Some people just know they’ve been called. This can happen as early as childhood, and whether or not a child understands the definition of the word “calling,” she still knows the beaconing in her heart as clearly as she knows the voice of her mother.
“Only God can tell you why he put Africa on my heart,” said Maddy Manden ’10 a special education/elementary education major who is completing 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. A big order. After much networking and prayer, Manden found the Mission Society. Now in her senior year, she is serving as an intern for the organization and fulfilling her student teaching for Trinity at the Wa School for the Blind.
Manden’s desire to help others couldn’t wait until senior year, however, and she has 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 teaches math to students who range 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 works in Ghana and learns more about the culture, herself, and God, she feels 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 has been answered each day as Manden continues to serve 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 pray to God for everything. Safety, health, help with knowing what to teach, what Bible story to share, that the electricity won’t go out, that the well will stay filled with water, and praying that I will be a light for Jesus.”
To follow Manden’s teaching journey, read her blog: http://africaandmaddy.blogspot.com/.