NGU News

NGU Alumni Association Presents 2022 Alumni Awards

Posted on: November 11, 2022
By Billy Cannada,

Tigerville, SC (November 11, 2022) Two graduates with notable success in serving others locally and around the world were honored by the North Greenville University (NGU) Alumni Association during the university’s 2022 Homecoming celebration.

Kathie Burgess (’11) was presented with the NGU Distinguished Alumni Award and John Craig Williams, IV (’16) received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award during the annual Alumni Awards Dinner in late October.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Kathie Burgess, Class of 2011

The oldest of five children, Kathie Burgess said she had a lot of reasons to lose hope as she was born into an abusive family situation.

“My father was a raging alcoholic,” she said. “He was very abusive. I ended up in the hospital a lot of times with him. He abandoned the family when I was five years old.”

Burgess was separated from her siblings at a young age, and she said her living situation only worsened.

“We were put into orphanages and foster homes that were very abusive. I almost died in one,” she said.

“The Lord was so faithful during that time. He was so close to me. He comforted me and saved my life. There were so many times that I would just be on my knees, begging the Lord to help me and save me. And he was faithful. He always provided, and that’s where I put my hope and trust.”

Escaping the abuse, Burgess found stability and became a respiratory therapist. In spite of the apparent success, she said she felt like God was calling her to something more.

“I felt like the Lord was leading me to go (to NGU) to learn more about the Bible,” Burgess said. “I had made my own plans. I had been a respiratory therapist and was planning to study to be a nurse when the Lord said that’s not what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to go to North Greenville.”

During her studies, Burgess said she saw that she had made the right decision.

“At first it was a little awkward,” she said. “Everyone was either a pastor or studying to be a pastor, and here I was as a respiratory therapist. But the people were just wonderful and accepted me anyway. I remember having a conversation with Richard Blackaby and he told me that if the Lord called me, he had a plan for me. He was right.”

Burgess used her calling to start Hands of Kindness Children’s Ministry, a non-profit organization that seeks to be a witness of God’s love to orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda by providing for their basic physical, medical, educational, and spiritual needs.

“We started a child-sponsorship program, which provides food and clothing. When I first went there, those children were in rags and all they had was what was on their backs. It was extreme poverty,” Burgess said. “Getting sponsors made sure that they were able to have food every day and proper clothing.”

Hands of Kindness also raised money for a place for the children to live and receive medical care. The non-profit has continued its work in impoverished areas of Africa, and Burgess encourages local churches to get involved and make an impact.

“We invite people from other churches to go because it’s a life-changing experience,” she said. “The Lord told me to be consumed with serving others, and that’s what I’m doing. My life is now about serving those that are less fortunate.”

Young Alumni Award

John Craig Williams, IV, Class of 2016

Responding to his sense of God calling him to reach those in crisis, Craig Williams serves as a chaplain at Interim Hospice and in the National Guard.

A 2016 graduate of North Greenville, Williams received his bachelor’s degree in history before pursuing a Master of Divinity from Erskine Theological Seminary.

“I knew I wanted to get into ministry, but how that was going to flesh out was kind of up in the air,” he said. “I met a National Guard chaplain while I was in high school on a mission trip, and he planted that seed that grew into a calling.”

Williams joined the National Guard in high school.

“If I would’ve chosen a path for my life, I probably just would have enlisted and skipped school. But God, in his providence, had other ideas. And he’s the boss here,” he said.

Williams was commissioned as an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, Second Lieutenant, and was ordained for Gospel ministry from Easley First Baptist Church in 2017.

Since starting his work as a chaplain in 2020, Craig has served an average of 40 patients and their families. He is also the leader of GriefShare, a grief support group, at the Grace Church Powdersville campus as part of the church’s Care and Recovery team.

“It’s very heavy,” Williams said of working in hospice. “I’m fortunate to work with a very good team. They make my job a lot easier. You get close to families and meet a lot of really good people. It is sad to lose people, but for those that have faith in Christ, I get to see them again one day.”

Williams said the job comes with many rewarding moments.

“I just had a patient of mine transfer. He did a lot of mission work and we had a lot of similarities,” he said. “On my last visit, I shook his hand and gave him a hug. I told him we wouldn’t see each other again until we’re on the other side. It was almost cinematic. You always hope for a really good goodbye, and that was one of those moments. It’s crazy I get paid to do this. I would do that for free. To be able to speak truth into people’s dark moments, that’s what it’s about.”

Williams said he will continue to serve others and follow where the Lord leads.

“I understand that I am the creature and God is the creator. A good part about working in hospice is that you’re reminded of your mortality every day,” he said. “We know that one day, we’ll stand in front of Christ and give an account. The way I see it, we all have to get scarred in life so you might as well get scarred for the kingdom. We’re called to go forth and multiply and preach the Gospel.”

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