Solomon Mursal speaks during a conference in 2010 about an upcoming referendum that decided whether Southern Sudan would secede from the Sudan that had existed since 1947. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The day before he died, Pastor Solomon Mursal comforted and prayed with people who needed support as they grieved the loss of a loved one.

Mursal, a respected member of the South Sudanese community in Maine, was known for his faith, his encouragement, and his ability to bring peace and calm to those around him. He died unexpectedly on June 25 at Maine Medical Center surrounded by his family. He was 54.

“I don’t know how to describe the void that’s left in the community,” said John Ochira, who knew Mursal for many years as a former president of the South Sudanese Community Association of Maine. “He was such a big leader in the community.”

Mursal was from South Sudan and came to the United States in the early 2000s as a refugee. He and his wife, Asunta Mokesi, whom he married in Cairo in 2003, were supposed to settle in Kansas City, Missouri. But because of a paperwork issue, they weren’t able to go there directly and instead came to Portland, where Mokesi’s sisters and mother were living. They decided to stay in Maine to be close to family, said their son, Ganzi Kumondan, a 17-year-old high school senior.

Mursal went on to earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in business administration and worked as a supervisor at Abbott Laboratories. He planned to go back to school this year to pursue an advanced degree, his son said.

Much of Mursal’s life revolved around his faith and his church, Our Nations Shukuru Yesu Church in Portland. He frequently traveled across the country to preach, bringing along his wife and sons, including 9-year-old Sila, to sing and play instruments.


Mursal often made time to visit people he had met in Africa while he was traveling outside of Maine. He was always taking photos and live streaming his services on Facebook, his son said.

“They loved him and enjoyed his presence,” Kumondan said.

Mursal was a gregarious man who liked to joke around, but he was also a constant, supportive presence who felt a responsibility to help families and guide young people, Ochira said. Many in the South Sudanese community in Maine knew him as a pastor who was always willing to listen and connect.

“He was really full of joy and love. He was very open and he carried his love of God with him everywhere he went,” Ochira said.

In the days since Mursal’s death, the community has gathered each day to support his family. Members of the South Sudanese Group of Friends set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help cover funeral expenses. It had raised nearly $7,000 as of Friday evening.

“He was an embodiment of community in the Sudanese sense. He shared his time, wisdom, and whatever little money he had with those in need. Pastor Mursal lived a life of service on behalf of humanity,” the fundraiser organizers wrote.

Kumondan said his father was a very encouraging and motivational person. He said he knows his father will be watching as he takes care of his brother and mother, and as he accomplishes his goals.

“He showed me never to give up and never to stop what you’re chasing because there will always be an answer to what you’re looking for,” he said. “He basically made me who I am today. He put his spirit in my spirit.”

Mursal’s family celebrated his life with a viewing on Friday and plans to hold a burial service Saturday in Portland at his church on Congress Street.

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