Genesis 1:27-28 is generally used to answer the question of identity: who and what is a human being or person? These verses are certainly invaluable in this regard. However, they speak to more than just our identity. They also speak to what God intended for human beings. We learn about the Creator’s purpose for us, who are his creation. Fundamental to this purpose is human flourishing. This is what Cradling Abundance is all about, finding and sharing the abundant life that Jesus brings.
Fundamental to God’s purpose in creation is human flourishing.
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground’” (Genesis 1:28). Thus the joys of family, work, marriage, education, the basic right to have a voice, receiving justice, and being valued for no reason other than being a human being are things meant for all God’s people. However, that truth is not always the lived reality in our world.
Not Everything Is as It Should Be
Maman Monique’s story is one of resilience and courage. In a world where girls and women were treated as sub-human, and the highest compliment for a girl was “she is a man,” Maman Monique’s father broke traditional and stereotypical expectations to give his daughters the same opportunities as his sons. Within their society very few girls went beyond primary school education, while women attending university was unthinkable. Yet Maman Monique’s father spurred her on to receive a tertiary education. Despite immense hardships, he supported and stood by his daughter. In doing this he laid the foundations for the person she would become, not to mention the impact she would have.
Maman Monique would become central in the fight for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She would also go on to raise their consciousness and encourage flourishing, as God intended.
Cradling Abundance is about the Ongoing Fight for Women’s Rights
The fight for women’s rights has both a long history and future. Many are still involved in this struggle today, and others will be tomorrow. In Cradling Abundance, Maman Monique offers unique insight into how women were seen and treated in the DRCongo, as well as surrounding nations she visited. Thus she doesn’t only tell her own story, but the stories of other women she met. These stories, woven together, create a tapestry of women’s lives in central Africa that confronts readers. For one cannot help but feel searing anger at the injustice of boys being favoured for education ahead of girls; great sorrow at the abandonment of wives who only birth daughters; and ecstatic joy reading about women who couldn’t provide for their family, due to their disadvantaged background, finally learning and acquiring a skill to earn money.
Tragically, resistance didn’t only come from their societies or governments but their own churches.
When I first read the excerpt for Cradling Abundance, I was excited to read about women being empowered. But what I didn’t expect was the amount of disempowerment and marginalisation that preceded it. Maman Monique and the other women who worked hard to lift women out of systemic poverty faced enormous challenges and opposition. Tragically, resistance didn’t only come from their societies or governments but their own churches. Furthermore, the abuse of women and negligence toward girl children was not necessarily at its worst in the 1940s. Similar stories can be heard today. This indicates how slow change has been in this area.
Cradling Abundance: One African Christian's Story of Empowering Women and Fighting Systemic Poverty
Monique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna
Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna persevered through many challenges to become a businesswoman, church leader, social activist, and teacher. In this unique and gripping resource, “Maman” Monique tells her own story as she sheds light on the lives of Christian women throughout the Majority World at work in every level of the church and community.
Women shouldn’t Need Men to Have a Voice
As I’ve already mentioned, Maman Monique’s upbringing and childhood is striking. For in it we see how determinative a role her father played. He taught her to be independent, helping her make her own way in life. He saw the value in teaching her important skills and he didn’t force her into an arranged marriage. So Maman Monique married someone of her own choosing, a suitable partner in her service of God and African women.
She had a valuable contribution to make. And her father encouraged her to fight for her voice.
This support from the dominant male figure in her life gave her the courage to “be a man” in that society. Through it she learnt about the value that she, and all women, have. She had a valuable contribution to make. And her father encouraged her to fight for her voice.
Maman Monique’s Story is Part of God’s Grand Narrative
While reading the book a friend asked, “Tell us what Cradling Abundance is about in four words.” I answered without hesitation, “Women abuse, women empowerment.” Now, that’s a very limited number of words, but I’m comfortable to stick with that initial response. However, this book is about so much more. It is a story of how God used Monique, with other women, to speak boldly against the injustices women and girls suffer. Moreover, it’s a story about how she did something about the injustices. She acted so that women could be economically, spiritually, educationally, and socially empowered.
Cradling Abundance is the story of how God used Monique to speak boldly against the injustices women and girls suffer.
Maman Monique is today a beloved leader and social activist, which makes this book crucial for understanding the complexities that come with struggling for something worthwhile. The work Maman Monique has been involved in and continues to do fits perfectly with the theme verse of FEBA, the organisation she co-founded: “I have come to give life, life abundant” (John 10:10).
“Worship Overflowing into Action”
Femme, Berceau de l’Abondance (FEBA) embodies this verse through various ministries to women. They recognise the specific needs of women, what would enable them to experience life abundant, and seek to meet them. Their understanding of Jesus giving life abundant isn’t exclusively spiritual. It is inclusive of a whole person’s life. So Maman Monique writes in Cradling Abundance, “We must cling to Jesus for our hope and joy and abundant life, and we must also use our gifts to serve God faithfully and share life abundant with others…worship and fellowship overflowing into education and action: this perspective of wholeness characterises our nonprofit.”
FEBA supports women in poverty of all kinds.
FEBA began as an ecumenical movement for women. As they grew in their understanding of an abundant life in Christ and saw the needs around them, they transitioned into an organisation that supports women in poverty of all kinds. This makes me question the narrow definition that we tend to assign to the “life abundant” Jesus gives. In our efforts not to find ourselves on the extreme end of the prosperity gospel, do we wrongly abandon all efforts to address the whole person? Have we limited flourishing to spirituality? Does our worship overflow into action? Do we work towards seeing our neighbours have an abundant life?
Cradling Abundance Points to God’s Goodness, and Our Responsibility
Read this book to be inspired. The arduous process undertaken by Maman Monique and glorious change that followed is challenging. But this book is much more than a mere exhortation to seek justice for others. It will leave readers in awe of the resilience of women who deeply know and trust their God. It is a timely reminder of the value he ascribes to every human being, men and women. Finally, it is a window through which we can witness the powerful grace of God at work in Africa.