Muka’s inspiring story ties together a jewelry ministry at Mullins UMC in Memphis with education in Africa
Muka Kambol talked about her educational journey with friends and supporters at Mullins United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee on Jan. 3. She expressed appreciation for the church's jewelry ministry, Maanza A Leza, that has helped with the education of many children in Sichibeya, Muka's home village in Zambia in Southern Africa. (Photos by Lane Gardner Camp - Click on link below the headline to see more photos.)
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Story and photos by Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference
Some in the church knew her well; others not as well or at all. But by the end of the evening on Jan. 3, all those gathered at Mullins United Methodist Church (UMC) in Memphis, Tennessee, grasped and appreciated Muka’s inspiring life journey.
Mukanyanga (Muka) Muzyamba Kambol presented the Wednesday evening program, "From Muka's Eyes," talking about and sharing photos of a life that has brought her to West Tennessee from Sichibeya, a small, rural village of subsistence farmers in Zambia in Southern Africa.
Muka is in Memphis now for several years with her family while her husband, Jacques Kambol, is a student at Memphis Theological Seminary. The couple met at Africa University and have two small children, Debbie and Elizabeth.
The family is living with Debi Gray, a member of Mullins UMC, who, along with two other church members, Brenda Carson and Cyndi Watkins, have visited Muka’s African village and know firsthand the difficulties and hurdles she has overcome in her quest for an education.
Muka’s story is a God story helped along by Maanza A Leza, the Mullins UMC ministry that makes and sells jewelry to provide financial support to educate young people like Muka, as well as build village classrooms and teacher houses in Sichibeya.
“Maanza A Leza” are words from the language of the Tonga people of Zambia that mean “Hands of God.”
Rev. Scott Alford, pastor at Mullins UMC since the summer of 2017, told how amazed he has been to learn about the far-reaching work of Maanza A Leza and that it was “birthed right here.”
He called the lay-driven ministry of Mullins UMC a perfect example of “not everything having to come from the pastor’s office.”
Muka told the group gathered at Mullins about life in Sichibeya without electricity and running water.
Before Maanza A Leza used its jewelry sales money to build additional classrooms and teacher homes in Sichibeya, the village school only included grades one through four. It now goes up to grade nine.
But those added grades were too late for Muka, who, after fourth grade, voluntarily chose to walk three hours (six miles) one way to a school in Munyeke for grades five through seven. That reveals how much she wanted to continue her education.
Describing her daily walks without shoes, which her parents could not afford, she told about one frightening encounter with a cobra that prompted her to switch trails for her regular trek.
A quick learner and gifted student, Muka was accepted to a boarding school in Choma for grades eight through twelve. Sponsored for this part of her education by World Vision, that is when she said she first started wearing shoes.
It was in her twelfth grade year that Muka said she learned about Maanza A Leza after the Mullins UMC ministry provided her with a blanket to help her keep warm in cold temperatures.That led to her becoming a field reporter for the ministry while she waited to get in to college after completing high school in 2004.
With sponsorship from Maanza A Leza, Muka was able to pay her expenses to attend the United Methodist Church’s Africa University in Zimbabwe for a four-year degree in health services management. She graduated with honors in 2010 and found employment in the healthcare industry.
Not finished with her formal education, though, Muka went on to receive a master’s degree in public/global health in 2014 from Cavendish University in Zambia, again sponsored by Maanza A Leza.
That was the same year she married Jacques Kambol from Congo; the two had attended Africa University together.
Muka’s educational accomplishments helped her obtain a promotion to a senior management healthcare position in 2015.
In 2017, Muka moved to Memphis with her family (on visas) for her husband to attend Memphis Theological Seminary. This has been possible again with faithful financial and volunteer support from Maanza A Leza and Mullins UMC.
Muka told how her educational accomplishments would not have been possible without the help of Maanza A Leza. She said she and her husband are “really grateful” for all their opportunities.
When she and her family return to Africa after Jacques completes his studies, she said they have a “a passion” to help village children obtain their educations. Options are limited if local schools are not available.
“We see God moving in our lives,” said Muka.
MAANZA A LEZA’S STORY
Started in 2004, Maanza A Leza is based out of Mullins UMC in east Memphis. Its mission, according to ministry literature, is to “share God’s loving grace with the people of Sichebeya.”
Over 14 years, using funds generated primarily by sales of jewelry hand-crafted by Mullins volunteers, Maanza A Leza has not only helped with Muka’s education through graduate school, but the educations of seven other students AND it has built three village classrooms and one teacher house in Sichebeya.
Gray said the ministry’s founders, of which she is one, knew they needed a way to raise money, rather than just asking people to “please donate.” They already shared a passion for crafting jewelry and prayerfully decided to try selling jewelry to raise funds.
Jewelry sales take place not just at Mullins, but at other churches, mission-minded craft fairs and United Methodist annual conferences.
“Everybody in the church helps us,” said Gray.
Today, thanks in part to Maanza A Leza, the school in Sichebeya serves 440 students with six teachers.
Village classrooms make it possible for more village children to start and continue their educations near home. They don’t have to walk as far to school as Muka did for part of her education.
This means children can continue their educations and girls, particularly, can hopefully avoid early pregnancies and marriages that contribute to a continuing cycle of poverty, explained Muka.
Teacher homes, Muka said, are required by the government for all schools. The schools can’t operate well without adequate teacher housing.
Maanza A Leza’s next goal, according to Carson, is to build a block of three more classrooms in Sichebeya.
To learn more about Maanza A Leza or support the ministry, visit maanzajewelry.blogspot.com.
SCHEDULE A SPEAKER
To schedule a speaker/program from Maanza A Leza, contact Brenda Carson at 901-490-5466 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to "From Muka's Eyes," another program is "Prayer Beads."