companion  synod partnership

Companion Synod Partnership

About Companion Synod Relationships:

Companion synod relationships of the ELCA connect Lutheran churches throughout the world with ELCA synods and congregations. These relationships are concrete expressions of the communion and fellowship with the more then 140 Lutheran member churches of The Lutheran World Federation. Each of the 65 synods has at least one international church companion and many have additional relationships, resulting in more than 120 companion synod relationships. Read more about the ELCA's Companion Synod relationships here.

Eastern North Dakota Synod's Global Companion Synod: Central African Republic  

Eastern ND's missionary to CAR is Willie Langdji. 

Scroll down to learn more about the history of the Sudan Mission, the beginning of our partnership with the Central African Republic. 

Eastern North Dakota Synod's Domestic Companion Synod: Alaska Synod

History of the sudan mission

The Sudan Mission marks the beginning of long partnership with Lutheran Churches in the United States and what would become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Central African Republic (ELC-CAR) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon (ELCC). We celebrate this history and the courageous individuals who responded to God's call in the formation of this partnership. Through the Spirit's leading, we look forward to continued companionship with our siblings in CAR and Cameroon. 

Many thanks to the planning team of the 2023 Sudan Mission Centennial Celebration, who compiled this history of the Sudan Mission. 

  • 1910

    •  The World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh highlights the unparalleled lack of Christian witness in that swath of African called “the Sudan” from Senegal to Ethiopia


    • A Wisconsin Lutheran, Adolphus Gunderson, serves as missionary in northern Nigeria, first with the Sudan Interior Mission until 1914, and then on his own


    • Returned to the United States, Gunderson challenged his own church, the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America (NCLA), to embrace “the Sudan” as a field of mission.


    • October 18: When the new NLCA felt unable to take on another mission field at that time, Gunderson creates an independent agency, “Sudan Mission” (SM) to address the need.
    •  December 28: Concerned groups in Norway led by Karl Flatland independently formed “the Central Committee for Missionary Work in the Sudan.”


    • Five SM missionaries travel to France to learn French. Permission to enter the new League of Nations Mandate, French Cameroons, took three years.
    • Ralph Hult, a missionary of the Augustana Lutheran Synod in the United States independently explored mission possibilities in the north, visiting the king of Rey Bouba.
  • 1923
    • Four SM missionaries, Adolphus and Marie Gunderson and deaconesses Anne Olsen and Olette Bernsten, sail from Bordeaux, France, to Doala, Cameroon, landing on April 8th.
    •  After a 26-day walk into the interior with hired porters carrying baggage, they arrived in Ngaoundéré, where they petition colonial authorities for a mission station.


    • Receiving an exceptional welcome in Mboula, southwest of Ngaoundéré, they begin their work there, preaching, building, teaching, healing, and exploring.
    • Leaving “the Sisters,” Anne and Olette, in Mboula, the Gundersons begin work at a second mission station, nearby Binako.
    • The first four missionaries of the Norwegian Central Committee arrive in Ngauoundéré – Karl Flatland, Johannes Thrana, Pastor Sverre Oseland, and Pastor Jens Nikolaisen.


    •   The Gundersons return to the States for “reinforcements” – Andrew Okland, Ernest and Hildegaard Weinhardt, and a train of candidates who followed in succeeding years
  • 1929
    • The SM opens a new mission station in Meiganga, more strategically located Binako, with postal service, telegraph, government offices, and a connecting road.


    • The SM explores villages in what is now Central African Republic and begins new work in Abba.


    • First baptisms occur in Mboula: Daniel Alim, Pierre Kayin, Barhélémy Kantou, Paul Sanda, Philip Audu, and André Garba, who later becomes the first pastor of the ELCC.


    • The Sisters, Anne and Olette, accompanied by Gbaya evangelists Silas Ngemrou and Thomas Baourou, explore the northern kingdom of Rey Bouba as far as Poli.


    • The first Christian wedding occurs in Mboula: Elisabeth Zek to Barthélémy Kantou.


