Esther Igenye Joseph’s head is shaved like many South Sudanese women, but the day I met her she wasn’t wearing a wig. She wore an orange and goldenrod dress with stitched flowers and orange capped sleeves and she had shiny black patent leather shoes with orange straps.
On a typical morning, she sits under a tree in the market selling pineapple, sugarcane, tomatoes and mais. Until midday. Then she packs up her things and returns home as her seven children arrive from school.
They take her produce back to the market and she goes to school, where she’s a senior level secondary student. From school, she continues selling until she returns home with her children and cooks the evening meal.
Esther’s business in the market grew with the help of two 200 South Sudanese pound microloans funded by Partners International. She’d requested over twice as much in order to be competitive at market, where on a good day she could sell over 300 pounds worth of pineapple or 400 pounds of sugarcane.
But not every day is a good day. During the conflict which began last December, everyone who could fled Juba. In Esther’s neighborhood, people walking out of their homes were killed by stray bullets. Her market ceased to meet.
Those on government payroll went four months without pay. When she bought produce, it went bad from lack of costumers and she was forced to throw buckets of tomatoes away.
Still, Esther’s paid back her loans on time and with interest. The first one she returned early.
“There are other sisters in the church, even they need,” she reasons. “If I pay back, the money can give to other women.”
Esther’s track record has made her an example for other women who have received loans and she’s an officer in the AIC Microfinance office. When loans aren’t repaid on time, she visits the businesses to investigate the delay and encourage payment.
She’s also served as a spiritual example. At nineteen years old, she was married and had had her first child when she heard people talking about of Jesus Christ as she sat selling vegetables in the KonyoKonyo central market.
“I heard that thing, I left selling my things, and I went for the revival,” she remembers. “Everything in the same day I received.”
Before, she’d been disrespectful and resentful about caring for her family and young son. But after receiving Jesus Christ, her life began to change.
“Even I give respect to people now. My own children, they start knowing now we have a mother.”
She gives testimony about how God changed her life, one of her friends says. “Even now, she’s the teacher teaching the other women they are far from God and teaching them to come and receive Christ.”
Esther knows the needs of the women around her as well. When I asked her for prayer requests, she requested that God would meet the needs of the women in the church and bring them teaching to manage their money.
“Everything depend on women,” she says. “Women are the ones taking care of the homes, running their business. I started for myself, but my friends can be helped.” They need teaching on how to save money, how much to set aside for feeding and for reinvestment.
These days, people are getting their salaries and business is returning to the market. Esther can bring a container of produce from KonyoKonyo and sell it all in one day.
But it’s not until the end of our conversation that her situation becomes truly apparent. During the time of peace after South Sudan declared independence, Esther’s husband, an ordained AIC assistant pastor, left the church.
“He saw the life, the one outside from the church,” she says. “He left, he went and then married another lady.”
Market, microfinance office, seven children, church, and school—“now she knows, really education is very important,” says her friend.
Impressive—“but I am the one doing it all,” she says. “I could use prayers for that.”
How to pray for Esther Igenye Joseph:
- pray for the restoration of Esther’s family.
- pray for the continued success of her market business, which will pay for her children’s school fees.
- pray for the AIC Women of Good News fellowship, that God would touch the hearts of the women to come and give their time to the activities of the church.
- pray for the rebuilding of Esther’s AIC Logo local church. The church building was knocked into the road and bulldozed by the government. The Logo members are currently meeting in someone’s house but it is not large enough. Pray that God would touch the hearts of those who can give them permanent land, and the hearts of the people to build.