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I am carrying on great project and cannot go down: How the story of Nehemiah inspires the work of senior care leaders at Walker Methodist

Rev. Kevin Coder, chaplain | Sep 21, 2021

In the Judeo-Christian Tradition we find a story in the Old Testament in a book called “Nehemiah.”

Picture the backdrop: The great Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Babylonian empire. Its people, the Israelites, are taken into exile that lasts 70 years. When they are finally allowed to return to their home in Jerusalem they return to see their walls are broken down and the gates are burned. The Israelites face constant attack from the surrounding Samarian tribes who are stealing their crops, killing their people, and pillaging their home.

In ancient times walls were extremely important. As someone has been deployed to a combat zone, I can tell you that walls provide safety and security, and they allow you to sleep at night.

So, during this time of violence and fear, in comes Nehemiah, a great leader who unites the Israelites and sets about rebuilding their walls.

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As they are building this wall, the surrounding tribes are getting nervous, they increase their attacks, and they try to kill Nehemiah by setting a trap.

Nehemiah tells us, “Sanballat and Geshem [side note: If you are looking for names for your children, look no further than the book of Nehemiah] sent me this message: ‘Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.’

“But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: ‘I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down [my ladder]. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?’ Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.” (Nehemiah 6:2-4)

Nehemiah’s decision to carry on his important work ultimately saved his life.

“I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.”

For those living and working in senior living, this past year and half has been extremely difficult. We’ve seen and experienced the fear, grief, stress, isolation, and sadness that the pandemic brought with it.

But with strength and determination we have survived, and, at times, even thrived. Even behind masks, face shields, plastic gowns, gloves, we’ve ensured the safety and security of our residents and rebuilt a sense of normalcy.

Like Nehemiah, we too will continue to face trials this year. And, when you discover that someone in your community has tested positive, when restrictions are once again imposed, when you weep with a resident who feels so alone, remember the words of Nehemiah: “I am carrying on a great project and I cannot come down.”

When you are tempted into believing that you are no longer needed on the wall, remember that you are not in this alone. The wall the Israelites built was not an easy task. It was a huge wall and it was not built by a single person. They built it together, as a community, a family. Piece by piece, each person was responsible for rebuilding the section in front of their home. What a single family could do might seem insignificant, but together they were able to provide a new sense of safety and security. They built a community grounded in service to others.

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