Why is Nehemiah my role model? I am a survivor in exile, like many of my South Sudanese people in the West. Yet, we are moving forward regardless of how difficult it is.

Nehemiah was born in exile, as his parents were captured from their beloved Jerusalem, and were carried off into captivity by the Babylonians. He must have been a good worker and found to be a trustworthy enslaved person, because by the time we meet him in the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible, he held the position of cupbearer to the King. At a time when poisoning was a popular way to kill your enemy, the cupbearer had the dangerous task of tasting the King’s food and drink before serving it to his master. The King must trust his cupbearer completely.

 One day Nehemiah received news that the city of Jerusalem was in bad repair, with its walls torn down and lying in ruin, leaving it vulnerable to any enemy who might want to come in. Nehemiah wasn’t content to just pray about Jerusalem’s situation—he wanted to be there and offer his help. When the King saw that Nehemiah was sad about something, he inquired. Nehemiah told the King and Queen that his city was in danger, and he wanted to go and do something about it.

 Scripture states, “And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.” [Nehemiah 2:6 ESV]. So, when the King heard the story, he agreed to release Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and help rebuild it. He even sent along with him materials with which to rebuild and commanded his people to do likewise.

 Nehemiah could have used his current position as an excuse not to try to do anything about Jerusalem, but he did not do that. Instead, he went out, sent of God, and with the support of the king, to undertake the task of rebuilding his beloved city.

 The Bible story described Nehemiah’s journey to Jerusalem and his first actions when he arrived there, especially his preliminary inspection or survey of the walls at night and the revelation of his plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He faced resentment from some local people and met great difficulties, but he never quit because of them.

 Nehemiah and his followers do what seems to be the impossible because they are doing what God has called them to do, rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, one of the most powerful messages in this story of Nehemiah is how much you can accomplish when you align yourself with the will and plan of God. You may not need to rebuild a wall to do the will of God, but if God calls you to do His will, He will be with you in that task.

 Nehemiah’s story is, in many ways, like mine. Although I escaped captivity, I, too, was forced from my home and endured many years of suffering and tribulation, danger, and pain in the African bush and forests, yearning for safety. Nehemiah traveled to a strange place and had to make a new life for himself there, including learning a new language. I, too, have had to leave my home in South Sudan and make a place for myself in America. Yet, Nehemiah continued his faithfulness to God, despite everything he went through. He prayed earnestly to God to enable him to return to his homeland and to help with its rebuilding.

 Although we may not have a monarch in America to provide support for such a rebuilding project, we do have men and women of goodwill, like some of you, who are willing to help me. So please pray for me and my work and give as you can to help me build the school. It will take all of us to raise our people in South Sudan, but as Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 2:20: “The God of heaven is the One who will grant us success.

 For me, I hope that my fellow South Sudanese can ask the same questions: “How long will your journey take our son Jacob?” and “What can I do to support you and your family, Jacob, to bring a change to your people as their ‘Nehemiah’?” If God answers my calling through you, I would be pleased to complete the work I began a couple of years ago in South Sudan. The government has given me land in Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan.

 Brothers and sisters, I encourage you all, especially my fellow South Sudanese in the West, to work together with me, by helping me obtain the materials needed to rebuild our homeland’s communities as just as the king commanded his people to do in this story.

 I have been praying earnestly for my homeland of South Sudan. I want to return there and help my people rebuild their lives through God’s grace, forgiveness, and education. That is why I founded the Africa Sunrise Communities, a non-profit organization, and am building the Rising Hope Christian Center in Bor. It is my way of helping to rebuild my country.

Prayer for Confession:

 Heaven Fatherly, I cry out for your help in my life! Even though the storms in my life are many, I want to be faithful in prayer.  Scripture tells us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV). I fear not because of you, O God, you who are my strength and who holds me in your right hand. So, I say to You, God, I fear not, I know you will be with me, you are a source of help and my guide. Help me  to be faithful and align myself with your will and plan. Amen.