Shamba Pierre Manenga 1936-2009
Rising Up Against All Odds
Shamba Pierre Manenga was born on March 15, 1936, in the town of Ikumu, Mbelo in the Central Kasai Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Shamba was the second child of Abel Manenga and Iyampudi. He attended elementary school in Mbelo and graduated from high school in Katubue, at a school founded by the American Presbyterian Congo Mission.
After graduation, he began teaching at an elementary school. In 1961, he obtained a grant to study abroad. Shamba travelled to the USA to attend Stillman College in Alabama, but the Ku Klux Klan blocked his enrollment.
His daughter, Cecile, has shared the stories he told his family about his initial experience of life in the USA:
“When he arrived in Alabama, he was adopted by an American family. They took him to church on Sunday and when the KKK heard about it they were waiting for him outside, hiding beyond the tombs, to attack him. The congregation was able to plea on his behalf saying he was just a young African who was here for his education.
The adopted family rushed him overnight to Sherman, Texas to attend Austin College, but the rumors spread very fast. Some parents were not happy and withdrew their children from the College. This was before the 1964 Civil Rights Act. One of his classmates was the daughter of the Governor of Texas at that time. She invited my Dad and other classmates to eat out, but all the restaurants ask for my Dad to go eat in the kitchen because they were afraid that the customers would boycott them if they saw a black sitting in the lobby and at the table eating. But – the governor’s daughter was very determined to find a place where they could enjoy a meal together so she contacted her Dad for assistance. They found a restaurant in Dallas, almost 60 miles away from Sherman and this was the first time my Dad was able to eat in an American restaurant.
He was the first non-white student to attend Austin College. He majored in Sociology and French, graduating in 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act was passed.
He went on to Howard University in Washington, D.C., earned his Master’s Degree and married my mother, Becky. Together they have 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.“
When Shamba returned to Congo (then Zaire), he worked as the first Congolese school principal at the United School of Katubue, and later studied Hospital Administration in Great Britain, preparing him for his life of service at IMCK.
Because of his exemplary work at Katubue, Shamba was asked to be a member of the IMCK Conseil d’Administration (governing board) and was President of the Conseil in January of 1975 when the Good Shepherd Hospital in Tshikaji was dedicated. In his welcoming address to the large crowd of dignitaries that had gathered he showed his appreciation for “all those who have given body and soul for the realization of this hospital. As was said 2000 years ago, ‘there are some who sew and some who harvest. I have sent you to harvest that which you have not sown and you have entered into their work’. We thank the pioneers, the founders of this institute, for all they have done for this institute as it stands today.”
When Shamba was named Administrator of IMCK in 1980, this was the spirit with which he entered the work. He had a great appreciation for all those who had gone before and considered the Institute as a gift from God to the people of Zaire. He felt called to be a good steward of that gift.
Shamba served as Administrator of IMCK from 1980 until 2000 – during the best of times and the most difficult of times. Between 1980 and 1990, the hospital was fully staffed and had adequate financial resources. The Continuing Medical Education Center was built, the PAX hotel was purchased and refurbished as an out-patient center, the residency program continued, along with the nursing and lab schools, and the hydroelectric facility was constructed and put into operation. Because of his ready smile, welcoming personality, and multi-lingual ability, Shamba was able relate to staff, missionaries, government officials, the church and the community in a remarkable way, with unbending integrity. People who met in his office might not receive the answer they wanted, but they left feeling that they had talked to a friend and their voice had been heard.
In 1988, when the hydroelectric plant was being dedicated, Shamba said that he wanted to make certain that it was a worship service that spoke to the many invited guests, and indeed it was, closing with the hymn, To God Be the Glory. The thirteen Hydro workers who were remaining on staff to manage the turbines were given seats of honor and Shamba presented each of them with a special piece of cloth.
The years from 1992 until Shamba retired in 2000 were difficult because of the political turmoil in the country and the evacuation of many of the missionaries, leaving IMCK short of both funding and personnel. His steady hand was instrumental in surviving those years without ever having the hospital damaged by the violence that swirled around it – a testimony to his ability to stand firm and treat everyone fairly. No one was ever turned away because of whose side they were on.
Today, with the help of the Friends of IMCK and a well-qualified Congolese staff, the IMCK stands on firmer ground and, just as Shamba was committed to being a good steward of this gift from God, so should we.