MMH Hope 18th Birthday

MMH Hope 18th Birthday

18 June 2021

Mama Makeka House of Hope (MMH Hope) will turn 18 on June 18, 2021. At that age among the Chokwe people that I am from in the DR Congo, boys turn into adults. The ultimate sign of turning into adulthood is when the one who was once living in his parent’s home is able to build his own. Mind you, his house is not built by his efforts alone. His parents, siblings, friends and even foreigners living in the village might have lent hands in building it. It is usually then and only then that he can be trusted to build responsible and long-lasting relationships. It is only then that he can freely invite friends and sojourners and the weary for a meal and lodging in his house he would have turned into a home.

Just like the Chokwe boy, we are at that same stage of life as MMH Hope. Fresno, California, has provided us a nice home during our past 17 years. Time has come to move into our permanent home in the DR Congo. As I am writing you this letter, the construction phase of our home in Kinshasa is completed. In less than two weeks I will share with you the final product and our vision for the future as we transition from Fresno, California, to Kinshasa, DR Congo. In this e-mail, I want to briefly review with you the journey we have traveled together in the past 17 years.

Many of you will recall that Mama Makeka House of Hope was established in 2002 in memory of my mother, Mama Makeka Rebecca, who died suddenly in Kinshasa due to poor health care services. We have shared regularly about how throughout her life, Mama Makeka believed that there was always room for other people around her table and in her life.  MMH Hope has adopted her motto as our own: “There is always room for one more”It is largely this generosity of hers that inspires us, but we are also inspired by the Anabaptist principles by which she lived in the context of the Frères Mennonites Community in which she lived and ministered in the DR Congo. 

Mama Makeka House of Hope was developed around the mission of promoting, advocating, and funding initiatives related to Global Health, Peacebuilding, Education, and Leadership Development, focusing on rural and professional communities in the DR Congo.  We also envision bringing hope, hospitality, nurture, faith, and leadership empowerment to communities and individuals who suffer from lack of health and educational opportunities and from repression, violence, and conflict.   

Our past and future activities are guided by values rooted in African Ubuntu and Anabaptist traditions intended to integrate intellectual, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual dimensions of persons and communities, including respect for people diversity and the environment, compassion for the suffering, integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, authenticity, excellence, peace, and justice. 

Our longtime friends, a very committed board of directors, and sometimes total strangers walked with us on this seventeen-year journey that might at times have felt like driving a flatbed truck. We put on so much sometimes that as we drove on the rough roads of DR Congo, figuratively speaking, some of the goods on the truck just fell off. Some were picked up by other people driving behind us. Others were left in the bushes and ravines remaining to be discovered as valuables one day by other sojourners. I would like to outline a few of them for you. In brief preview, as you might recall, our journey took us to one high school in Fresno, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, the Walungu Region in Eastern Congo, and Kajiji and Kinshasa in Western Congo. We also worked in occasional stopovers in National Parks and historical sites in South Africa and Zimbabwe for a time of renewal before returning to our Fresno homes. 

In Fresno we conducted, in partnership with McLane High School, two years of training in theater for high school students as a way of dealing with personal, family, and community related conflicts. In addition, with funding from Fresno County First Five Program, MMH Hope, under the title of Fresno Bright Horizons for Children, conducted a systematic study of Eugene, Oregon-based Relief Nursery and Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center (SAEHC), and assessed the feasibility of adapting these programs in West Fresno.

In Zimbabwe, we built small homes in Victoria Falls for families taking care of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In Bulawayo we provided special quilts for each child in one of the orphanages as well as additional funding to replace linen that had not been replaced in more than five years. 

In the DR Congo, we worked in several areas as follows: 

In Education – We equipped two girls’ schools with sewing machines and supplies. We also coordinated an international consultation on the future of primary and secondary education by Congolese Mennonite churches that co-manage primary and secondary schools with a student population of more than 80,000, facilitated the development of a K-12 religious studies curriculum for these schools, and served as the channel for university scholarships in multi-disciplinary areas in support of lay leadership development for the church. The latter included facilitating leadership development scholarships to more than 20 university students per year for more than fifteen years. 

In Peacebuilding – We provided professional support and annual funding for the Center for Peacebuilding, Leadership and Good Governance in Kinshasa directed by Pascal Kulungu. In addition, we worked with a local partner in Eastern DR Congo focusing on women victims of sexual violence. Involvement included listening to and sharing their stories. We also offered roofing materials or a bicycle to combatants in exchange for weapons. In addition, we facilitated two specialists in women fistula repairs to visit the region and exchange with doctors in one of the hospitals on how to repair uncomplicated fistula and when to transfer patients to a more specialized center. 

MMH Hope Foundation for Future Program – The Mazala Conference Center and Guesthouse, our related farm, and the development of the rural Kajiji health zone are where we are now focusing our energies in order to build a strong foundation for our future work as MMH Hope. 

