A Voice to the Voiceless

When I look into our youngest daughter’s inquisitive eyes, they seem to dance with wonder. Her creative mind sees beauty wherever she looks, especially when she is behind the lens of a camera. However, it hasn’t always been easy for her to express her self. Soon after adopting Rachel, then seven, from the Ukraine, we learned she had a processing disorder and dyslexia.

Verbal communication, reading and writing were difficult. Private schools, speech therapists and reading specialists were used in hopes of giving her the best opportunity possible. The fact that English was her second language only worsened the situation. But Rachel’s fighting spirit helped her to persevere; this was never more evident than at the eighth grade graduation ceremony.

“This year’s Presidents Award goes to the student for Academic Excellence when faced with adversity.  Rachel Madge will you come receive your award!” My poor sweetheart–embarrassed by the raucous and proud screams of her family, she had to be persuaded by those around her to leave her seat and ascend the stage.

It quickly became clear, however, that high school was going to present entirely different challenges; she needed to take a foreign language in order to graduate. This mama’s heart broke knowing it would be impossible for her to pass. To add another language to her brain when she had not yet perfected English seemed crazy to me. I knew I had to do something, so I wrote a letter to the board of education, attaching one of her recent essays to illustrate my point. Thus Rachel joined the one percent of students who are allowed exemption from a foreign language. A single battle won didn’t mean we had overcome the war, though.

“She will not be able to go to a four-year university,” stated her advisor.

Rachel cried, “But Mama, I want to go to college.”

I’ve tarnished her dreams…

Did I do the right thing…?

Rolled eyes were a pretty good indication she didn’t want to hear that the Lord had plans for her. Her defiance only caused me to pray harder, and a mama’s prayers can accomplish much. Doors seemed to open as two teachers embraced her and put her behind a camera. They asked her to join the Technology Student Association, and she soon flourished. Her Junior year, she took part in a state competition and won 2nd place for a short film she had produced.

As time passed, even with the great things happening, Rachel grew distant because her classmates were talking about where they were going to college. Her dad and I shared stories of the many successful people who hadn’t gone to college, but she didn’t want to listen. In an attempt to make her feel special, I set the date for her senior pictures. I chose a photographer that traveled the world capturing pictures in some of the poorest known areas. I trusted he would be able to capture her beauty, even though she couldn’t yet see it in herself. Early on he allowed her to hold his camera, and there was an instant connection. She asked him about his travels and he replied, “Rachel, I take pictures of people who will probably never be heard by others in the world. It’s my way of giving a voice to the voiceless.”

I watched Rachel come alive that day, and later she told me that she would like to do the same thing. However, it didn’t take long for the excitement to wane as she once again asked, “What am I going to do after graduation?” The following day, I sat at my desk staring out the window in dismay while she cried in her room.

“Lord, what do we do? Please help me…”

It was that moment when a light bulb seemed to turn on. I remembered a conversation with a friend regarding Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. A Christian university that was noted as one of the top schools in the country for students with learning difficulties.

She will not get in. I had her exempt from a foreign language…

She didn’t do well on her ACT. There isn’t any way she will be accepted…

I don’t want any more disappointment in her life…

As I went through the process of talking myself out of applying, I heard the Lord say (not audibly), “Why don’t you see what I can do.”

Tears came to my eyes as I walked to Rachel’s room and asked her if she would like to apply to Lee University. Without hesitation, she said yes, probably not knowing anything about Lee at that point. It didn’t matter to her, though, she just wanted to go to college. Not only did we apply, but we signed her up for a campus visit. Imagine our excitement when we found out that Lee University had recently hired a vice president from Pixar and had built a new film department.

Then, six weeks later, her acceptance letter arrived!

Overjoyed, we immediately scheduled an appointment with the department chair who provided learning accommodations; for example, a note taker in class.  As we shared Rachel’s story with her, I said, “We are so excited that she was accepted even without having a foreign language!”

Dr. Bradford was quick to reply, “Yes, but she will have to complete two semesters of a language in order to graduate from Lee.”

My bubble of joy popped. My mind raced as Rachel sat beside me looking down at the floor. Her shoulders slumped and the bottom lip started to quiver.

“Maybe sign language would be an option,” Dr. Bradford said.

“That’s considered a foreign language? Rachel is a very visual learner. That sounds like the answer.” I beamed. Rachel’s fast nodding head agreed.

Our daughter is now about to complete her second year. I’m not saying it has been easy, but she has shown, once again, that she is a fighter. After getting a B in sign language the first semester, it became apparent that she was gifted, and she has now declared it as her minor.

Recently, during my prayer and worship time, I slid from the couch to my knees. Bowed before my Father in heaven, I praised His holy name for how He had answered our prayers for our daughter.

“Lord, thank You for directing her path; when the world slammed doors in her face, You were there to open another one. I am so overwhelmed with your faithfulness and goodness.”

“A voice to the voiceless.”

“Yes Lord, yes Lord! Give my girl a voice for the voiceless not only as she works behind the camera, but also for those who can’t speak for themselves.” This mama became as crazy as a chicken with its head cut off!

Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

I’m so thankful I did not listen to my own thoughts of fear and doubt that would have worked to lead Rachel and I away from the Lord’s purpose. My hope is that this story illustrates how God can work in ways that are far beyond what we can imagine, much less understand. Is He whispering to you, “Why don’t you see what I can do?” It’s up to us to quiet the noise in our minds and…

“TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Photo credit:  Daniel C White Photography

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  1. Patti White on January 24, 2018 at 10:25 am

    To God be the glory. Great things He is doing.

