At 5am on July 8, The Rt. Rev. Moses Deng Bol was awakened to the sound of children singing and dancing.
The Episcopal Diocese of Wau, in South Sudan, shares a compound with two schools, and on the eve of the country's formal independence from the Republic of Sudan, the celebration had already started. Even five-year-old children, who had been spared much of the country's tortured past, had found welling up inside them a joy that is now pulsing throughout the entire country -- from the capital of Juba to the most rural of villages.
"We are happier today than we ever were before. I cannot explain what kind of excitement we have now," said Cecilia Athieng, a 23-year-old Sudanese trainer with Five Talents partner Mothers Union, during a Skype call.
Bishop Moses himself chuckled when talking about the dancing children. After all, they were simply doing what everyone else there is doing: celebrating. However, he knows as well as anyone that along with the excitement of participating in the birth of a new nation also comes apprehension for its future.
"What we have now is just the beginning," said Bishop Moses. "Don't say, 'They have now gotten their independence, they will be okay.' We are not okay. We need at least several more years to get on track."
Five Talents has had a presence in South Sudan since 2005, when the organization began helping to lay the foundation for the first-ever community-led bank in the country.
Today, more than 1,000 men and women are taking part in savings and loan associations across communities in Renk, Lainya, Juba, Wau and Malakal. By partnering with Mothers Union, World Concern and the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Five Talents is able to provide not only savings and loan programs, but also literacy training and spiritual development.
Such investment must continue so that the people of South Sudan will have the means to build a strong foundation for their country and enjoy a peaceful future.
For now, though, the dancing children -- along with Cecilia and Bishop Moses -- are focused on the momentous present.
On July 9, the bishop has a full slate of commitments. "Tomorrow, we are going to walk from here to the Wau stadium," he said. "We will begin with a word of prayer, followed by [the singing of] the new national anthem, which, by the way, begins with God and ends with God. After that there will be speeches and then we will conclude with another word of prayer."
Cecilia, meanwhile, has her own list of things to do. "I will dance and I will laugh and I will enjoy [the day]," she said. "[And] I'm not going to do anything at home, just celebrate the day."