Regarding the Mazala Conference Center and Guesthouse – This two-story, 10,000 plus square feet Mazala Conference Center and Guesthouse built in Kinshasa, the Capital City of DR Congo within walking distance from the Majestic Congo River, is designed to be a self-supporting base for coordination of Mama Makeka House of Hope’s activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while also providing leverage for local resource development, and a source of income to support DR Congo based initiatives. It was designed by a Congolese architect, built with Congolese labor and mostly Congolese materials, and built in the Congolese way as funds have become available without incurring any debt.  

Regarding the Mama Makeka Farm – We are developing the 30 hectare (74-acres) farm we own, also fully paid for, in Kingakati on the Bateke Plateau a short distance outside of Kinshasa. With limited resources, our beginning focus has been on planting acacia, eucalyptus, avocado, mango, and palm trees on this open land, all of which may be harvested for multiple uses in Congo. The next stages include developing a nursery to grow local seedlings and test new seeds, a small canning unit, planting additional trees, an artificial pond for fish farming, and housing and transport for staff, volunteers, and visitors. The farm, when fully developed, is designed to provide income and produce in support of our work in Congo, while also providing employment for Congolese farm workers. 

Regarding Seven Pillars for Health Zone Development – In terms of rural development, MMH Hope has chosen to focus on one health zone, health zones being a dominant form of organization in the country. With this focus, the possibility of developing a model of health zone development exists, which other health zones may duplicate. 

The initial work will involve mapping the Kajiji Health Zone, which is located in southwest DR Congo near the Angolan border. We will work in partnership with the National Institute of Geography to develop a general map of the Kulindji region where the Kajiji Health Zone is located. The map will show all the villages, churches, schools, health centers, hospital, roads, rivers, bridges, etc. We will also collect information from the latest census that will be superimposed on each village site.  

Sometime ago, we were able to work with a group of individuals selected from the Kajiji community to identify seven pillars that would provide a strong, community foundation using the health zone as a working framework. Although tested only for a short time, lessons we learned will be used to promote them for their actual implementation. The pillars are: 1) Communication; 2) Entrepreneurship and Agriculture; 3) Education, Youth & Leisure; 4) Energy and Water; 5) Peacebuilding and Leadership Development; 6) Primary Health Care; and 7) Transportation, Roads and Bridges.

Our 18th Birthday is Coming  

MMH Hope’s 18th birthday will soon be here – June 2021. Our house has been built, but to make it a home it yet needs to be furnished – beds for guests to sleep in, chairs to sit in, tables to gather around for learning and eating, books to learn from, and the like. I will say more on all of that in my next communication in a couple of weeks.

Several years ago, Hillary Clinton made famous our African saying that it takes a village to raise a child. One thing she missed, however, was the second part to that saying. It is understood in the Chokwe culture that when the child becomes an adult, he/she must go back to serve his/her village. Therefore, like a Chokwe boy, MMH Hope’s childhood and youth has included exploring the world, trying different things, experimenting with different projects, leaving our imprint in different places – but all paths have led us back to my ancestral home, where we will now focus our ongoing work – centered in the capital of Kinshasa but also developing a model of rural development in the Kajiji health zone of my childhood. Again, I will share more about this in a couple of weeks.

Also good news is that while growing up, gifts along the way make it possible to enter adulthood debt free. So it is also with MMH Hope. Along with projects noted, the house and garden-farm are all paid for to date.

Turning 18 in Chokwe culture also means growing a small garden of vegetables for those rainy days and when one is not able to make it to the farm or the local market. So to sustain life after 18, provision has also been made for a MMH Hope garden-farm to complement the Mazala home.

For now, we look forward to completing what yet needs to be done in making final preparations for our 18th celebration next June.

Our Wish List for MMH Hope 18th Birthday 

Tax deductible contributions toward MMH Hope’s 18th birthday will be used to purchase equipment and furniture for as shown below. Individuals, small groups, families, or organizations can adopt any of them.

Mote than $500,000 have been raised and used to complete this gorgeous 10,000 square feet building, thus making it debt free when it will soon becomes fully operational. 

Guest rooms (per room) 2,700
Visitors area 3,000
Library & archives 10,000
Conference & dining hall 25,000
Conference room 15,000
Boutique 5,000
Manager’s apartment 10,000
Kitchen 10,000
Zoom room 7,5000

Your tax exempt financial contribution can be sent to Mama Makeka House of Hope as:

  • Check and mailed to: 4975 E. Butler Avenue #102, Fresno, CA 93727
  • PayPal or Venmo

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Mama Makeka House of Hope (MMH Hope) will turn 18 on June 18, 2021. At that age among the Chokwe people that I am from in the DR Congo, boys turn into adults. The ultimate sign of turning into adulthood is when the one who was once living in his parent’s home is able to build his own.

Mama Makeka
House of Hope

“Where there’s always room for one more…”






Mama Makeka House of Hope (MMH Hope) will turn 18 on June 18, 2021. At that age among the Chokwe people that I am from in the DR Congo, boys turn into adults. The ultimate sign of turning into adulthood is when the one who was once living in his parent’s home is able to build his own.

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