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:14 am

      Amen my sister! What a journey…

  2. Elaine on January 24, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    This made my heart smile! So proud of her and all that she is doing!

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:14 am

      Thank you Elaine! God is faithful. Love you guys!

  3. Teresa Edwards on January 24, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    I love this beautiful talented young woman and it is obvious that she learned her way through service to God. She has always had such a wonderful work ethic and God given intelligence. Rachel I could not be more proud. Teresa Edwards, TA PHS

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:13 am

      Mrs. Edwards, I can’t tell you what this means to me and I cannot wait to read it to Rachel. You were such an encourager to her, always cheering her on to be the best she could be. I will never forget you in one of those last meetings her senior year. You saw that she was crying out for help! It was a major turning point in her life. It’s clear to see in hindsight the battle that has raged around this child. Thank you for loving her so well.

  4. Judy Donnelly on January 24, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to schedule when I read your writings because the tire people are wondering why I’m blubbering! Love this, thank you.

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:08 am

      You make me laugh! I can just see you now and it makes me cry too. Honestly, this morning I can’t stop the flow. The encouragement is filling my heart to the brim. I love you.

  5. Laura on January 24, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Wow, this is such an inspiring story! I was so blessed to read it. Our youngest daughter has recently overcome some huge hurdles and by God’s grace is able to study at Capernwray in New Zealand this year. It is a huge miracle. My son-in-law, Eli, just preached about strength in weakness this past Sunday in New Zealand. It was so good. Here is a link if you want to hear it. http://www.wbchurch.co.nz/page/sermons/ I love what you are doing here on your blog by the way. Great job! Wishing you much success.

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:06 am

      Laura, Thank you so much! I have prayed for Noelle and Eli; it’s so obvious God’s hand is upon them. You must be overjoyed to have a grandson! He is so precious. I can’t wait to watch this sermon. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Cindy Terril on January 24, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful testimony. 💕

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:02 am

      Thank you for encouraging me Cindy! I love you and Chad so much!

  7. Sarah on January 24, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! Your awesome faith and trusting obedience certainly makes you shine! Hats off to Rachel for her determination and perseverance too. ❤️

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 7:01 am

      Sweet Sarah, You and I both know that with God all things are possible. Rachel is a living example of that! I love you!

  8. Kay Brigham on January 25, 2018 at 5:34 am

    Oh, Rhonda, what a testimony! You are an amazing witness for our awesome God. I am so proud of you and your family! I know it has not been easy but with a Godly person it was possible! Continue your courageous battle!

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 6:59 am

      The tears are streaming this morning as I sit and read these comments. Thank you once again Mrs. Brigham. I am so overwhelmed with His goodness. I love you.

  9. Brenda Morgan on January 25, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Reading your testimony of your real life issues and how you wrestled with solutions through prayer and belief in Christ is such an inspiration to me. Your daughter is so blessed to have a Mom like you to search for the very best answers to her personal challenges.

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 6:58 am

      Oh Brenda, God has proven to me over and over that He is in control. Thank you for your encouragement because I kicked and screamed a long time about blogging. Now look what He is doing. May His glory be declared in the Heavens! Thank you!

  10. Walz on January 25, 2018 at 1:59 pm


    I am almost speechless!!!

    • RhondaMadge on January 26, 2018 at 6:51 am

      This means the world to me. Let’s be honest though, I know nothing leaves you speechless! Your phone call yesterday, encouraged me in more ways than you can imagine. You have always been one who has challenged me over the years to step outside of the box. Thank you for playing such an important role in my life. You are loved.

  11. Delaina Churchill on January 26, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Love this. Our oldest daughter has severe dyslexia. Lots of struggles with self esteem in her high school years. She too wanted to go to college as well and I’m not sure they knew what to make of that in the special education department. We took a year of sign language together at the local junior college while she was in high school for her credits She had accommodations for note takers etc when she then attended college to get her Early Childhood Education certification. She is beautiful, creative and has a lovely family now and teaches preschool. She is so great with kids.

    • RhondaMadge on January 27, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      Oh Delaina, Thank you for sharing this with me! Those high school years can be so hard and crush self confidence, but it sounds like she too was a fighter! I would love to hear more about that journey from one that’s gone before me! Blessings…

  12. LeeAnn McCoy-Tomlin on January 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

    For everyone that knows me. I’m speechless. Such an inspirational story. You are a great mom and so proud of Rachel for rising to the challenge.

    • RhondaMadge on January 27, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      Thank you LeeAnn! I hope it helps to see how God hears our cries. She is an amazing young woman.

  13. Karen Jones on January 26, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Rhonda, your precious little Rachel has grown into a beautiful young lady. Your words and faith are a gift to all of us.

    • RhondaMadge on January 27, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Hasn’t she though? I’m so stinking proud of her! Thank you so much! We went to see her today and she told me that she had read all of the comments. It means so much to her! Thank you!

  14. Debbie S.Wallace /Stewart county TN on January 26, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    RHONDA , I am in awe of this beautiful testimony of a faithful Mother’s prayerful plea for guidance for her blessed but struggling child . Our amazing God answers his children petitions . This was so touching and inspirational for me .
    Thank you

    • RhondaMadge on January 27, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Thank you Debbie! I, too, am in awe of how God has worked. We went to see her today and I was struck by how different she is. Her confidence has increased tenfold. Pray without cease…

  15. Anita Taylor Duvall on January 31, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    What a beautiful testimony. God has great things planned for this young woman.

    • RhondaMadge on February 1, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Anita, God used this blog to reach a woman at Brentwood Baptist who leads a deaf ministry! She wants to meet Rachel! Only God…

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