As the car rolled up to the large gated entrance of Malawi’s statehouse, Alice stared out of the window. She, along with Children of the Nations (COTN) Founders Chris and Debbie Clark (and several others from COTN), were meeting Malawi’s First Lady, Gertrude Mutharika. To herself, Alice thought, “How has this happened? Why out of all the children in Children of the Nations, did they pick me?” Alice recalls. “I couldn’t find answers, but in my heart, I said ‘thank you to God’ for helping me reach this far. I never dreamt of this happening.”
Alice had never experienced anything like this before. The guards greeted them by name, they walked through security and Alice did something she’d never done before—ride in an elevator. “I got in the elevator the wrong way,” Alice says laughing. Every moment of their visit was scheduled and full of formalities. When the First Lady arrived, they addressed her as, “Madam, your Excellency.” Alice was here to share her story with the First Lady.
After her parents died, Alice was sent to Mtsiliza to live with her grandparents, in a deeply impoverished village on the outskirts of Lilongwe. They couldn’t provide for her and the other six children living in their one-room mud-walled hut. Alice explained how she was often sick as a child. There was no money for doctors or medicine. She couldn’t go to school. She was always the last child to eat in the family. Her grandparents told her she could never hope to become anything.
Alice’s life changed dramatically the day she moved into COTN’s Children’s Homes.
But when COTN learned of the conditions she was living in, Alice was invited to live in COTN’s Children’s Home. Her life changed dramatically. Suddenly, she was part of a loving family and was given the physical, spiritual, emotional, and educational care she so desperately needed: she had food daily; she went to school and became the first in her family to graduate from secondary school. Soon afterward, she graduated from university.
“You can list goals or accomplishments,” says Debbie Clark, “but when a child tells the depth of their story and where they’ve come from, that’s what brought so much life and what touched [the First Lady’s] heart.”
Alice explained that she looked up to the First Lady for her leadership and generous heart. When Alice finished, the First Lady stood up and gave her a hug. “The meeting felt so formal, except when Alice and Francisco (from COTN) began to share,” says Debbie. “It went from being so formal, to real.”
“Malawi’s First Lady is someone who is not easy to touch.,” says Alice. “She didn’t know much about COTN before this. She thought we just came from a nice place. When I mentioned my village, she said, ‘How can that happen? You don’t look like someone who has come from there. Wow, Children of the Nations is really doing a great job.”
“Alice did an incredible job,” Debbie says. “She was eloquent, but real and personable.”
To everyone’s surprise, the First Lady had one more request for Alice—she asked her to share her story again at a nationwide girls’ education event. Alice shared her story again in front of 300 girls, the President, the First Lady and the Chinese ambassador. Alice encouraged the girls to work hard and gave glory to God for her own success.
Alice is grateful and overwhelmed for these amazing opportunities to share her story. “This gave validity to her journey,” Chris Clark says. “Sometimes when you come from that background, you think you’ll never overcome.”
“I think God is showing me His greatness and how He makes good things from hard things,” says Alice. “I’m learning to trust Him.”
This summer, Alice Williams interned at CRISTA Camps as a camp counselor along with a fellow COTN Malawi University program graduate, Ndaona Chauluka. Alice and Ndaona are keynote speakers at COTN events throughout the USA until they return to Malawi in November.