Maanza a Leza’s ‘Hands of God’ connects Memphis Methodists and Zambia


Through sales of hand-beaded jewelry, the Maanza a Leza ministry of Mullins United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, directly helps villagers in Zambia, Africa. (Submitted photo)

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By Margaret Carbaugh, Mullins United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN

For the past 15 years, Debi Gray and Brenda Carson have been crafting hand-beaded jewelry that makes more than a fashion statement. In true United Methodist fashion, the jewelry makes money for missions.

And while the beads themselves would not literally wrap around the world, in a very real way, they connect Memphis-area United Methodists with remote, rural villagers in the southern Africa country of Zambia.

Though separated geographically, the two groups work together through a ministry called “Maanza a Leza,” housed at Mullins United Methodist Church in East Memphis, Tennessee.

Aptly enough, Maanza a Leza means “the hands of God” in Chitonga, the native language spoken in Sichebeya, the village where Maanza has been working since 2004.

“We asked the villagers what we could do to help them,” Gray recalls. “They asked us to help them build additional classrooms for their school, because they felt that education was the only way to lift their community out of poverty.”

Mostly through sales of hand-beaded jewelry, Maanza has achieved this first goal.

“Working with the villagers to build the teachers’ housing and the additional classrooms was a necessary first step,” says Gray. “Students can now continue their schooling through the ninth grade at the village school,” she adds. They are then eligible to sit for competitive exams to enter high school.

With that milestone met, Maanza has shifted its focus to recruitment of individuals or groups to sponsor students at the high school in Choma, a city about four hours’ drive from the village of Sichebeya.

Having this option is especially valuable for girls in the village.

“Village life is tough for the girls,” Gray explains. While it is still dark outside, they leave their homes to gather wood for campfires and haul water from the village well. They help prepare breakfast and then clear away the food and dishes before they can leave for school. And, after school, they repeat the process for dinner, often carrying a young baby in a sling on their back.

Because girls have so much responsibility in the village, a related goal is to fund after-school day care, so that they can spend more time studying and preparing their lessons for class the next day.

Maanza is also considering ways to incorporate vocational training into the school’s curriculum. Other long-term goals include a library for the entire community.

At present, Maanza has sponsors for one college student and for 12 students who attend middle and high schools in Choma and neighboring towns. It also needs additional sponsors and co-sponsors for the fall term. Sponsorship of one student costs approximately $350 to $400 per year. This amount includes tuition, boarding, and books.

Contact Brenda Carson or Debi Gray to find out ways to be a part of Maanza’s ministry. Ask about sponsoring a student or schedule a presentation for your church or other group setting.

Brenda Carson (901) 490-5466
Debi Gray (901) 246-8017 

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