As a young, homeless orphan begging for food, Anthony Mulenga watched children in uniforms going to school. “If I ever get to school, I will take advantage of every opportunity and be the best student,” he promised himself.
Fifteen years later, he had fulfilled that promise as he began his medical internship at the University of Zambia Teaching Hospital. “This is a story of hope,” Brother Mulenga said. “Never give up. God has a plan for each of us. He will always provide a way.”
When Anthony was only 7 years old, he and his older brother Michael were left homeless after both their parents died. For the next three or four years, the boys’ lives consisted of trying to stay warm, sleeping in boxes, and looking for scraps of food among the garbage. “That’s how I thought life was supposed to be,” Anthony said.
When Anthony was eleven years old, he was rescued by a non-profit organization called Mothers Without Borders that helped him get into school. It didn’t take him long to discover that he had a talent for learning. Even though he had never held a pencil until he was eleven, he was able to jump from first grade to fifth grade in one week.
He completed high school in 2008 as the top student in Zambia in math and the second highest student in science. However, since Mothers Without Borders could only legally help people until they were 18 years old, Anthony had to find a different way to finance his further education.
For almost a year Anthony worked to save money while he applied to the University of Zambia. Each day he would walk several miles to a rich neighbourhood and knock on doors, offering to tutor math or science in exchange for money or a meal. He slept in the bus station. Eventually he was accepted at the university, but he had no idea how he would pay for his education.
Through Mothers Without Borders, Anthony met some members of the Church who were willing to provide his college tuition. However, he didn’t have the heart to mention the other expenses, mainly the cost of textbooks, which ranged from $70 to $90 each. Instead, he got creative. He offered to tutor Chinese students in exchange for the use of their textbooks at night. While most students slept, Anthony studied the borrowed books and materials.
For a place to live, Anthony said he “squatted.” He paid someone who had a room to let him sleep on the floor. And in spite of all his challenges, he consistently earned high grades. “I worked harder than everyone else,” Anthony said. “I took all the difficult courses when other students were afraid. I said, ‘I will take them and work extra hard.’ It was an opportunity.” Anthony’s hard work paid off as he graduated from the university and moved on to medical school.
Even though Anthony was introduced to the Church through some Church members who worked with Mothers Without Borders, he gained his true testimony when he interacted with Church members as he was preparing for medical school. “They saw how lonely and helpless my life was, and that’s my understanding of the Savior, someone whose first impression is not your imperfection. That’s the pure love of Christ,” Anthony said. “If these sisters are Mormons and are willing to change my life for nothing in return, there must be something great about this church. That’s when I decided I should pay attention and develop a stronger testimony. That’s how I truly found out I had a testimony.”
As Anthony reflects on his experiences, he wants to give people a message of hope. “If the Lord can help me, He can help you too,” he testifies. “God will always compensate you for everything you go through. He is very aware of your life and situation. It may not be in your time frame, but sooner or later, when you least expect it, He will compensate you for all the pain. He is not asleep.”
Excerpted by Marnae Wilson from “From begging orphan to doctor, Anthony Mulenga sees the miracles in his life,” Trent Toone, Deseret News, Thursday, August 1, 2013