    • The first trained SM missionary nurse, Alida Agrimson arrives.


    • The first baptisms occur in Abba: Paul Sippisson, Daniel Yongoro, Martha Mbodi, and John Dule.


    •  The first one-month Bible course is initiated at Meiganga, followed by a similar course in Mboula, presaging the establishment of permanent Bible schools in the church.
  • 1937-1939
    • Publication of translated materials begin arriving from the United States: catechisms, 400 Gospels of John, 300 hymnals in three languages, 500 Gospels of Matthew, and others.


    •  A new mission station is opened in Poli by Pastor Raymond and Beulah Mathre.


    •  The Central Committee for Missionary Work in the Sudan becomes part of the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS), the steward of future Norwegian mission work in Cameroon.


    • A new mission station is opened in Garoua Boulai by Pastor Arthur and Bernice Anderson.
    • The packet ship ‘S.S. Zamzam’ carrying 144 missionaries back to Africa is torpedoed in the south Atlantic. SM missionaries Alida Agrimson and Olette Bernsten both survive.


    • The SM participates in the formation of the organization of Annoora, or “Light,” for the translation of the Bible and other Christian literature into Fulfulde.


    • The first SM missionary death is recorded: Dr. Rudolph Steffenson stationed at Poli.
    • A new mission station is opened among miners in Bétaré Oya in collaboration with Earl George Harris, a Presbyterian catechist, and later served by Paul Darman.


    • The American School for missionary children is begun in Garoua Boulai, with Margaret Okland as the first teacher.


    • The first permanent Sudan Mission Bible school is established by Pastor Conrad Jergenson in Baboua. 
  • 1952
    • The American church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC, not to be confused with the later ELCA) assumes responsibility for the work of the Sudan Mission.
    • An Executive Committee composed of African as well as American members begins meeting to discuss problems and directions for the work.
    • A new mission station is opened at Dir by Oscar and Martha Noss.
    • Permission for a new mission station at Tcholliré is gained by Lloyd and Beryl Sand.


    • A new mission station is opened at Djohong by Reubin and Mildred Johnson.


    • Construction of the Protestant Hospital of Ngaoundéré is begun by the ELC and the NMS together. Dr. Conrad Eastwold comes the following year as the first permanent doctor.


    • An industrial school is begun at Tcholliré under the guidance of Ernest and Helen Johnson.


    • A new mission station is opened at Woumbou by Selmer and Esther Myklejord.


    • A normal school to provide teachers for the church primary school system is begun in Ngaoundéré with James Kallas as director.
    • May 1: a church seminary is begun in Meiganga. First called the École de Théologie, it is later renamed the Institute Luthérien de Théologie de Meiganga.
    • A first Bible school for the north is begun in Poli by Donald and Grace Flaten.


    • The Steffenson Hospital in Garoua Boulai replaces the dispensary there. 
  • 1960
    • The independent Église Évangelique Luthérienne du Cameroun et de la République Centrafricaine (EELCRCA) is formed from the combined work of the Sudan Mission and the work of the Norwegian Mission Society.
    • Rev. Hefdon Endresen, a missionary of the Norwegian Missionary Society, becomes the first president of the EELCRCA.
    • At the time of the creation of the new church, 21 SM-originated primary schools are being served by 39 teachers teaching 1,978 students.
    • The normal school in Ngaoundéré becomes a full high school, the Collège Protestant.


    • The committee is formed that eventually created the Yag Dii Literature Center, directed by Lee Bohnhoff and Rev. Kadia Matthieu.


    • Rev. Paul Darman serves as the first African President of the EELCRCA.


    • February: A working agreement for the governance of the EELCRCA, a kind of preliminary constitution, is adopted at the General Synod meeting.
    •  For diplomatic reasons the name of the church is changed to the Église Évangelique Luthérienne du Cameroun (EELC). Pastor Darman continues on as its president.
    • Sawtu Linjiila, a Radio Voice of the Gospel recording studio, is established in Ngaoundéré by Ron Nelson. In 1983 it is upgraded to a radio station due to the closing of the transmitter in Addis Ababa by the Ethiopian government.


