive committee. When I came home for my holidays I brought a check for $1,500 for Sondi Nan.
This gift enabled Mama Christina to organize another evangelistic mission, this time southwards, to Wad Medani, Rabak and Kosti, and up to Renk, the northern most town in Southern Sudan. Unfortunately the leadership of the Revival in Khartoum was not happy that this money was given to the Sondi Nan executive and not put in the Revival account in Khartoum, to be used for their routine activities. So they issued an order banning Mama Christina from preaching or evangelizing in Khartoum and in the north as a whole, because they considered she was coming from Juba to take over their functions. They ordered her to leave immediately for Juba to work there. But Mama Christina replied that God had called her to preach His word and only God could stop her from doing so in any part of the Sudan. The Revival executive then referred the case to the Central Revival executive in Juba and Mama Christina was summoned to Juba to explain herself.
Juba, however, agreed with Mama Christina and issued an order suspending the Khartoum order and authorizing Mama Christina to continue her work in the north. When Mama Christina’s reputation spread as far as England, Mr. Carlisle, the chairman of the Sudan Church Association, invited her to bring the good news to England as well. Mr. Carlisle asked me to arrange Mama Christina’s trip to England, getting visas for her from the British Embassy in Khartoum and arranging for her airplane travel.
Mama Christina had a very successful mission in England. Her daughter, Dinah, who was in England with her husband then, helped her with translations.
The last obstacle to Mama Christina’s work was her husband, Mr. Mikaya Kelley, whose Ugandan wife had left him some years earlier in the 1980s. He accused Mama Christina of robbing him of his children and property and tried to block her commissioning in 2001 as head of the Revival Movement in the Sudan but without success.
Mama Christina was an outspoken prophetess who, like Amos and Jeremiah, did not hesitate to speak out against corruption and sinful behavior from anybody, including church workers and leaders. In a Christian Revival Convention in January 2006 in Yei, she attacked and challenged “Christian” women in white Mothers’ Union clothing from one of the counties in the Yei area whom the civil authorities had accused of poisoning neighbors. The authorities forced some of them to drink their poison. When they died they were buried in a specifically designated cemetery for such women.
Mama Christina Kamala died of a stroke after an operation in Mulago Hospital on November 29, 2008. She was seventy-eight years old and had served the Lord for forty-five years. May her soul rest in eternal peace.
Oliver Meru Duku
Interviews with relatives and eyewitnesses by Bishop Allison Theological College diploma student Rev. Jacob Kareba.
Eulogy at the memorial service at the Bishop Allison Theological College chapel by the chaplain, Rev. James Kenyi Elia.
Personal records of work in Khartoum with Rev. Canon Dr. Oliver M. Duku and Mr. Oliver Nyoma at Sondi Nan.
This article, received in 2009, was researched and written by DACB liaison coordinator Rev. Canon Dr. Oliver Meru Duku, Principal, Bishop Allison Theological College (P.O. Box 1076, Arua, Uganda), a DACB Participating Institution.