The first rays of the morning sun find him bent over, squatting beneath the seringa tree. His mallet strikes the steel shaft, spraying sparks as the sound of crashing metal erupts across the plain.
These pieces have been gathered from the scrap dealers. They have been saved from war.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. – Isaiah 2:4
Seated on a tire rim, Mugaa works the metal.
"I sell 70 to 100 different types of maloda each week", he says.
The "maloda" are hand-digging tools used by small-scale farmers across South Sudan to prepare their fields. Most communities cannot afford oxen or tractors for plowing, so they use their hands. Kneeling down, farmers pierce the heavy red clay and draw lines across the earth, planting rows of sweet potatoes, millet, lentils, and okra.
Mugaa arrived in Wau three years ago. When the militia invaded his village, he carried his five children and ran. He left everything behind: his home, cattle, and crops. Men were killed or maimed. Women were raped. Mugaa survived. "I thank God that my hands were not cut off", he says.
In Liethnom, Mugaa met others who had been displaced, some of the over 2.3 million who have fled violence and bloodshed in the country. "My family was brought down to level zero to start living from nothing", he says.
Where does one begin in a country plagued by war? How can parents provide for their children when there are no jobs or access to financial services?
In the midst of his darkest hour, Mugaa was invited to join a small group of Christian men. They met on a regular basis to pray and encourage one another. They also learned business skills and blacksmithing and began to save together. After three months of training, Mugaa was granted a loan of $50 by the nine other members of his group. With the approval of the local community bank, Mugaa used his loan to start a new business.
Today, Mugaa spends his days beating swords into plowshares. He pounds scrap metal into farm tools. Starting with just his hands, Mugaa now earns three times the average national income. His business employs two young men and he is able to take all of his children to school and provide for his family's basic needs.
"I thank God [for] for giving me credit to start [working] again so that I can send my children to school."Five Talents works with Anglican churches to empower entrepreneurs in developing countries through skills training, spiritual formation, small group savings, business development, and the creation of community banks.
With the support of friends like you, Five Talents has helped to establish the only two community banks in South Sudan. Together we work in marginalized and neglected communities around the world to break the cycle of poverty. Would you partner with Five Talents and help us reach more families and communities? Learn how you can become a friend today.
- Mugaa's name was changed for this story to protect his identity.
- This article was published in The Mid- Atlantic Messenger, a newsletter of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic on May 19th, 2016.