How an African Housewife Inspired a Florida Woman to Do More

04/05/17

To hear the full story, listen to COTN's Beyond the Village podcast, How a Malawian Housewife and a Girl with Special Needs Inspired a Florida Family to Do More.

“Once my husband and I got married and he got his first real job, he wanted to buy a nice car; but then reality set in,” says Carolyn Berger, a COTN partner who lives in central Florida. “He did drive a beater,” she recalls, laughing. “The back light would hang out.”

Years later, Carolyn's husband, Adam, was days away from purchasing his dream car when his friend Peter pulled him aside during Sunday service at Celebration Church in central Florida. Peter explained that a nonprofit called Children of the Nations (COTN) desperately needed help purchasing a van in the Dominican Republic, to transport children to and from medical care. “When he was telling me this he was like melting in front of me,” says Carolyn. Adam donated the money he’d saved up for his new car.

Little did they know, this was just the beginning. 

Months later, during Sunday service, Chris and Debbie Clark, the founders of COTN, introduced themselves to the Bergers. “For a split second the light bulb didn’t go on,” Carolyn says. “We were like, oh yeah, Children of the Nations, the van people.” 

Over lunch, Chris explained COTN’s vision, and told them stories about children Malawi. “We were really moved by these stories,” says Carolyn. Several years later, the Bergers decided to join a Venture team and see Malawi for themselves.

Life-Changing Moments in Malawi

Fresh off the plane, their first stop is the village of Mstiliza. Before they even get out of the van, throngs of children surround them. Music fills the air as women move toward them, wrapped in African-style fabric, dancing and singing.

“We have nothing for them so we were really confused about why the huge welcome,” says Carolyn.
 
Their COTN guide, Henry, explains the villagers are simply saying thank you for traveling halfway around the world. “I look over at my husband and he literally has tears filling his eyes,” says Carolyn. “It was just so moving.”
 
This was just the start of a trip that ended up changing the Berger family. 
 
The next stop was a local village called Mgwayi, a short walk from COTN’s ministry site. Carolyn was shocked by the poverty. Mud-walled homes covered by thatch roofs or a hodgepodge of bits and pieces of material. Carolyn is introduced to Florence, a woman she will spend the day with. “I’m thinking, you know what, boy I’m glad I’m here because I’m really going to help her out today,” Carolyn recalls. “I’m an extra set of hands and I too am a housewife.”
 
Reality quickly sets in. Carolyn is unable to grind corn, fetch water, or light the kitchen fire without help and she struggles to wash the clothes and dishes because the sliver of soap is so thin she can see through it. “Not only am I not a help, but boy am I slowing her down,” Carolyn says. “In fact I’m pretty much screwing everything up.” 
 

I remember thinking, when I go back the States I am never, ever, ever complaining about making dinner.”

Carolyn's last task is to stir the ground corn as it boils in a pot over the fire but she can’t find a potholder to protect her hands. She watches, horrified, as Florence holds the pot with her bare hand as she stirs.
“When she let go I grabbed her hand and it was like hard, hard leather,” says Carolyn. “She was in her late twenties.” Carolyn realized that through COTN’s Village Partnership Program, Florence’s children will able to build a better future.
 
Changing the World as a Family
“[COTN] is like this giant family that is on a mission,” says Carolyn. The Berger family decided to make it their mission too. As soon as they got home, they invited their friends and coworkers to a sponsorship party. They posted pictures of the children they met in Mgwayi village who still needed sponsors and told stories of their time in Malawi. “They sat on the edge of their seats listening to our stories,” says Carolyn.
 

                                 The Berger family has continued to support COTN over the last eight years.

“To stick with COTN has not been a difficult decision. Once you understand the mission and the goal and once you go and you see it—which I think is important for anybody to go and visit—it puts things in perspective,” she says. 

“I can help change other people’s hearts about Africa and I can help motivate other people to go and see for themselves and come back and then they can change some hearts,” Carolyn says. “And maybe that way they can help the children in Africa, to raise them up to change their own country. Because it’s going to be the children of Africa that’s going to help Africa.

 

Get involved like Carolyn's family! Sponsor a child today, or sign up for a Venture trip.