When she traveled to Sudan last summer, Professor of Old Testament Ellen Davis was fulfilling an old promise to a friend and former student. Before she returned home, Davis had a vision of a partnership between Duke Divinity School and a struggling Sudanese seminary.
Davis’s promise to visit and teach in Sudan was made to Daniel Deng Bul, bishop of Renk and chair of the committee on justice, peace and reconciliation for the Episcopal Church of that African nation. Renk is the northern most city of southern Sudan, about 500 miles west of the war-torn Darfur region.
Although the city has never been completely cut off from the power centers in the north, residents have suffered nonetheless during Sudan’s protracted civil war. Bishop Deng Bul, who was Davis’s student when she taught at Virginia Theological Seminary, has worked to establish schools and homes for the thousands of children orphaned and abandoned during hostilities.
On the third night of her 12-day visit teaching, preaching and visiting Episcopal seminaries, Davis lay awake wondering how she might help the Christians of Sudan. Their scholars already have translated the New Testament, but translations of the Old Testament into regional tribal languages are still in progress. Seminary classes in biblical languages are a high priority.
Davis envisioned sending American instructors to teach three-week intensive courses in Old Testament languages at Renk Bible College.
Since her return, she has helped organize a partnership among Duke Divinity School, Virginia Theological Seminary, and the Bible College. In December, Megan McMurtry M.T.S. ’03, Th.M. ’05 and Anna Brawley, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor of Hebrew at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, became the first visiting teachers, each teaching three classes of Hebrew a day during a three-week stay.
According to Davis, teachers of Greek and other theological subjects will travel to Sudan to teach in subsequent years.
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