    • Rev. Joseph Medoukan serves as president of EELC.
    • A church youth organization, Jeunesse Evangélique Chrétienne en Afrique (JECA), emerges out of the combined work of Thomas Christensen (SM) and Kjell Christoffersen (NMS).


    • An agricultural development project, Fokpayono, is begun by Bill Peters.
    • A third Bible school in the SM sector of the church is initiated at Garoua Boulai.


    • A school of “aid-pastors” is begun in Tcholliré by Harold Mundschenk, where chosen evangelists are given training in Fulfulde to permit them to be recognized as pastors.


    • The Gbaya Translation Center is begun in Ngaoundéré by Phil and Cece Noss. In 1972 it is moved to Meiganga and later renamed Gbaya Literature Center.
    • A major modernization and construction project of the Collège Protestant is begun.


    • A new mission station is established in Bouar, presaging a youth ministry in C.A.R. begun under John Gorder.


    • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Central African Republic (ELC-CAR) becomes independent from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon (ELCC). Pastor Elie Barbou serves as its first president. 
  • 1975

    • A women’s organization, Femmes pour Christ (Women for Christ), established under the directorship of Verna Syverson, reflects decades of widespread women’s gatherings.


    • Rev. Bernard Zama serves as the second president of the ELC-CAR.


    • A seminary is opened in Baboua to serve as the new ELC-CAR.
    • January 1: The school systems of the SM and the NMS are united and transferred to the EELC under the guidance of Lou Hille.
    • A health ministry is begun in Bohong by Dr. Lila Sagness. A maternity is added in 1990.

    1977-1985: Rev. Paul Darman serves another term as president of the ELCC.


    • The Gallo Development Center opens in C.A.R. to offer agricultural training and village development. SM missionary Richard Witte participates in its beginning.

    1982-1983:  Rev. Marc Bega serves as the third president of the ELC-CAR.

    1983-1984: Rev. André Daïna serves as the fourth president of the ELC-CAR.


    • Satou Marthe is elected president of the Femme pour Christ organization. Daughter of a slave, she represents the liberation of women in Africa.

    1984-1990: Rev. Paul Denou serves as the fifth president of the ELC-CAR.

    1985-1997: Rev. Pierre Amtse Songsare serves as fourth president of the ELCC.


    • Health work begun in Gallo by June Nelson becomes an established center under nurses Carl and Paul Stecker.

    1990-1998: Rev Joël Bobo serves as the sixth president of the ELC-CAR.

    1997-2000: Rev. Philemon Barya serves as fifth president of the ELCC.

    1998-2006: Rev. André Zoule serves as the seventh president of the ELC-CAR.

    2000-2013: Rev. Thomas Nyiiwe serves as sixth president of the ELCC.

    2006-2015: Rev. André Golike serves as the eighth president of the ELC-CAR.


    • The ELCC adopts the episcopal system of leadership and Rev. Nyiiwe continues as its first bishop.


    • The medical work in Gallo becomes the basis for the establishment of the Immanuel Health Center served by two doctors.

    2013-2021: Rev. Dr. Ruben Ngozo serves as the second bishop of the ELCC.

    2015-2021: Rev. Samuel Ndanga-Toue serves as the ninth president of the ELC-CAR.

    2021-Present: Rev Joseph Ngoe serves as tenth president of the ELC-CAR.


    •  The ELCC and the ELC-CAR celebrate the centennial of the arrivals of the Sudan Mission and the Norwegian Missionary Society that led to the birth of their churches. 

Photo descriptions

  • Map of Historic Sudan Mission Stations
  •  #2: Daniel Yongoro preaching at Baboua, ca. 1941
  • #3: Early chapel service, packed beyond capacity
  • #5: The first missionary station at Mboula ca. 1924
  • #6: Andrew Okland and Chief Doumba
  • #7: 1929 missionaries with Mboula stationworkers
  • #9: Okland and Gunderson on Sanaga River Ferry ca. 1929