Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna persevered through many challenges: political turmoil and violence, misogyny and patriarchy, lack of community resources and personal loss. As she carved out a life for herself, her family, and her community, she kept seeing the same story played out for women vulnerable and trapped in poverty. Every system was stacked against them. So "Maman" Monique committed to take action in every sphere she could: through education, the local and national church, and international cooperation. In 1999 she joined with other Christian women to start the nonprofit Femme, Berceau de l'Abondance—Woman, Cradle of Abundance.
The very personal story of Maman Monique opens a unique window on the lives of women in Congo, across Africa, and throughout the Majority World. In Cradling Abundance she recounts her remarkable experiences as a gifted student and teacher, successful businesswoman, local and denominational church leader, visionary social activist, and matriarch for her extended family. With stories of other African women woven in, this narrative presents a panoramic view of Christian women at work at every level of the church and community. We see the resistance they face even within their own congregations and families, as well as how their faith leads them to oppose injustice, discrimination, and suffering.
Professor Elsie McKee introduces the autobiography of her friend Maman Monique (translating it from conversations in French and Tshiluba), then provides helpful historical background and textual notes throughout, along with a study guide to additional cultural information. For anyone interested in how lay women lead in Christian ministries, what it takes to start a pioneering nonprofit, or how empowering women is critical to the health of communities, Cradling Abundance is a unique and gripping resource.
"In Cradling Abundance, Maman Monique tells the good story of her calling to be an apostle for justice, truth, and healing in the church in Central Africa. What she describes is a woman's embodied theology of sacrificial service to 'the least of these' that leads us closer to the heart of Jesus. Her life gives us a glimpse of what the way of the cross looks like for our sisters in Africa."
"In this honest account, Mama Monique walks the reader through a diverse socioeconomic and political history of the Democratic Republic of Congo viewed through the eyes of one courageous woman. This is a beautiful story of life's complexities, traditional practices, gender relations, and the importance of education for Congolese women. It is also an account of human suffering and God's grace. This untold narrative needed to be told; it gives a window to the story of the church in Congo."
"This biography of a remarkable woman, a remarkable place, and a remarkable people is all set against the shifting political systems of western Africa. Part engrossing novel intertwined with a history lesson, it reads like an intimate letter from a precious friend all sewn together with resilience that comes from faith. Like Jollof rice, there is a little bit of everything—but it's so delicious that you just cannot stop gulping it down. From the incredible opening scene where this defiant young woman armed only with her intellect and courage manages gun-toting military thugs until the final chapter, the reader is treated to a masterfully told encounter with another culture and continent. I just want to know which actor will play Maman Monique when the movie is made!"
"Based on careful research, interviews, and personal engagement, this beautiful, poignant, and unique book narrates the life and witness of Maman Monique, a remarkable Congolese woman and world Christian leader. We hear Maman Monique's story of suffering, struggle, perseverance, and triumph in her own voice and the voices of her coworkers, thanks to the unobtrusive and illuminating editorial accompaniment of her friend, Elsie Tshimunyi McKee, Princeton Seminary professor, scholar, and teacher of the church who spent her first eighteen years in the Congo as the daughter and granddaughter of missionaries. The solidarity in God's mission shared by Monique and Elsie has generated a compelling 'grounded' account of the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as they moved out of colonial subjugation and through civil war, ethnic conflict, and poverty, then—thanks to courageous women like Maman Monique and her collaborators—toward a more just society where all children, women, and men are honored as equal recipients and agents of the 'cradling abundance' of God in Jesus Christ."
List of Abbreviations
1. Introduction: Why This Book Matters and Where It Fits In, by Elsie Tshimunyi McKee
2. My Family and Childhood
3. Student Days
4. Tatu Mukuna and Our Family
5. My Professions as Educator and Entrepreneur
6. Interlude: An Introduction to Women in the Tradition and the Church in Congo
7. My New Role in Church Leadership
8. Learning and Working in Contexts of Violence
9. New Responsibilities in the National and International Church
10. Consciousness-Raising: The Founding of Woman, Cradle of Abundance / FEBA
11. The Key to Empowerment Is Educating Women
12. New Roles in the Church, Peacemaking, and Justice
13. Catalyst for Networking Women and Some Consequences of Speaking Out
Part Four—New Directions
14. Sad Endings and New Beginnings
15. Woman, Cradle of Abundance / FEBA Renewed and Flourishing
Afterword: Partners for FEBA, by Elsie Tshimunyi McKee
List of Key People
List of Interviews