International Ministries

Obituary for Retired Missionary to India, Madelyn Albrecht

January 6, 2012 News
Madelyn J. Albrecht former American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) missionary who served in Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo) for 16 years, passed away May 16, 2011 at the age of 83 in Florida.

Madelyn was born on January 20, 1928, in Clio, Michigan. She spent a happy childhood, first in Clio, and then in Saginaw, MI. The oldest of six children, she and her two brothers and three sisters learned to know Christ in a Christian home.  She was baptized at First Baptist Church, Saginaw when she was ten years old.  Madelyn, during her high school years, began to seek the deeper spiritual life she saw as a great joy in the lives of others who gave their testimony in church gatherings at the First Baptist Church of Saginaw. At the First Baptist Church in Saginaw she received faithful training and was given an opportunity to share responsibility for the church program. Her Sunday school teacher led her into a meaningful course of Scripture memorization, and taught her to pray.

After two years in Junior College, Madelyn taught a year before the way opened for her to attend Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago. It was here that she heard God’s call to the foreign field. Madelyn applied to the Woman’s Foreign Board for appointment, being accepted at the annual meeting of the Board in Chicago on May 15, 1952.  Immediately following her missionary appointment Madelyn graduated from Northern Seminary in a beautiful commencement program in which she was given the Lael Award for embodying high ideals of womanhood, scholarship and Christian character.   

Madelyn spent the year 1952-1953 in Belgium acquiring facility in the French language and studying various courses to prepare for life in the Belgian Congo. Upon arrival in the Belgian Congo in September 1953 she began immediately to study the local dialect.  Even though the words were unintelligible, Madelyn was thrilled to hear the old familiar hymns sung by rich Congolese voices.  She was able almost at once to render limited service in the educational and evangelistic work in Sona Bata, a large station founded in 1890. Madelyn had the temperament and sense of humor needed to guide large numbers of girls who came from non Christian backgrounds and villages where the light of Christ was just breaking. Her main responsibility was the Ecole Menagere (Homemaking School for Girls) which emphasized the three R’s, with a fair amount of practical housekeeping, ironing, cooking, sewing, gardening and the raising of chickens and rabbits. As principal of the school in 1950 Madelyn wrote, “The school became a post-primary school for girls.  It was a school which took girls from second grade and gave them three more years of schooling with training in home economics.  Now they must complete sixth grade before entering.  They complete three more years of training with us.” Madelyn also helped with the Moniteurs School (Teacher training) which was started in 1959.  The school trained young men who had completed two years of high school.  After two years they received diplomas and were able to teach in the primary schools.  Later she saw a teacher training program established in the girls’ school so that girls in their second and third years of Ecole Menagere could teach first and second grade.

In 1960 Madelyn was evacuated during the turmoil which followed the granting of independence to the Congolese.  She returned to Sona Bata the same year and in 1962 worked with another person to start a high school.  The first year class had 93 students and a fine staff of interdenominational teachers.    By 1966 the school had 300 students.  Among the student body were a good number of Angolan students. In 1968 the first graduation of students from twelfth grade was celebrated. The Christian community rejoiced in the achievement of one of their long-desired goals.   Madelyn shared that she was thrilled to watch as the Congolese gained more and more confidence in their ability to carry the major responsibility for the program of the church, the hospitals and dispensaries, and the educational program.

Madelyn was also involved in work among the women in rural churches.  She made trips, with other women to rural areas each month helping and encouraging the women who she found very interested and enthusiastic. 
While on furlough in mid 1968 Madelyn began working on her doctorate in education at Michigan State University.   She remained on an extended furlough while completing her Ph.D. degree.  Her thesis was on ”Modern African Literature as a Resource for Enriching the Educational Experience in the Social Science Curricula for Secondary Education in Zaire.”  

Madelyn went on to become a faculty member at Lebanon Valley College, a private liberal arts college in Annville, PA.  After her first year of teaching, the Vice President noted in a letter of commendation, “Your enthusiasm and cooperative approach both in terms of your own department and of the college in general have been excellent.  I am impressed by your willingness to do more than just the required work, not only in your courses but also in the Placement Bureau.”  Upon her retirement in 1990 the College Board of Trustees accorded her a special honor by naming her Associate Professor Emerita of Education.

Moving to Penney Retirement Community in Florida in 2001, Madelyn quickly became involved in the Penney Memorial Church through the choir and as a member of the scholarship committee.  She worked interpreting and promoting the Clinic Benefit Society, worked in resale, explored her artistic talents (she loved to paint) and became a master gardener.

Those who knew Madelyn during her years at the Penney Retirement Community knew of her quick humor and spirit of fun.  She always looked forward to times with family and long time friends across the country.  Her move to assisted living and then to the memory loss facility never smothered her wit and humor.  Her spark for life ran through it all. 

Madelyn is survived by her three sisters and two brothers and their spouses: Maxine and Joseph Ulicki, Margaret and John McFay, Gloria and Freddie Braswell, Gerald and Mary Albrecht, Richard and Donna Albrecht.