Alumna Returns to Liberia Prepared to Serve

Elaine Saba

After living in the U.S. for the last 40 years, DBU alumna Elaine Saba felt called by the Lord to return to her childhood home of Liberia, prompted by the urgency of an educational crisis facing this struggling nation.

Founded by the U.S. as a colony for freed slaves in 1822, the West African country sits along 423 miles of beautiful coastline and palm tree-dotted beaches. More recently, Liberia witnessed the deaths of hundreds of thousands through two violent civil wars (1989-1997; 1997-2003) before becoming immersed in the Ebola Crisis of 2014-15. In 2018, USA Today ranked the nation as the poorest in the world. Despite ongoing efforts of national reconstruction, a major epidemic and hindrance of development in Liberia remains the lack of literacy and quality education.

After witnessing Liberia's great need first-hand, an educational system very different than the one she had experienced many years ago as a young girl, Elaine began traveling back regularly since 2012 to train teachers to be more effective in the classroom. Her most recent visit was to set up an after school tutoring program for 12th graders to help them prepare for the national test. Elaine tutored over 100 students, with only a few assistants, for eight days over a period of two weeks. Both assignments were at the request of the Mayor of Paynesville, Pam Belcher-Taylor, an innovative servant leader who considers literacy to be a top priority in Liberia.

Elaine started her teaching career in Houston ISD before relocating to Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in Katy, Texas, where she served for 11 years. Then, moving again in 2003 she taught in Mansfield ISD until her retirement in 2016. Six months later, she began working as a tutor and mentor to teachers of Ft. Worth ISD, until this past May when she sensed the Lord calling her to move back to Liberia and continue serving the improvement of its educational system through leadership training. "The revelation was so clear. The moment I accepted, the doors started to open," she said.

Since arriving in Liberia this past May, Elaine has already been busy training teachers and serving as Director of Teacher Training and Instruction at Cyber-Ed Christian School of Excellence. Additionally, she is anticipating becoming a contracted consultant and Program Director with a teacher recruiting, training, and placement organization known as Teach for Liberia. She is also advancing educational opportunities through advocacy and support raising from other Liberians around the world to help in relieving the costs of school tuition and student fees.

The tools that Elaine uses in serving Liberia's deep educational deficit were obtained from completing her master's degree at DBU. "The decision to acquire a degree in curriculum and instruction was made after returning from my first humanitarian trip to Liberia. God impressed upon me that I needed more skills to enable me to help the teachers efficiently. The next step was deciding on the institute where that purpose was to be fulfilled. I decided to visit Dallas Baptist University."

Elaine was particularly struck by the friendliness of the students and staff members on her first visit to the DBU campus. "Dallas Baptist University had a culture of affinity for kindness, and I wanted to be a part of it!"

Years later, with her master's degree from DBU behind her, Elaine now felt "fully cloaked and armed with an arsenal of knowledge to help teachers become better educators. I now have a better idea about what constitutes good teaching. During my studies here at DBU, I learned about effective teaching strategies, the various ways students learn, and how to assess students' learning from expert teachers. I plan to use the knowledge gained from this institution to help the teachers in Liberia." Most importantly, Elaine says she will keep Christ at the center of all her educational development efforts.

DBU is proud to have servant-hearted graduates like Elaine who choose to take their education and glorify the Lord by pouring into the neediest places around the globe. We look forward to following Elaine's important work in Liberia in the months and years to come and will have an opportunity to catch up with her later this spring.

As Elaine contemplated her move to Liberia, she knew the challenges would be great and the risks high, but she remains confident the reward will be worth it. "The move to Liberia will be huge for me," she shared earlier this past spring. "I have been in the U.S. for almost forty years. Kindly help me by praying that I will adjust or readjust to a lifestyle that I have been away from for a long time. As you pray, intercede for me that I will be successful in helping to change the trajectory of education in Liberia."

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is Assistant Professor of Christian History and Leadership at Dallas Baptist University.

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