Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
Til it was a battle cry”
-Regina Spektor, The Call
Answering this call required James to abandon his one opportunity to move to America, and instead return to the very place he’d spent the majority of his life fleeing—his home village, Nyamlel. Nyamlel lies along the disputed borderlands between South Sudan and Darfur, a war zone which countless people longed to escape but virtually no one wanted to go. The call God issued James Lual Atak was to abandon his own dream of the Good Life in America and embrace God’s desire to care for the orphans, the forgotten, the vulnerable. It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope, which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word. AND THEN THAT WORD GREW LOUDER AND LOUDER TIL IT WAS A BATTLE CRY!
Living that battle cry, James endured mockery, ridicule, and jeers from his own people, but God was faithful. Instead of bringing James to America, God introduced him to Make Way Partners and an incredible partnership was birthed. We have provided full support to New Life Ministry for 8 years and what began with a man with nothing but a dream, teaching 153 orphans under a mahogany tree and preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen, has become a secure compound providing home, hope, education, medical care, and education to nearly 600 children. Children like James Chol, Mary Achu, and Peter Mangar.
All those years ago James sat under the mahogany tree and told his children, “One day there will be a school here.” These children who did not know from where their next meal would come did not believe a school could rise from the dust and ashes of Nyamlel. What could only be hoped for, but not seen, has now come to pass. The New Life Ministry Primary School is respected all over South Sudan for the high quality of education we offer. These children, who previously had no hope or future, now represent the best and brightest future leaders of their nation.
Eight years ago, we started by offering first grade. When those children finished first grade, we started second grade, and brought in new first graders. When our second graders finished second grade, we started third, and so forth all the way to eighth grade. The next step, of course, is to build a high school. This is a huge step, and will be much more demanding than elementary school. Our children are already more educated than many national leaders, so our teachers will have to come from Kenya and Uganda until we can grow our own educators—through our school!
Recently, we announced the exciting news that the time is now to build a High School at New Life Ministry, which will be the only High School in the area. This dream for secondary education started out as a feeling, a hope, a quiet word. AND THEN THAT WORD GREW LOUDER AND LOUDER TIL IT WAS A BATTLE CRY!
The battle cry was immediately answered by one of our partner organizations, who pledged the first $250,000 of the total $660,000 budget. After receiving approximately half of those pledged funds, we broke ground last month with Peter, one of the promising students dedicating the site through prayer. Now the foundation is poured, and we’re ready to keep building!
However, we recently learned that due to internal issues within our partner organization, the remaining funds pledged will not be given toward the NLM High School. Therefore, today we are faced with a hard choice. If we close down construction now, the delay will be significant and the cost of flying out our Kenyan laborers only to fly them back later will be considerable in terms of finances and momentum.
The greatest cost, however, will be the discouragement our older students will face, children who have been waiting for this high school for years. The high school represents opportunity that has not been available to these children’s peers, parents or grandparents. Because it is “not yet seen” and has never been seen, it is hard for our surrounding community to value education over teen marriages and having babies. Therefore, our children face an incredible battle against discouragement and cultural expectations. They battle to hold onto hope in what has been promised and to remember that through quality Christian education not only can their lives be transformed, but as they grow into godly leaders, they are literally Hope incarnate. The cost of delaying this high school would be heartbreaking as surely some of our older students would lose hope, leaving before completing their education.
This morning I was reminded of Nehemiah’s builders who experienced such physical, spiritual, and emotional attack while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They built the wall with one hand while holding a sword in the other. The leadership and children of New Life Ministry - and all of us in the battle with them – are like Nehemiah’s builders today. The battle is raging around us while we strive to be faithful to what God has called us to do. We build with one hand while we hold a sword in the other.
Please help us by adding your voice to the battle cry!
- Make a personal pledge toward this life-transforming high school today.
- Commit to prayer for the remaining funds needed to complete it in time to begin classes in January.
- Share this story with your friends, family, church coworkers, especially the stories of James Chol, Peter Mangar, Mary Achu and the other bright children at NLM who long for an opportunity for higher education.
Senior Field Coordinator