A BITTESWEET DAY: South Sudanese graduate has uncertain future

Published 11:13 pm Friday, May 9, 2014

Troy University professor Joe McCall, left, hugs student Andrew Mohandis after Friday’s graduation ceremony. MESSENGER PHOTO | MONA MOORE

Troy University professor Joe McCall, left, hugs student Andrew Mohandis after Friday’s graduation ceremony.

Andrew Mohandis’ education started under a tree in South Sudan. It ended Friday morning with a bachelor’s degree in history from Troy University.
Graduating two days before Mother’s Day was a bittersweet reminder of the sacrifices he made to obtain that degree. Mohandis was unable to see his family in the four years he studied in the United States. Immigration laws prevented his mother from visiting. She died in South Sudan last fall.
“There are so many people who made sacrifices to allow me to study in the States,” Mohandis said. “But no one gave more than my mother. With me graduating on the Friday before Mother’s Day, I cannot help but think of the impact that she had on my life.”
Mohandis missed his mother’s funeral, but he found support here in Alabama. One of his history professors, Joe McCall, opened his home to Mohandis and threw his mother “a good ole Alabama wake.”
McCall got to know Mohandis in his classroom and on the fieldtrips he offered to students. Mohandis never missed them.
“Andrew has an endless curiosity about Alabama history,” McCall said. “Troy is very fortunate to have him out here because he brings so much culture, especially as his own culture is suffering.”
Sudan’s civil war lasted for 20 years of Mohandis’ life. South Sudan gained its independence and started to rebuild in 2005, allowing Mohandis and his best friend, Bullen Timo, to finish the equivalent of a high school education in Uganda.
The education was made possible Four Corners Ministries here in Alabama. The ministry sent Mohandis and Timo to the United States in 2008. After completing associate’s degrees in Jefferson State Community College, both came to Troy University.
“I would like to thank God so much. And specifically, Four Corners Ministries for supporting my education,” Mohandis said. “I am also grateful to have the opportunity to study in America at an institution like Troy.”
Timo will complete his business degree in December. Timo and Mohandis lived in nearby villages and have known each other since 1998.
“Being there, there’s limited hope of leaving. But God works in mysterious ways and we’re very, very grateful,” Timo said.
Both plan to return to South Sudan and help rebuild the country. Mohandis wants to teach, but he does not see that happening too soon. His country is heading towards war again.
“When I return, I will likely be forced into the army to fight and may never get the opportunity to use my education to help rebuild my country,” he said.
After the ceremony, Mohandis celebrated his graduation at Troy’s Baptist Campus Ministries. Still in his cap and gown, Mohandis embraced the Trojans there to celebrate with him. He said he wanted to take a photograph with each and every one of them.
Timo hugged and patted Mohandis on the back. The longtime friends and college roommates laughed and squealed at the milestone.
Mohandis’ smile fell a few times as he considered his uncertain future. He hasn’t come up with a way to extend his visa until South Sudan is once again at peace.
“I hope and pray that the United States government will take into account extenuating circumstances like mine,” he said.

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