LISBON, N.D. — It’s the best Christmas present he’s ever had. Juwle Nagbe can stay in the United States.

In the 1990s, Nagbe, 68, of Lisbon, was caught in the middle of the Liberian Civil War. Hundreds of thousands of people were murdered and tortured, including several of Nagbe’s family members. He was told he was going to be killed, and so he fled to the Ivory Coast, before making his way to the U.S. in 1997.

Nagbe has been living here as part of the Deferred Enforced Departure program. However, President Donald Trump said he was going to end the program on March 31. So, Nagbe was going to be deported to Liberia at that time. Nagbe tried everything possible to stay in the U.S., but every effort failed.

Until now.

Congress just passed and Trump signed the $738 billion 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. There’s an amendment in the act that allows 4,000 Liberians in the U.S. under DED to permanently stay here, apply for green cards, and be on a path to citizenship.

“Praise the Lord,” Nagbe said. “It’s been hard not knowing if we can stay here. I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present. It feels great.”

Nagbe, a beloved pastor, amazingly serves three congregations in southeastern North Dakota. Every Sunday he leads worship services at 8:15 a.m. at the Enderlin United Methodist Church, followed by a 9:45 service at the Lisbon United Methodist Church, and then on to an 11:15 service at the Lisbon First Presbyterian Church.

Those congregations, along with the Lisbon and Enderlin communities, rallied around Nagbe. They raised money, helped him with the legal work, and gave him emotional support.

“I just can’t believe the love they have given me,” Nagbe said. “I’m grateful to the people of North Dakota, Congress, and the president. May God continue his blessings on the great people of this country.”

Congregants at the churches that Nagbe serves are thrilled that he will remain here. “It’s great news,” said Glen Fuhrman, a member of the Enderlin United Methodist Church. “The country is getting a great citizen. You can’t find a better human than him. You can’t find a more sincere man.”

“I am very excited,” said Dean Kirsch of the Lisbon First Presbyterian Church. “We love the pastor. We want to keep him here. It is fabulous news and a great Christmas present. He’s a wonderful man.”

It is fabulous news. It would have been a senseless tragedy to deport Nagbe. He is making a real difference in many people’s lives, and motivating them in a special way in a special country.

“I love America and Americans,” Nagbe said. “America is the home that demonstrates freedom. It gives me another chance to make a contribution. Staying here will give me the chance to pay back the blessings that have been given to me.”