UPDATE from Maddy Manden ’10, special education/elementary education graduate:
“I have found a mission organization to work alongside called International Teams, or ITeams. They are based in Elgin, Illinois, and over the next several months I will be participating in an extensive training process. Currently, God is leading me to East Africa, specifically Rwanda. There are many opportunities to work with children and adults who have disabilities. After training, I will take a short trip to Rwanda to get a better understanding of the needs in the area. Rwanda is where my heart is leading me, and as of now, I will be moving there in the fall of 2011.”
Answering a Long-time Call to Africa
“Only God can tell you why he put Africa on my heart,” said Maddy Manden ’10, a special education/elementary education graduate who completed her student teaching in Ghana, “but since I was 11, I told everyone that I was going to help the children in Africa.”
Before even applying to Trinity, Manden, of Roselle, Illinois, talked with the head of the education department to discuss the feasibility of teaching in Africa and graduating with degrees in both special education and elementary education within four years. She was told she could.
“I knew God had opened the first door for me.”
After her freshman year, Manden began to research various mission organizations that could arrange for her to teach children with special needs in Africa for seven weeks at a school that could also house her. After much networking and prayer, Manden found the Mission Society. In her senior year, she served as an intern for the organization and fulfilled her student teaching requirement for Trinity at the Wa School for the Blind.
Manden’s desire to help others couldn’t wait until senior year, however, and she spent her Trinity years involved in Service Committee, Acting on AIDS, Campus Ministries and many other student organizations focused on service. That work helped prepare her for her final Trinity experience, but Manden knew she needed to do more to prepare herself for teaching the visually impaired.
Manden spoke with teachers at Chicago’s School for the Blind and talked with Trinity’s Dr. Bob Rice, professor of history. “Dr. Rice, who is visually impaired, gave me great ideas about how to work with students, shared what it is like to be blind, and told me what he did for fun when he was a kid.”
With the study help of her sister, Manden taught herself Braille, and she was able to buy books in Braille, as well as a soccer ball with bells in it and various tactile craft supplies, with funds raised by her home church.
“God prepared me very well,” she said. “I also prayed I wouldn’t go into this experience with expectations but with excitement, with a willing servant heart and readiness to learn and grow.”
At the school, Manden taught math to students who ranged in age from 9-20 within the same classes. Students in the more advanced classes were eager to explore the world outside of the school, so Manden arranged for field trips to a woodshop, the outdoor market, and a local radio station where the class was given 20 minutes of air time to present a program they wrote with the theme Disability is not Inability.
As she worked in Ghana and learned more about the culture, herself, and God, she felt confirmation in her calling. “After wanting to go to Africa for 10 years, I began to question myself,” said Manden. “Was it God calling me or was it just my own desire?”
That question was answered each day as Manden served her students. “I have realized that throughout my life God was preparing me to rely on him while I am in Africa,” she said. “Every day, every hour, every minute, I prayed to God for everything. Safety, health, help with knowing what to teach, what Bible story to share, that the electricity wouldn’t go out, that the well would stay filled with water, and praying that I would be a light for Jesus.”